gingerbread men and snowflake shaped holiday cookies in blue and white
Personal Health

How to Balance Blood Sugar During the Holidays: 5 Strategies

The holiday season can be a dietary obstacle course for people with diabetes. Between office holiday parties that promote indulgence to family baking days spent recreating grandma's famous sugar cookies, the festive season is filled with opportunities to consume too many simple carbohydrates, which can cause your blood glucose levels to spike.

The good news is, if you have diabetes, you don't necessarily need to deprive yourself of holiday treats. If you're concerned about how to balance blood sugar levels, these five strategies can help you satisfy your sweet tooth while maintaining good glucose control.

1. Eat Balanced Meals

You don't have to say no to grandma's potato pancakes, but you should try to limit your intake, because these delicious treats contain a starchy vegetable. Remember to balance carbohydrates with protein and non-starchy vegetables to provide complete nutrition and maintain good glucose control. A good rule of thumb, according to the American Diabetes Association, is to limit starchy foods to 25 percent of your meal. Creating a healthy plate is how you balance blood sugar levels throughout the day.

2. Make Smart Recipe Modifications

When it's your turn to cook or bake for the holidays, try adapting classic recipes to make them more diabetes-friendly. For instance, you can reduce your starch intake by swapping mashed cauliflower (a non-starchy vegetable) for some of the potato in those potato pancakes or mashed potatoes. Use sugar substitutes in baked goods to reduce the impact those sweet treats have on your blood sugar. Instead of baking a traditional pumpkin pie, try a recipe for pumpkin bars with a whole-grain oatmeal crust that's a healthier alternative to pastry.

3. Choose Desserts Wisely

While a big wedge of cake may look like a tempting way to treat yourself during the holidays, your body will thank you if you choose an apple for dessert instead. In general, opting for a portion of fruit will help you manage your blood sugar better than eating a sugary treat. But if eating fresh fruit instead of a fruit tart makes you feel deprived, try opting for a dessert like a baked apple, a strawberry-banana smoothie, or carrot-pumpkin muffins. These choices reduce your carb intake and pack a better overall nutritional punch. As you learn how to balance blood sugar levels through making good choices, you'll find you have better glucose control.

4. Use Caution with Cocktails

Most eating guidelines for diabetes focus on avoiding foods and beverages that raise blood sugar. Alcohol, however, puts you at risk for dangerously low blood glucose. That said, most people with diabetes can safely consume alcohol by following a few guidelines:

  • First, skip the fancy cocktails -- these often use products like liqueurs, which can be loaded with sugar. Instead, opt for a non-mixed drink like a glass of wine or scotch on the rocks.
  • Always consume alcohol with food. Since liquor can lower your glucose levels, you should eat some carbs with your alcohol to help stop your glucose from taking a nosedive.
  • Be sure to monitor your blood sugar closely after imbibing as alcohol can affect your blood sugar level for up to 24 hours.

5. Take a Walk for Dessert

You don't have to skip every dessert throughout the holiday season -- that would require a level of discipline few people can muster. Instead, try to replace one dessert a day with a post-meal walk. A brisk 20-minute walk taken half an hour after eating can help regulate your blood sugar for a full 24 hours.

Even with diabetes, you can enjoy the special foods of the holiday season. These simple strategies can help you indulge in goodies along with everyone else.

Posted in Personal Health

Elizabeth Hanes, RN, BSN, taps her broad journalistic background to craft health and wellness content that inspires, engages, and entertains readers. Her byline has appeared in print and online publications ranging from AntiqueWeek to PBS' Next Avenue. An expert in elderly care issues, Elizabeth won an Online Journalism Award in 2010 in the Online Commentary/Blogging category for "Dad Has Dementia," a piece based on her experience caring for her father. In addition to her bachelor’s of science in nursing, Elizabeth holds a BA in creative writing.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.