Diabetes Self-Management Blog

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us…and has been since October. Doesn’t it seem like people start decorating for Christmas earlier and earlier nowadays? It used to be that maybe after Thanksgiving, a few brave souls would put up Christmas lights. Now, the lights and lawn ornaments go up a day or so after Halloween.

As you’ve been making your lists and checking them twice for whatever holiday celebrations you’re observing, how many of you spend a little extra time thinking about your diabetes? What happens to your diabetes control over the holiday season? Or maybe it’s not a big deal for you — maybe you stick with your usual routine, no matter what.

Do you take a few days of high blood glucose levels in stride? Or do you curtail your holiday indulging to avoid that happening? My husband, who has Type 1 diabetes and wears a pump, seems to enjoy the holiday treats as much as the rest of us, but he boluses insulin appropriately to cover them. His blood glucose levels may not be ideal, but he does the best he can. However, I can recall patients of mine who wouldn’t give in to one holiday cookie or candy cane for fear of potential consequences.

There’s no one right way to “do” diabetes, particularly over the holidays. But if you’ve found some tricks or strategies that work for you, please share! In the meantime, I’ll share some tips with you.

Eating Well, Eating Right

We all know the eating part can be the toughest. Mealtimes are different, and carbs are found everywhere. If you choose, give yourself permission to indulge a bit. If it’s easier to just not go there, that’s OK, too. Whatever works best.

  • Budget your carbs. Decide how you’ll use your carb choices to allow for special treats (remember, one carb choice = 15 grams of carbohydrate = the amount of carbohydrate in one small Christmas cookie).
  • If holiday parties are what get you, limit overeating by having a small, low-carb snack before you go, such as raw vegetables, a handful of nuts, or a stick of string cheese. The fiber and the fat will help curb your appetite.
  • Use the plate method — aim to fill half of your plate with veggies, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with a whole-grain source of carbohydrate, such as brown rice.
  • Cut back on how much fat and sugar you use in your recipes by one-third to one-half.

Keep Moving

One of the best things you can do to stay in control — and sane — during the holidays is to be physically active.

  • Keep up with your usual activity plan as much as possible. Break it up into several 10-minute segments if you don’t seem to have time to do it all at once.
  • Try something new or different, such as ice-skating, snowshoeing, or dancing (all great ways to burn off eggnog calories!).
  • Enlist a family member or friend to go for a walk around the block to look at holiday lights.
  • Check out the local mall before the stores open and get some laps in, especially if it’s too cold or icy to go for your usual walk.

Keep on Checking

  • Keep your blood glucose targets in mind: 90–130 mg/dl before meals and less than 160–180 mg/dl two hours after meals are targets for most people with diabetes.
  • Check your glucose more than usual and record your results. Look for patterns.
  • Call your health-care team if your results are too high or too low and you’re not sure what to do.

De-stress and Unwind

  • Plan your shopping, cooking, and party schedule ahead of time (if it’s not too late!).
  • Make time for yourself each day to relax and experience what the holidays really mean to you.
  • Go easy with the holiday “spirits”: Limit yourself to no more than one or two servings of alcohol.
  • Learn to say “no” to requests or events that you don’t want to attend — without feeling guilty.

Above all else, enjoy this time of year, even if you simply use the time to reflect on the past year and plan ahead for the New Year.

Happy holidays to all!


  1. Dear Amy.

    Probably the best thing I could do for Christmas would be to lock myself into my room and delegate the Dog to do the overeating. It has total control when eating dog food and will only eat a bit at a time. However with human food it becomes a Roman enjoying Saturnalia. I wonder if there is some sort of a message in this for humans. Eat only dog food? Something that smells, as bad like sauerkraut? Eat only broccoli? I really hate the stuff and eating 1 lb would turn me off food for a few days. My wife makes a great Swedish bullar(not sure about the spelling) eating a 1000 grams of this carb would be no problem.

    This may not be allowed and I would be branded an anti-social scrooge but it took several days to recover from thanksgiving.

    Posted by CalgaryDiabetic |
  2. Hi CalgaryDiabetic,

    Well, you’ve certainly conveyed how challenging it can sometimes be over the holidays, especially with all the tempting food around. Maybe you’re on to something with the broccoli, though!

    Posted by acampbell |
  3. Dear Amy.

    Happy Hollidays and thanks for all the blogs and your prompt replies to our comments.

    Posted by CalgaryDiabetic |
  4. Thank you! And Happy and Healthy Holidays to all of you, too!

    Posted by acampbell |
  5. Thank you for the many recipe ideas. This is really a hard time of the year when so many sweets are brought into our office by vendors. But Eating the fruits, ie Oranges, Apples, and nuts help a lot.

    Posted by Brenda |

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