Expert Answers: Diet and the holidays

Last updated: April 2022

For many of us, food is a large party of holiday celebrations. Unfortunately, it can be stressful being around so many delicious and tempting treats. We've noticed several of our community members asking about how to approach holiday eating, so we asked our experts Kelly and Meryl to share some advice for the following question:

I love the holidays! Is it okay if I "cheat" and eat what I love on Hanukah or Christmas?"

Response from Kelly


Diabetes does not mean you have to stay away from all of the foods you love, you just need to plan ahead and be smart about it. During the holidays we often know what to expect in terms of food. You know what foods your family typically serves or what foods you usually prepare, use this to your advantage when planning. Decide ahead of time what foods you really want to enjoy and which ones you're going to pass on. If you're bringing a dish, make something that's a good choice for you to eat.

With Diabetes it doesn't work to "save up" your carb allotment like you may if you were watching calories alone. Carbohydrates are the body's main fuel source and we need to eat them throughout the day, every few hours, for optimal blood sugar control. Eat breakfast or a light and healthy snack before you leave the house. This will get you off to a good start and you won't be ravenously hungry when you arrive, which can lead to overeating.

Be mindful of snacking on appetizers by making yourself one small plate instead of grazing. When it comes time for the big meal, fill your plate with non-starchy veggies and meat and try a two-bite technique for those rich foods that are your favorites. Serve up two bites worth of potatoes or macaroni and cheese, enough to enjoy and savor it and then move on. Even two bites can add up so remember moderation. Don't waste carbs and calories on foods that you aren't your favorites. Finally, stay active throughout the day as much as possible. Invite some friends and family to join you for a walk outside while the turkey bakes and again after the meal. Physical activity is one of the best ways to quickly utilize the carbohydrates you've just eaten and keep your blood sugar in check.

Response from Meryl

Great question! One of the most challenges things when faced with a chronic disease, such as diabetes, is that you never get to take a day off. Many people who are on a strict diet may allow themselves a “cheat” day on the weekend. The holidays, for many of us, are a time of celebration, which often includes many tempting foods that we may not normally eat. I am a true believer that all foods can fit in as long as it is done so in moderation. If you feel a need to “cheat” you might be restricting your diet too much. This can result in binge eating and difficult to manage blood sugar numbers. Before going to a holiday party for Thanksgiving or Christmas consider the following tips/suggestions:

  • Come up with a plan of attack before the party.
  • Try to find out what is being served. If you know ahead of time what you will be facing you can pick some of your old favorites to enjoy.
  • Pick foods that are your absolute favorites instead of putting some of everything on your plate.
  • If you really want to try some of everything choose smaller portions (about the size of a large egg).
  • Allow yourself some dessert! Instead of eating one of each cookie pick a favorite to enjoy.
  • Don’t rush through your meal. Take time to enjoy the wonderful dishes and enjoy the company of family and friends.
  • Try to get some exercise after the meal this will help better manage your post-meal blood sugar rise.

How do you approach eating during the holidays? Do you allow yourself to eat some of your favorite foods? Tell us more about your experience in the comments!

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