One of the most wonderful parts of the holiday season are the meals shared with friends and family, but for those with diabetes, it can also be one of the most challenging aspects of celebrating together. The foods that are commonly shared when we come together in laughter and cheer tend to be rich, sugary and heavy on carbohydrates. However, there is a way to enjoy holiday dinners (and even holiday desserts) without putting your diabetes management at risk. Here are the top six tips to help you get through your holiday meals and still stay healthy and stress-free.

Consider the Timing of the Holiday Meal

Major holiday meals tend to be eaten at unusual times. Christmas dinner might start hours earlier than a normal dinner would, or a holiday lunch might stretch far into the afternoon. This can have a significant effect on those with diabetes if the holiday meal times don’t match up with a typical meal schedule. Keep this in mind if you use insulin injections or take a pill to lower your blood glucose levels; you might need to sneak in a snack when you would normally be eating a meal in order to avoid having a reaction due to low blood glucose.

Remember that it can be tempting to skip meals during the holiday season, whether due to a hectic schedule or out of a desire to “save” calories for the main eating event. For diabetics, though, skipping regularly-scheduled meals can have a dangerous effect on blood glucose levels. If in doubt, check with your doctor beforehand.

Be Selective About What You Put on Your Plate

You may have noticed a common theme among many holiday foods: a high amount of carbohydrates. From mashed potatoes to stuffing and from dinner rolls to pie, the holiday table is laden with delicious foods that can cause trouble for those with diabetes. However, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo your holiday favorite dishes entirely; you just have to prioritize what you put on your plate. If you love mashed potatoes but are ambivalent about stuffing, add a reasonable portion of the former to your plate and pass on the latter. You might also consider opting for once-a-year homemade favorites over common store-bought items. If you really feel like you must try everything, you’ll need to be careful to keep your portions small.

This rule applies to dessert as well. If you love the array of sweet treats that come out at this time of year, it is certainly possible to enjoy a holiday dessert with your friends and family, but you’ll need to be thoughtful about it. Try to cut back on carbohydrates elsewhere, take a smaller portion and choose to eat your pie without a dollop of whipped cream.

Create Healthy Versions of Holiday Favorites

If you’re helping prepare the food for your holiday feast, you can consider tweaking the recipes slightly to make them diabetic-friendly. Often these healthy changes are easy and have little impact on the taste of the finished dish. For example, choose to use light sour cream instead of the full-fat version in a casserole, or opt for steaming green beans rather than sautéing them in butter. When making a fruit pie, cut back on the sugar you use and allow the natural sweetness of the fruit to come out.

For more ideas, the American Diabetes Association has put together an excellent list of diabetic-friendly versions of favorite holiday treats. Try out their recipes for Herb and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Sage Stuffing, Healthy Homemade Green Bean CasserolePumpkin Pie and Chocolate Walnut Mug Cake.

Be Careful with Alcohol

While sparkling wine and eggnog are the staples of many holiday celebrations, diabetics need to be wary; even moderate alcohol consumption can lead to lowered blood sugar levels. Make sure to eat something before you start drinking, and keep in mind that the recommended alcohol beverage limits for those with diabetes are one drink for women and two for men. Another important reason to steer clear of too many celebratory drinks is that many drinks commonly served at holiday celebrations are high in sugar.

Slow Down and Stay Hydrated

Overindulging is a problem for many during the holidays but doing so can be especially harmful for people with diabetes. You can help avoid your chances of going overboard by taking two simple steps: eating more slowing and drinking lots of water. How can this help? Studies have found that those who take their time to eat end up consuming many fewer calories than those who rush through their meals. Similarly, research supports the notion that those who drink plenty of water end up eating fewer calories as well as less salt, sugar and cholesterol.

Get Active

If you do end up eating a bit more than you intended to, don’t beat yourself up – just get moving! Eating a little too much can be balanced out by moving a bit more than you normally do. Forge a new holiday tradition by organizing a stroll after dinner or (if you’re feeling daring) a touch football game with your family.

At PPH, we understand the importance of continuing to live a full and active life in your senior years, and our mission is to provide all our residents with quality care, peace of mind and the highest possible quality of life. To find out more about our facilities and our services, please contact us today.