Diabetes and the holidays

Hey there everyone!

It’s that time of year again. I’m a newly diagnosed diabetic this year, and I can already feel the strain of the holiday season on my diabetes management. I’m so busy, and there are so many obligations, that I’m feeling overwhelmed. To be honest, I have a hard enough time with the holiday season, so adding in diabetes management feels daunting.

Does anyone have any tips or strategies for how they manage their diabetes during the holiday season?



Holidays beg u to graze. There is always food laying around and put in our faces.

I try to hold off eating anything until we sit for a meal and then I have one plate of the food I want. Then I stop.
It has to be an effort because again the food train never stops.

I’m eating a vegetarian diet now and it actually makes it easier to avoid a lot of holiday foods.

Think about it though, does anyone really feel good after we stuff ourselves.? And why are we encouraged to stuff ourselves. I never understood why esp thanksgiving and Christmas that there is an over abundance of food, and usually a ton of sweets too.
I don’t know a single person who says “ I’m so glad I ate all that food” it never ends well so maybe it’s time to break the habit.

I’ve been diabetic a long time so I kinda am used to the deal.

This is why I can’t stand the all you can eat restaurants. The food is low quality and you are encouraged to eat tons of it in order to get your moneys worth.

It’s a similar feeling at holidays, the food might be more healthy, but usually it’s not.

I don’t complain, I just make a decision about food early on and I stick to it.

As far as the stress goes, that something that’s not easy to manage. Stress doesn’t cause me blood sugar issues like some.

When I am stressed out, I can’t eat at all. So my sugar stays very flat. Some people eat more when stressed. I don’t understand the mechanisms.

Let’s just try to have a good time with moderate eating and lots and lots of football, snowboarding and skating.


Keep your phone handy for looking up approximate nutrition facts on foods you may not usually eat. Only eat what you actually want to eat and feel free to tell grandmas, aunties, and coworkers that you can only have so much of something and you’ve already eaten.

Diabetes is definitely harder to deal with around food centric holidays but a little prep can make it easier. For big family meals be sure to take something as a side or dessert that you know whats in it and how to dose for it. Otherwise I stick to turkey or ham and eat a normal amount of some sort of carby dish to minimize spikes. Keep a close eye on BG’s but don’t beat yourself up if you spike and look into sugar surfing as it is a helpful tactic when you don’t always know what the carb content is.

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@Heybeth I feel for you. It is not helpful that the Holidays are stressful to so many people. Stress is nasty because it will raise blood glucose levels all by itself. With our bodies not managing BG properly this is a real problem for us.

Are you the chief cook, bottle washer and administrator of all things holiday related, with everyone looking to you to make it perfect? If so, that needs a step down. Perhaps some new family traditions are in order.

I use to roast the turkeys, make my signature bread dressing with chopped black olives and walnuts, mash the potatoes, make two kinds of gravy, cook the vegetables, make salad. I didn’t do desert, my wife would bake pies and make apple cake.

No one in the family wants that kind of meal. The grandkids are happy with pizza or weather permitting hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill.

Back to preparing the big holiday meal, It would be a problem for me, because I would be constantly smelling, tasting and adjusting as I went on. All that tasting counts.

Sorry to not give you a simple answer, because there is none. I see that this is more than a problem of what to eat or not. I think it is the big burden of making all the preparations that weighs on you.

While the grandkids ate pizza I would content myself with some salad. I suppose I could do that at a big traditional holiday meal that I cooked. There would be the temptations of dressing, nut pies and APPLE CAKE! - no pumpkin or sweet potatoes for me, thank you very much.

I wish I could help more.


I love that you mentioned your new traditions. My kids don’t need the turkey dinner, and they don’t really eat it to be honest.

We are talking about setting up some new traditions too. My sister and I are talking about next year making a new tradition where we do something active and have a healthy meal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s my obligations to my husband’s family and how that would all play out and who would get blamed if we didn’t show up that has kept me from doing that in the past.

You’re also right in the sense that it isn’t so much the couple of eating holidays that are the worst part for me. It’s all the days leading up to it. Buying the Christmas presents, putting out the decorations, putting away the decorations, getting Halloween costumes, all the family and kid events. There’s so much that has to be done that I already feel myself fighting to protect my exercise time. I find myself settling for a meal that maybe isn’t great, but I’m tired, and I need to eat, and I don’t have the energy to make something. I get absent minded and forget to take my medication because there are so many other things I have to take care of.

I don’t know if I actually even like the holidays.


Drop those extra obligations. You are new to this and you might need time to accommodate accidents and mistakes. You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself.


Some years, if I feel Christmas approaching like some sorta impending doom, I just leave town. I go somewhere I can camp or sleep in my car or get a cheap hotel room, and I don’t return until the whole fiasco has blown over.

It is just as effective to tell people your leaving town and then hide from them all. If you are discovered, you can always say that plans got cancelled.

You might be able to tell everyone that you are all just doing volunteer work, serving meals at a church, to celebrate. Those opportunities are easy to find. You can even tell people that they need to make their own gifts for one another for Christmas. You are the ruler of your Christmas.

Worst of all, just tell people that you are going to catholic midnight mass for Christmas. The church comes predecorated. Invite people to join you and watch Christmas die without any additional effort. My mom did that several times growing up. Very effective. We weren’t even Catholic.

You should only do things you enjoy at the holidays.

For years, I set things up so I always had to work on Christmas. That works if you can swing it. People do that and have secret, fun, Christmas parties after work. It’s relatively easy to send kids to spend the night with family on Christmas.

You could all go learn to ski for Christmas. Rent Cross country skis and get some lessons. The upper peninsula of Michigan is a great Christmas hiding place that I have used many times. You book well in advance and it’s inexpensive. Best cross-country ski resorts in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the U.P.

What’s great about leaving town is that it puts a physical barrier between you and everyone in town and their expectations. You can get an inexpensive hotel room where everyone can just take care of themselves and wander around town. That allows you opportunity to take care of yourself.Afterglow: Lightsuit Segment | Outside Watch - YouTube



This year will be my second managing diabetes. Last year, with the pandemic, I did not feel comfortable gathering with everyone, even though all my family came over. The holidays are not a time I particularly enjoy, mostly because I have never liked the food - I am in Brazil and turkey is a Christmas thing.
Having said that, last year I cooked my food and made some special things for myself. A nice salad, a black rice risotto with grilled salmon and vegetables, eggplant lasagna, and had chocolate mousse for dessert (keto desserts are always an amazing resource and there are tons of options). I had the same portion I am used to and kept all under control. I was pretty happy with it, as it was tasty and all easy to make, and will probably have the same or similar this year.
As @Timothy has said, we don’t have to stuff ourselves and there are plenty of options for us to manage all properly. For me, planning is important so I don’t feel too overwhelmed on the day. I also like to feel that what I eat is something that others can too - I don’t like to hear something is my food because of diabetes, so I make things others would like to have as well.
Regarding the time for exercise and medication, add that to your calendar on your phone, if you do that, so you can keep yourself as a priority. We need to be there for ourselves if we want to be for others in the future.

Hope that helps in any way. :slight_smile:


I totally agree and do the same when I entertain. The only thing I have found while I entertain, some guests have other restrictions, being it milk, nuts, gluten, etc. so I try to get a read of what may hinder other guests and try to get advance notice on any food allergies or other restrictions apply. For a large group, it can be quite difficult to make awesome meals that will accommodate everyone so sometimes need to make a few variations. The extra effort is always greatly appreciated and worth the extra time it takes to prepare.


I would pass on what I learn in 12 step programs. Make the holidays about focusing on the people you are with. Get proactive–offer to bring a treat, something you can fit into your meal plan. I don’t have a problem playing the diabetic card with Aunt Bertha who won’t stop pestering you to have some of her fruitcake–“Sorry, I am not allowed. My doctor would kill me.” Or if they still persist, “how about I just swallow some poison? It would do the same thing but be faster putting me out of my misery.” But at the same time say to yourself “It is not that I can’t have (whatever), I choose not to do that to myself.” Is it really worthy the sleepiness and generally crotchety feeling of a high blood sugar?


I like how you compare the fruitcake to poison. I have done that before when asked why I wouldn’t eat a pasta dish. And you’re right. It isn’t that I can’t have it, it’s that I choose not to. I can have a cookie or piece of candy or small amount of a carby dish if I balance it the right way and in moderation.

But if I’m having a bad blood sugar day (tell me I’m not the only one who feels like I have those sometimes), I have to be much more conscious of what I’m eating. So I think it gets confusing for people.


If you love pasta, try pasta made entirely out of veggies. Some are so good you won’t notice, and the carb content is 70% less

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Every single person with diabetes has bad BG days. If I’m out and about and someone says “do you want ice cream?” I look at my BG and as often as not the answer is “Nope”, because I do love ice cream but I also like feeling like a human being and not a zombie. You will eventually train your friends, family and associates to accept that you can’t always eat even when you might want to. Your health comes first.


Holidays are always a problem! I have, for the last couple weeks, finally (after a long bout of weight gain and high blood sugars), gotten back on track with my diet and lost 3 lbs in the last couple weeks and gotten my blood sugar stabalized and lowered again. I am also concerned about going off on the holidays because it was so hard as it is to motivate myself for this. I plan on making the foods I usually do for the family and for myself I will have turkey, mashed cauliflower, and some of my sugar free cranberries. I’ll make a low carb dessert for myself and will have that later in the evening by itself. Hopefully I can stick to that. I’m following Dr. Eric Westman’s diet after reading his book, “End Your Low Carb Confusion”. If I cannot stick to it for that one day, I’ll be on it until then and right away after, so I figure it’s just one meal. I’m not going to sweat it. Christmas will be the same.


I think making a plan ahead of time is helpful. I’ve been doing this so many years (53), but in the beginning it wasn’t so easy. So are you making the dinner or are you going to someone’s house. For me, because I can’t really take a lot of carbs at once, I plan that I’ll have some protein, some veggies, a salad of some kind, and some kind of carb. If you are going to a place where they’re not going to have anything green, like a salad, or beans, volunteer to bring it for everyone. I have also on Thanksgiving and Christmas, had my dessert (like a sugarfree-pumpkin parfait) or a fruit with sugar free whipped cream or what have you as like a 4th very small meal or snack. So if we ate at 4:00, I’d have that at like 7:00 or 8:00. I’d also do something to get a break from the table. Like go for a walk, wash dishes, go in the other room and visit, so it’s not a nonstop food fest.


Uck, dont drink alcohol. That’s my best advice. Smaller portions for dessert if you eat that.


We are low fat vegans and are eating at my son’s house. We will take our own mashed potatoes, dressing and dessert. They are very willing to make dishes for us, but they will be also making more traditional dishes for the other guests, so we will just bring food we can eat and share. We will also take a vegetable or salad with fruit.


Imo this post is brilliant! I too was going to post suggesting just fleeing the whole situation, but @mohe0001 has said it all so much better than me, and in much more detail. I love all the practical ideas. Why do we submit voluntarily to this annual, commercially fuelled, torture? We don’t have to be diabetic to want/need out (but it helps!)


The holidays are about family, not food. I agree with the others that if you are totally in charge of ALL the food and preparations, now is the time to DELEGATE some of those chores to others. Most people are willing to bring a dish to pass, so let others prepare the salad or the cranberries or the green bean casserole. If you are in charge of all the gifts, get a babysitter and take your husband or sister or best friend and shop with others. It’s more fun. If you prefer to shop alone, make a date with your significant other to have a wrapping party so that whole task is not yours alone.

Routine and exercise ARE important, and I both agree and DO use my calendar and alarms on my watch to keep up my exercise routine each day, including the holidays. Exercise will give you both control of your blood sugar and some sense of calm and well-being.

My dietitian told me many years ago to eat as I normally would, but if I wanted to have cranberry salad or pumpkin pie, to just COUNT THE CARBS and take the appropriate medication to keep the blood sugar in check. (In fact, she told me not to seek out the sugar-free items since they were usually so full of chemicals that the made-with-sugar alternatives were more healthy to eat in the long run. Just count the carbs and take the medication to cover them.)

Most importantly, remember that holidays ARE about family and those we love. My daughter has a little “stick tree” (which you can make with your children yourself, if you wish). Starting November 1, each family member takes a turn to record on a little paper “leaf” (which you and your children also can cut out of colored paper) what he or she is thankful for. Since three people are in their family, each gets a turn every third day. The family hangs all of the leaves on the Thankful Tree, and at the end of the month, they review what they have to be thankful for in their lives. Then keep the Thanksgiving meal simple.

However, keep in mind that we all may still want to limit our number of visitors. The flu, RSV, and Covid still are out there, too.


We started a thankful tree in 2020 when we were all social distancing. It’s one of my favorite things :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: