Late fall and early winter include several holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Although these seasons are wonderful times to join family and friends in special activities, they also bring challenges to people with diabetes.
I think the hardest part of the holidays has to do with the changes they impose on our routines: different meal times, new foods, travel, and increased stress. If you have diabetes, all these abrupt changes will require you to do more planning and more decision-making. Here are some ideas to help you plan for the holidays ahead.
Keep meals simple
Plan your menu around a few special foods rather than trying to incorporate a large selection of foodstuffs into meals. Be sure to offer one or two low-calorie vegetable dishes to balance all the more traditional holiday dishes, which tend to be richer and creamier and higher in calories.
Prepare your special holiday recipes using less fat and calories
Many recipes taste just as good when you use only half the butter, oil, or cream recommended in the recipe. Some options:
- Instead of sautéing veggies in butter, steam them.
- Use low-fat sour cream.
- Search online for healthier versions of your favorite foods.
Look up the carbohydrate information on the foods you’re going to eat
This way, you can stick to your carbohydrate goals more easily. To get you started, here are the amounts of carbohydrate found in a few traditional dishes:
- 1/2 cup regular Jell-O salad = 15 grams
- 3/4 cup green-bean casserole = 15 grams
- 1/2 cup buttered mashed potatoes = 15 grams
- 1/2 cup buttered squash = 15 grams
- 1/4 cup cranberry sauce = 30 grams
- 1/2 cup candied sweet potatoes = 30 grams
- 1/3 cup stuffing = 15 grams
- 1/8 piece pumpkin pie = 40 grams
- 1/8 piece sweet potato pie = 45 grams
- 2 Tablespoons whipped cream = Free (less than 5 grams)
- 1 frosted sugar cookie = 30 grams
- 8 oz. eggnog = 30 grams
If you do decide to eat that delicious piece of pie…
You’ll have to adjust your carbohydrate intake so you eat less of the starchy foods, get more exercise, increase your insulin dose per your doctor’s recommendations, or use a combination of all three.
If you are going to be eating away from home
Offer to bring your own favorite food prepared the way you like it. Going to a party? Eat a snack before you go, and choose special foods that are a treat from the buffet. You don’t have to sample everything! Then walk away from the food area and spend your time socializing.
How to respond to offers of more food
Your well-meaning friends will try to pressure you to overeat or to “take just a little.” Some helpful responses you might make:
- “Thanks for thinking of me.”
- “I’ll have some later.”
- “It looks delicious, but I’m really too full.”
Focus on friends and family, not just on food
Plan some activities other than eating with family and friends. Maintain your exercise routine and ask others to join you in a walk after a meal.
Discuss all these ideas with your family
Allow each person to talk about which foods and activities make the holidays a special time for them. Then be realistic about how many activities you want to schedule. Be sure to ask for help and support for these extra responsibilities.
Planning ahead will allow you to make adjustments to your diabetes routine so that the holidays can be meaningful…and healthy!
More information about holiday meals
- Carbohydrate Content of Popular Halloween Treats
- A Healthy Low-Carb, Low-Fat Chanukah
- Kwanzaa: A Diabetes-Friendly Holiday
- Holiday Meal Planning
- Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa (NOTE: The information on this site is intended for people on insulin pumps.)