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October 19, 2022

9 Tips to Managing Your Blood Sugar During the Holidays

by Nicole Golinski, MA, RDN, LDN

With the holidays upon us, it can be challenging and overwhelming for people who have diabetes to navigate the holiday foods while trying to keep their blood sugars in a safe range. However, after reading this article, you will be able to build a balanced plate and learn tips and tricks to keeping your blood sugars in check while enjoying the holiday season!

5 Tips to Building a Balanced Plate

When building your plate, it is important to incorporate each of the food groups below to ensure your plate is balanced and help prevent blood sugar spikes.

1. Carbohydrates: Many times, people with diabetes are afraid to eat carbohydrates due to the fear of blood sugar spikes. However, it is still important to incorporate carbohydrates into your diet. When selecting your carbohydrates, it is important to choose complex carbohydrates versus refined carbohydrates (i.e., white bread/pasta, sugary drinks, baked goods). This is because complex carbohydrates contain fiber. Fibrous foods take longer for our bodies to digest, so they help control our blood sugar and keep us full for longer. Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads/pastas, starchy vegetables (i.e., potatoes, corn, peas) beans, brown rice, and fruit.

Aim for no more than ¼ of your 10-inch plate filled with complex carbohydrates to help keep your blood sugar in a safe range.

2. Fat: Fat does not cause blood sugars to increase, however, when consuming fat, incorporate heart-healthy unsaturated fats (i.e. nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, fatty fish) versus saturated fats (i.e. creams, butter, red meat, pork, coconut oil). Substitutions will be helpful for this, and you can get quite creative too!

  • use non-fat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
  • olive/avocado oil instead of butter
  • evaporated low fat milk instead of cream
  • sliced almonds for an added crunch instead of fried onions or bacon bits to top a salad

3. Protein: Like fat, protein does not affect your blood sugar. However, make sure to select lean protein more often. Try selecting more fish and skinless poultry because they are lower in saturated fats compared to red meat and pork. Aim to fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein.

  • When cooking your protein, try to bake, sauté, grill, or broil protein instead of deep frying
  • If you still want a crispy texture, try air frying your proteins instead

4. Non-Starchy Vegetables: Let this be your new friend this holiday season! They are diabetic friendly foods because they are low in calories, high in fiber and lower in carbohydrates compared to breads, rice and fruit. At your next holiday party, try incorporating at least 50% of your plate to be filled with non-starchy vegetables (i.e., green beans, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, broccoli etc.)

5. Beverages: Be careful to limit or avoid beverages that contain high amounts of sugar. Try to stick to water or sugar-free beverages when available. If water is boring, try a fresh herb and fruit- infused water or drink sugar-free sparkling water. Put your drink in a fun glass, with a garnish to make it feel special. When drinking alcohol, do so in moderation (1 alcoholic drink for women and 2 alcoholic drinks for men per day). To reduce your risk of getting a low blood sugar, make sure to not drink on an empty stomach.

4 More Tips for Success During the Holiday Season

1. Don’t Arrive Hungry

If visiting a family or friend’s house for a holiday meal, don’t arrive hungry. Not eating consistently can cause low blood sugar and may lead to overeating at your next meal. Try eating a small snack (100-200 calories) before you arrive to the event as it will be easier to make better food decisions. Examples of snacks include small apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1 cup of raw vegetables and 2 tablespoons of hummus.

2. Balance and Moderation

Can you still eat your favorite foods and keep your blood sugar in a safe range? Yes! The key is balance and moderation. Balance means if you are going to have a high carbohydrate and calorie entree, then add a low carbohydrate and calorie side dish. For example, if pasta is your entree, add a large salad or roasted vegetables for your side. Additionally, if you know you will be eating dessert, load up on the non-starchy vegetables and lean protein for your dinner. There are no “bad” foods, but when you are consuming less diabetic-friendly foods, do so in moderation.

3. Plan Plan Plan

Worried about the selection of food at your next holiday party? If you are going to a holiday potluck, make sure to bring an item with you that you enjoy and is diabetic-friendly. An example can include balsamic roasted Brussel sprouts with pecans. By doing this, you will have at least one diabetic friendly item that you can enjoy. However, don’t deprive yourself from other items. Depriving yourself can lead to increased cravings and overeating later- just do so in moderation.

4. Don’t Forget about Movement

Movement is another way to improve your blood sugar. No need to run a marathon to see the benefits – even a 10-15 minute walk after a meal can be beneficial to control blood sugars. Don’t move alone, get your family and friends onboard! Throughout the holiday season, find little ways to increase your movement. This can mean, parking further away from the stores, taking the stairs versus the escalator, setting a daily walking goal by using a pedometer, and using the commercial breaks to complete exercises at home (i.e. lunges, walking up and down stairs, riding stationary bike).

By utilizing some of these tips and tricks above, you can set yourself up for success this holiday season! If you are interested in finding delicious holiday recipes, check out the Avance Care Recipe Cookbook: 2020-Cookbook-Updated.pdf (  Also, keep an eye out for our next recipe book at the end of this year/ beginning of 2023! If you are interested in further discussing this topic or other ways to improve your diet, reach out to an Avance Care registered dietitian today.

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