Parkland expert offers tips for managing diabetes during the holidays

Parkland expert offers tips for managing diabetes during the holidays

Keep your blood sugar in check this jolly time of year

Tis’ the season for holiday celebrations and for many that means tis’ the season for eating. Managing diabetes is difficult year-round, but the holiday season brings extra challenges, especially when gatherings so often revolve around food.

With the right plan and support from loved ones, Parkland experts say you can be merry and bright all while keeping your diabetes in check.

“Balance is key when it comes to this time of year, especially for our diabetes patients,” Ann Christian-Dold, RN, MS, CDCES, diabetes care and education specialist at Parkland said. “Making healthy choices before, during and after gatherings will help keep you in control of your blood sugar while allowing you to fully enjoy all the fun festivities.”

Whether you’re in charge of hosting this year or are a guest at a potluck, these diabetes management tips will help you and your loved ones as you navigate the holiday season.

Keep a regular eating schedule: Eating as close to your normal mealtimes as possible helps keep blood sugar levels stable and can also prevent overeating. If an event is taking place later than your typical mealtime, grab a snack during your usual meal hour. You may be tempted to skip a meal so you can “save up” for a larger meal later, but this could lead to overeating due to hunger, making it harder to manage your blood sugar.

Diversify your plate: It’s easy to load our plates with high carbohydrate options and desserts, but this could result in a blood sugar spike. Instead, add color to your plate by filling one half with vegetables and the other half with lean proteins. The holidays are a great opportunity to enjoy vibrant, seasonal vegetables like butternut squash, roasted carrots and green beans.

Remind yourself: The holidays get hectic. Stay on top of your medications by using a pillbox, calendar or a smartphone app. There are also free smartphone apps available that remind you when it’s time to take your medicines and when to request refills.

With the year winding down, there are many reasons to celebrate. While many opt for a spiked eggnog or champagne, Parkland experts caution those with diabetes to drink alcohol in moderation.

“People with diabetes who take medicines to lower their blood sugar levels can have dangerous side effects when drinking alcohol,” Christian-Dold warns. “If you choose to drink, pair your drink with food to avoid low blood sugar later. Moderate alcohol drinking for women is one drink a day, and for men no more than two drinks a day. Binging is always dangerous.”

Checking your blood sugar regularly is an important part of diabetes management, but it may be more challenging during the winter. Busy schedules can get in the way and cold temperatures can chill your hands, making testing more difficult. Christian-Dold recommends washing your hands with warm water before testing to ease discomfort and ensure an accurate reading.

Parkland diabetes experts emphasize that exercise is just as important as your diet when it comes to managing blood sugar. Taking walks when family members are visiting and utilizing workout videos are great ways to stay active when holidays consume your time and budget. Not only will your blood sugar be controlled, being active can boost your mood, prevent heart disease and help you keep or reach a healthy weight.

The stress of holidays and your diabetes management can become overwhelming. Forgive yourself for slip-ups and celebrate your wins. “Excessive limitations will make your diabetes goals feel extra challenging during this season,” Christian-Dold explains. “Instead of limiting what you eat, be aware of your portion sizes, eat slowly, enjoy lots of colorful vegetables and savor a sweet treat as your carbohydrate serving. Also, it’s a good idea to move away from the buffet or where the food is served.”

For information about Parkland’s diabetes services, resources and education visit