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How to Manage Your Diabetes and Enjoy Holiday Festivities

  • author name Gabrielle Nichisti, RD, LDN
Turkey and ham meal in front of a fireplace

Holidays mean spending quality time with friends and family (sometimes virtually), being grateful for those around you, and eating good food. With all the excitement, it’s easy to overindulge.

In fact, according the Calorie Control Council, Americans may consume more than 4,500 calories for their Thanksgiving meal, and similar amounts at other holiday meals. Most of us only need 2,000 calories per day and many of us need much less.

For someone who has diabetes, holidays can be quite a challenge. However, there are ways to control your blood sugars, while still enjoying grandma’s most delicious recipes.

Here are some tips to keep you happy AND healthy during the holidays:

Don’t Skip Breakfast and Lunch

You may think skipping breakfast and lunch will save you many calories for the big holiday dinner. However, if you’re ravenous by the time you finally get to eat, you may overindulge and consume even more calories than you would have if you had simply eaten balanced meals throughout the day. Maintain your normal eating routine and focus on fruits, vegetables and lean proteins during the day to keep your blood sugars stable and appetite in check.

Skip (or at least limit) the Hors d'oeuvres

Hors d’oeuvres tend to be little carb and calorie bombs. Although they seem small and harmless, foods like cheese and crackers are high in calories and carbohydrates. Stick to lower calorie options to curb your appetite before the big meal. Try foods such as veggies with Greek yogurt dip or fruit. If you can, distance yourself from the kitchen to avoid mindless eating.

Be Selective

Pick the foods that are most important to you. Before you start serving yourself, take a look at everything available. Pick the top 3-4 items that you MUST try. Only allow those items on your plate. Avoid trying every food simply because it’s there.

Don’t Forget About Non-Starchy Veggies

Perhaps you won’t practice the Plate Method on holidays and make half of your plate vegetables, a quarter carbs, and a quarter protein, but try to not omit vegetables entirely. Vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates and high in fiber. They’ll help fill you up and may prevent you from over-eating the starchy foods.

15 Minute Rule

We’ve all been there. We’re so excited for the meal that we inhale what is in front of us and quickly get more. This typically leaves us feeling overly stuffed. This year, wait 15 minutes before getting a second plate of food. Your body and blood sugars will thank you because you’ll likely feel too full to eat more.

Split Dessert

Most people offer more than one dessert. If there are a number of desserts you want to try, decide on one or two and take half portions of each to minimize sugar and calories. Better yet, skip dessert if you’re too full and enjoy a slice of pie another day (ideally with a healthier meal).

Remember, holidays are days to focus on what is important in your life. Enjoy your favorite foods, but try to do so in moderation. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you do just that!

For information on calories in your favorite Thanksgiving foods, check out this article from Consumer Reports.

author name

Gabrielle Nichisti, RD, LDN

Gabrielle Nichisti, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian with the Diabetes and Nutrition Center at Lancaster General Health.

Education: A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Nichisti values both education and counseling to connect with her patients. Passionate about leading an enjoyable, healthy lifestyle, Nichisti strives to help others overcome obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Call: 717-544-5923

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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