Help your diabetic members manage their diabetes during the holidays

By Bushra Davila, MBA, RD, LDN |

The holidays bring wonderful moments shared with family and friends. However, travel and the abundance of delicious food and treats available at gatherings and celebrations may make it difficult for your members to manage their diabetes. These tips can help case managers assist their members to meet their health goals and continue to enjoy eating during the holidays.

Here are some tips that you can share with your members:

Overcome challenges during mealtimes

Planning will help members make changes if their meal timing does not align with their regular schedule. For those on medications to manage their diabetes, they must eat close to their usual times to keep their blood sugar steady. They should not skip meals to save up for a feast. This may be difficult to manage their blood sugar, and they will be really hungry and more likely to overeat. Also, people with diabetes should check their blood glucose more often during the holidays, and they may need to adjust their medicine dosage. Suggest they check with their physician before making any changes. They may also want to meet with their diabetes care provider before the holidays to plan for handling meal time changes throughout the holiday season.

Plan for snacks

If your member will be eating a meal later than they usually do, they could eat a small snack at their usual mealtime and then a little less when dinner is served to help prevent hypoglycemia. Your member can check with the host to see when they will be eating and if there will be any healthy appetizers available. If no healthy options before mealtime will be available, they should consider packing a small snack or offer to bring a healthy appetizer to share, like a platter of raw vegetables or low-fat cheese.

Be selective on the food choices and fit in favorites

Many traditional foods served during the holidays tend to be high in carbohydrates. Remind your members that they don’t have to sample everything that is offered. They should slow down and savor a small serving and count it in their meal plan. Another idea is to focus on dishes that may only be offered during this holiday season or once a year. If your members want a sweet treat, they should cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal. Also, they should avoid or limit alcohol. Suggest calorie-free drinks such as water, tea, seltzer, or diet sodas instead of punch or mixed drinks.

Eat smaller portions

Your members should enjoy their favorite holiday treats, but in small portions, eating slowly and savoring the taste and texture. Being mindful of portions will help them better manage their blood glucose. Advise them to review their options first and then take two tablespoons “samples” of their favorites. But, keep in mind that even in small portions, these things can add up. To maintain blood glucose in the normal ranges, they need to keep their total carbohydrate intake similar to a regular day. If they eat more carbs or food than planned for, tell them not to think they have failed, they just need to make a plan to get back on track. 

Enjoy your fruits and vegetables

During the holidays, the vegetable selection tends to be limited. However, just a few simple vegetable dishes can add many nutrients to your member’s meals. Suggest they choose fruits and vegetables served raw, grilled, or steamed. They should avoid vegetables in creams, gravies, and butter. Members can bring a healthy vegetable dish such as a green salad, a side of steamed or roasted vegetables seasoned with delicious herbs or spices, or other non-starchy vegetables (like cauliflower, broccoli, or spinach. This will help fill them up to balance out other high-calorie, high carbohydrate, high-fat dishes offered during meals.

Stay physically active

Members should maintain their regular physical activity. Being active can be their secret holiday weapon. It will help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Recommend they break physical activity up into smaller chunks so it’s easier to schedule, like walking 10 minutes several times a day. Another idea is to start a new holiday tradition that involves walking together for a 5K, after-dinner walks or having active holiday events with physically active games and dancing.

Get adequate rest

Sleep loss can make it harder to manage blood glucose, and when someone is sleep deprived, they tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Members will be more successful if they aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

Most of all, remind your members what the holiday season is about—celebrating and connecting with the people they care about.

GA Foods wishes you and your family a happy, healthy holiday season!