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Holiday Management of Diabetes

Even when everything goes according to plan, the holidays can be stressful. We get out of our usual sleep and work patterns, we may travel, eat out more, attend parties, have house guests—all of which can disrupt normal routines and, consequently, may disrupt the management of diabetes.

What can a person with diabetes (PWD) do to make it through the holidays with well-controlled glucose? 

Actually, there are many things a PWD can do: below are just a few strategies to help control blood sugar.  And, you don’t have to do all of them. Try to commit to one, or a few, that you believe you can follow most of the time.

1. Be a sleep warrior

Most Americans do not get enough sleep—–which is associated with increased hunger, higher blood sugar, poor concentration, more illness, and impaired problem-solving. A good 7 hours of sleep will help you make the best choices for your health and help protect you against illness and fatigue. Goal:  Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Your body deserves it after how hard it works for you the other 17 hours!

2. Keep active

Holidays can put exercise plans to the test:  invite friends and family to join you for an after-meal stroll instead of plopping down on the couch.  After meal walks lower post-meal blood sugars and increases energy by getting muscles activated. And just 10 minutes of walking after meals can make a big difference. Not interested in going for a walk?  What about playing catch with the kids? Frisbee? Putting on some music and get people to dance? Rake leaves, organize a game of touch football, start a new family tradition, and sign up for a local walking/running event or, even better, take your furry friend for an extra walk. Goal: Work toward 30 minutes of activity a day.

3. Don’t forget the fiber

With all the snacks, family favorites, and tempting foods—healthy foods may take a back seat.  Think of the abundance of seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains that are rich in fiber that fill you up and decrease inflammation. For example, yams, apples, squash, oranges, pistachios, quinoa, kale, warm oatmeal, salads, and broth-based soups. Goal: Strive to eat at least 25 grams of fiber every day.

4. Enjoy the ultimate beverage—H20

Water is the perfect way to keep hydrated, replenished, and keep appetite in check. Add a splash of flavor with a little fresh fruit or fresh cucumbers, lime slices, or a sprig of rosemary. Be creative. Sparkling waters come in a variety of flavors, are calorie-free, and contain no artificial sweeteners. Goal: Keep hydrated by choosing water.

5. Limit alcohol

While it may be true that red wine offers a beneficial anti-inflammatory compound called resveratrol, drinking too much alcohol can lead to unintended outcomes.  Studies show that we make poorer food choices if alcohol is on board. Which can be compounded in a party setting where temptations are plentiful.  A serving of alcohol contains about 100 calories and mixed drinks have even more. Some people think that alcohol only raises blood sugar, actually, alcohol can lead to low blood sugars too, especially for those taking insulin or sulfonylureas. Goal: Limit alcohol to one serving a day for women and two servings for men.

6.  You are already sweet enough

Holidays and sugar go hand in hand.  If possible, try to eat less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day (this does not include natural sugars found in fruit or milk).  Excess sugar intake can cause inflammation and buildup of fat in the liver.  Look at food labels for sugar content—4 grams of sugar equals 1 tsp of sugar.  During the holidays, if needed, save your 6 teaspoons of sugar that day for the special dessert or party that evening. Goal: Limit added sugar to 6 teaspoons a day.

7.  Your teeth need extra special attention

Taking care of our teeth and gums improves health.  Gum inflammation is associated with blood vessel inflammation. Swollen gums can also lead to an increase in blood sugars. During the holidays, find time for regular oral hygiene. Your mouth will thank you. Goal:  Brush teeth at least twice daily and floss at least once a day.

8.  Keep connected to friends and family who love you just the way you are

As enjoyable as holidays can be, reuniting with family can also cause stress and stir-up emotions.  Stress can lead to stress eating. Relieve stress by talking with a trusted friend or keeping a holiday journal. Give yourself permission to steal away and read a favorite book for some quiet time. Goal: Self-care is important during the holidays.

9.  Enjoy an Oxygen Cocktail

Studies show that when humans venture into nature and outdoor settings, heart rate and blood pressure improve. Take a moment to appreciate the feeling of the air on your skin, take a deep breath of fresh air, listen to the wind blow, animal sounds, and bird songs and just enjoy the moment. Goal: Step into nature daily.

10.  Take inventory of things you are grateful for

Find a moment each day to reflect on a few things that brought you joy today. Maybe it was an aunt who gave you the best hug or a friend who lent you their favorite sweater, special moments with best friends, or a walk enjoying the fall leaves. These small moments of connections are one of the most treasured gifts of the holiday seasons that linger in our hearts and memory long after the holidays are past. Goal:  Take note of special moments.

Source: Diabetes Education Services

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