Ask the Expert
6 Tips for a Happy, Healthy Holiday with Diabetes
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN Answers by Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN

6 Tips for a Happy, Healthy Holiday with Diabetes

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, where you get to spend time catching up with family and friends. It’s also a time where there is a lot of focus on food, which can be very stressful if you have diabetes. You want to enjoy the holidays and eat delicious food, but managing your diabetes can pose challenges. With some advanced planning and preparation, you can still enjoy holiday favorites without compromising blood sugar goals. Read on for tips to help you prepare for a happy, healthy holiday season.

1. Timing of Meals

Throughout the holidays you may find yourself heading to family feasts or parties at odd times. For example, holiday dinners can be served at 3 or 4pm. Plan in advance for how you will handle making changes if your meal does not align with your regular meal schedule. If you take insulin injections or a pill that lowers blood sugar, you may need to have a snack at your regular meal time to prevent a low blood sugar reaction. Speak to your diabetes care provider before the holidays so you can best plan for how to handle meal time changes throughout the holiday season.

2. Be Physically Active

With food being the center of holiday attention, many folks forget to move around! Try to keep up your regular physical activity. If you’re surrounded with family and friends around the holiday season, then start a new tradition that involves moving around, such as after dinner walks, active holiday events, or even turn up the music for a little dance party.

3. Plan Your Snacks 

During the holidays, you may head to a party where you have to wait a little while before the food is served. Check with the host to see when food will be served and if there will be any healthy appetizers to munch on. If you know in advance that the options will be deep fried and high in calories then consider packing a small snack for yourself (like a few pieces of low-fat cheese), or offer to bring a healthy appetizer to share, like a platter of raw vegetables with this healthy Spinach Yogurt Dip.

4. Be Selective

Many traditional foods served during the holidays tend to be high in carbohydrates. For example, traditional holiday fare includes mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and other desserts. Remember, you don’t have to sample everything that is offered. Focus on dishes that are more “special” or that you only have this time of year. For example, mashed potatoes or a dinner roll might be things you’ll eat any time of year; skipping those can make room for your Aunt’s famous sweet potato casserole or a slice of pumpkin pie. 

5. Eat Smaller Portions

Most holidays are filled with carbohydrate-based foods. Although you can have a taste of a few, being mindful of portions can help you better manage your blood glucose. If you cannot decide on one or two carbohydrates foods to eat, Use “Toby’s Two Tablespoon Rule” which involves scouting everything that is available (you can always ask the host what is going to be served).then take two-tablespoon “samples” of your favorites.  But, keep in mind that even in small portions, these things can add up.  Remember, to maintain blood glucose in the normal ranges, you want to keep your total carbohydrate intake similar to a regular day.

6. Don’t Forget Your Vegetables

During the holidays the vegetable selection tends to be limited. However, just a few simple vegetable dishes can add beautiful colors (and nutrients) to the table. Offer to bring a green salad or a side of steamed or roasted vegetables seasoned with delicious herbs or spices. If you choose to bring a vegetable dish, opt for non-starchy vegetables (like cauliflower, broccoli, or spinach) which are low in carbohydrates and calories. This will help fill you up and make it easier to reduce portions of other high calorie, high carbohydrate, and high fat foods that are being offered.

Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy holiday season!

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN is a Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author, adjunct professor, and nutrition expert at She is writing an upcoming cookbook with the American Diabetes Association on the plate method for planning healthy meals. Check out more of her work at

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