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How to Navigate Holiday Meals and Stay Healthy When You Have Diabetes

12/16/2019 06:00AM | 4354 views

By LeeAnn Weintraub

The winter holidays can be a time of joy and family togetherness, but they have the potential to be stressful and challenging, especially for people with diabetes. Navigating festive meals while keeping blood sugar in check is a real-life daily struggle for those with diabetes, which is heightened during this season. A plan that incorporates smart food choices and the use of technology can ease the stress while improving blood sugar levels even during the holidays.

Chef Sam Talbot, restaurant owner known for competing on a top television cooking show, has a unique perspective on healthy eating as he has been living with type 1 diabetes since he was a child. As a spokesperson for Medtronic’s new “Live More. Worry Less.” campaign, Chef Sam has firsthand experience using a continuous glucose monitoring system along with a smartphone app to better control his blood sugar levels. He uses his skills in the kitchen and love of food to strike a balance when preparing healthy holiday meals that are reminiscent of traditional family favorites.

Chef Sam believes that people with diabetes can make simple diabetes-friendly swaps in their holiday recipes to be able to enjoy what they love without too much compromise. For example, he makes his holiday pie crusts using chickpea flour, which is higher in protein and fiber than all-purpose flour. The chickpea flour is more nutritious and helps keep blood sugar levels stable. In addition, he recommends using natural fruit instead of sugar in certain recipes to help boost sweetness. He recommends using seasonal whole foods that are fresh and flavorful.

Starting with healthy, high-quality ingredients is key to planning a diabetes-friendly holiday menu. Here are some more helpful holidays tips for better blood sugar levels this holiday season:

  1. Don’t forget the vegetables. Leafy green and other vegetables are low in carbohydrates and calories and can add both volume and flavor to your plate. You can load up on the veggies for a more satisfying and balanced meal.
  2. Keep portion control in mind. It’s okay to enjoy your favorite holiday foods, but eating reasonable portions will help you avoid overeating while better controlling your blood sugar.
  3. Don’t skip meals. Counterbalancing hefty holiday meals by skipping other meals can take a toll on your mood, energy and blood sugar. Try to eat on your typical schedule, even during the holidays.
  4. Plan in the activity. When gathering with family and friends for a holiday meal, incorporate a non-eating activity like a brisk walk or a game of football in the yard. Getting up and moving around feels good and can be a lot of fun.
  5. Stay hydrated with low-carb and low-calorie beverages. Sweet drinks and alcoholic beverages can make glucose control even more challenging. Opt for low-calorie drinks, especially water, to help take in enough fluids.
  6. Use technology to your advantage. Talk to your doctor or endocrinologist about technology for better diabetes control. With ongoing research and scientific advances, more tools are being developed to help people with diabetes better incorporate tight blood sugar control into their lifestyle.

LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. She can be reached by email at

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