Having diabetes over the holidays can be rough. Traditionally, there are boatloads of rich food, relatives, and stress all there for your enjoyment. But sometimes the ride it all creates for our blood sugars isn't so enjoyable.So we created this diabetes survival guide to help you through the holiday season. These tips will help keep your blood sugars in a better mood and your happiness levels high.
The stress from holiday partying and planning can wreck your sleep schedule. A lack of sleep can not only increase your hunger but can also raise your blood sugar to deal with the extra stress. You need at least six hours nightly, but it’s better to have 7-9 hours.
The quality of your sleep is also important. First, turn all screens off about 60 minutes before bed. The blue light from screens and LEDs will disrupt your sleep cycle. Next, make your room cool, dark, and quiet so you’ll sleep through the night. Finally, start a bedtime routine. If you follow a routine before bed, your body will be primed for sleep when you start it after a week or two.
To increase your energy levels and keep your mood high, regular activity is necessary. These cold days make it all too easy to curl up in a blanket all day, but you need the exercise. At the very least, go outside and walk around for 30 minutes.
Regular activity can also reduce your blood sugars. If you have a consistent pattern of activity, it will be easier to track this effect and adjust your insulin. Plus, activity increases your energy, your happiness, and helps control your appetite.
If walking isn’t your thing, or if it’s snowing like crazy, you can do yoga or move around the house. The important thing is to move!
Meals and snacks
Now, how to deal with all those holiday meals and snacks? Start first with the basics. Keep your regular meal portions like you usually do with ½ your plate with non-starchy veggies, ¼ of a protein, and ¼ of a starch. Also, choose foods that have high fiber. This will help you feel fuller and control your cravings. Veggies, fruit, nuts, legumes, and whole grains all have good fiber content.
When you load your plate up, stick to your favorite foods only. Don’t feel obligated to try everything; that’s a sure way to eat too much of the wrong thing. But be smart about it too. Avoid high-calorie snacks as appetizers. No candied nuts or crackers with cheese!
Also, don’t skip meals in advance. This just makes you more hungry and can make your blood sugar unstable.
Finally, if you take insulin, remember that high-fat foods can delay the increase in blood sugar if you eat carbs afterward. If you take insulin in advance, you might go low after about an hour. Talk to your doctor about how to use an extended bolus if wearing a pump, or break up your fast-acting insulin dose if you give injections.
Dealing with dessert
Next, we come to the dreaded dessert. Your goal is to limit added sugars to as little as possible. Try your best to stick with natural sugar from fruits and yogurt. But if you must do partake, try to limit it only to 1-2 days per week. Choose something that’s special and you truly want and enjoy.
For Thanksgiving, the dessert with the lowest sugar that’s traditional is pumpkin pie with a bit of whipped cream. Avoid/limit holiday treats like candied nuts, canned cranberry sauce, candied yams, other pies, cakes, and cobblers.
Alcohol is common during the holidays, but you have to be careful with it. Not only does it add calories to your diet, but it also lowers self-control. If you get a little tipsy, all that holiday food is going to be much more tempting.
Stick with water if you can. It can be still water or sparkling, flavored or not. Just avoid ones with sugar. This means avoiding juices, eggnog, hot chocolate, and specialty coffee drinks. Try drinking a glass of water with every meal and between meals. If you must drink alcohol, limit it to one drink a day.
Finally, here’s a recipe for hot chocolate that’s sugar-friendly and will help you cut the craving for the most popular holiday drink:
Recipe: Spiced Hot Chocolate
2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut, etc.)
3 Tbsp cocoa powder (or more for intense chocolate flavor)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp each nutmeg and cayenne
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pinch sea salt
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a low simmer over medium heat.
Add cocoa powder, sugar, salt, vanilla, and spices and whisk vigorously to combine.
Serve warm with whipped cream or a few mini marshmallows.
Finding thanks and gratitude
The holiday season is here. Work with these tips now and through New Year’s Day and you’ll be better equipped to resist the temptations – you'll feel so good about yourself and all you've achieved through the year. Enjoy and be proud of yourself! You deserve it!