How to Prep for the Holidays with Type 2 Diabetes

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on November 3, 2016Written by Julia Telfer, MPH
prep for holidays

Have you ever felt like holiday temptations lurk around every corner, making it even harder to manage your type 2 diabetes? The good news is that with a little preparation, you can make the most of the holiday season without derailing your diabetes management. Use this guide to help you stay on track.

Make a list (and check it as many times as you need to)

First things first: Create a list of everything you want to accomplish for the holidays. You can refer back to it, add to it, and check items off as you complete them. Simply writing everything down can help you feel more in control and ready to plan your approach.

Don’t forget to include your diabetes management or overall health goals in the list. Schedule an appointment with your Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) or another member of your healthcare team to come up with some S.M.A.R.T. goals to keep you on track. Bonus? If you’re working towards health goals now, you’ve got time to gain some momentum before everyone else starts talking about resolutions for the New Year!

Tips for healthy holiday eating

Remember these quick tips for avoiding holiday weight gain and staying on track with your diabetes management plan:

  • Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along. We guarantee someone else will be thankful for the healthy option too!
  • Don’t skip meals to save up for a holiday feast. This actually makes it easier to overeat and harder to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Instead, eat small, balanced meals to curb hunger and prevent overeating.
  • Fit in some favorites! You don’t have to deprive yourself of that slice of pumpkin pie you’ve been dreaming of all year; just remember that moderation is key.
  • Create new food traditions. While the usual favorites are fine in moderation, why not add some new, healthier recipes to the holiday menus? Try this recipe from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen for French squash soup.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip up or overindulge. Acknowledge how it made you feel, then recommit to healthy eating with your next meal or snack.
  • Get moving. Even if you skip the gym to check a few items off your holiday to-do list, don’t forget that little things add up when it comes to physical activity. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking towards the back of the parking lot to get some more steps in. Exercise can reduce stress, give you more energy, help lower blood sugar levels, and help you reach your health goals.

Cut costs while improving your health

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for friends or buying gifts for your cute nieces and nephews, holiday spending can end up feeling burdensome. Here are some shortcuts for cutting expenses and taking your health into your own hands all at once this holiday season:

  • Explore cost-effective health and wellness programs offered by your employer or your insurer. Some examples include free flu shots, flexible spending accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA), and weight loss incentives.
  • Swap out sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, including those expensive coffee creations, for water. This one will do wonders for your waistline and your wallet.
  • Commit to quit smoking. Why wait until January 1 to cut out this unhealthy cost? In addition to immediate improvements to your health, every pack of cigarettes you don’t buy will save you around 10 bucks!

Carefully craft your holiday wish list

Whether you’re exchanging wish lists with your in-laws or splurging on a holiday gift for yourself, these creative gift ideas are perfect for getting in a healthy groove — and staying there!

  • A session with a registered dietitian. These professionals can help you identify problematic eating patterns, and can craft realistic, affordable meal plans to help you achieve your diabetes and overall health goals.
  • A fresh fitness routine. If your exercise routine is fun, you might be more likely to make time for it — even in the midst of holiday gatherings and errands. Check out group exercise classes, personal training sessions, or stay-at-home fitness options to find something that fits your style, schedule, and budget. Looking for a little extra motivation? Wearable fitness trackers and smartphone apps can help you achieve health goals. You can even challenge friends to hold each other accountable!
  • Kitchen tools to make healthy cooking a breeze. Trust us, this suggestion will speak for itself after the first time you toss ingredients into your new crockpot and come back a few hours later to a delicious, hearty stew or soup on a rainy day.

Simplify your gift and grocery shopping

Who said holiday shopping has to happen around the holidays? Start early if you can. Spreading holiday shopping out across the year can make it less overwhelming and less of a direct hit to your budget all at once.

Avoid frustrating lines and save time by doing your holiday shopping online. You can even have the gifts come wrapped or have the wrapping supplies shipped to your door! This trick even works for grocery shopping — many stores now let you place orders online and schedule a delivery time that fits your needs.

Travel smartly

Sitting for a long period of time on a cross-country flight can take its toll. Take control with these travel tips:

  • Select an aisle seat to make it easier to get up and stretch throughout the flight.
  • Keep your diabetes supplies close! Make sure your medications, insulin, and blood glucose supplies are in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage gets delayed or lost. It’s also a good idea to have copies of your prescriptions or a doctor’s note on hand to help you breeze through those security lines.
  • Wear your most comfortable socks and well-fitting shoes or even closed-toe slippers with a hard sole.

Catch some Zzz’s

A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research suggests that a lack of sleep is linked to obesity and other health issues that can impact your diabetes. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults.

When you’re ready for bed, do your best to power down devices such as phones, tablets, and TVs. Research from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) suggests that the use of these light-emitting electronics actually disrupts your sleep cycle, which negatively impacts your overall health.

De-stress

Did you know that the hormones your body releases when you’re stressed can actually raise your blood sugar? This means that learning how to deal with stress can help with daily diabetes management. Here are some tips:

  • Breathe. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a deep breath. You might want to remove yourself from the situation briefly to calm down. Focusing on your breathing in a quiet space can help.
  • Take a break. Make time to take five-minute breaks throughout the day. Stretch your body and release the tension that has been building up, or go for a walk to clear your head.
  • Pick your battles. You don’t have to do it all this holiday season. Prioritize what’s most important to you, and focus on those things. This way, you’ll find time for the parts you actually enjoy! 

Ask for help

Last, but certainly not least, if someone offers to bring a side dish to the Thanksgiving dinner you’re hosting, let them! Turn tasks like putting up decorations into a group activity so it’s not all on you.

We know that living with diabetes can be stressful, but you’re not alone. Connecting with people online or in your community through support groups can have a huge impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health. If you’re more comfortable talking with a professional, therapists can help you develop tools to cope with the various stressors in your life.


Julia Telfer

Julia Telfer, MPH completed her BA in Psychology at Elon University in North Carolina, and earned her MPH in Health Policy and Management at New York Medical College School of Health Sciences and Practice in Valhalla, NY, where she also completed a Graduate Certificate in Health Education Studies.

Julia has been actively engaged in public health programs involving adult immunization, women’s health, substance use, and maternity care. She also develops and maintains health-related content for diabetes and cancer patient populations in third party insurance and device companies. Julia is currently the Director of Prevention at an HIV/AIDS nonprofit organization in Connecticut, where she is responsible for the planning, execution, evaluation, and management of all prevention and harm-reduction programs.

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