How to Have a Happy Diabetes-Friendly Holiday

By: Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES

As the holidays approach, we can be filled with feelings of both excitement and stress. Here are eleven tips for staying happy and healthy during this holiday season!

Make a Plan – In order to stay on track with healthy eating, try planning your meals and snacks ahead of time, so you’ll be sure to fit in enough nutritious food to fuel your busy days. Use the 80-20 rule as a guide, aiming for healthy choices 80% of the time, and enjoying less-healthy holiday treats 20% of the time.

Keep on Moving – You may be hearing the song in your head, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – but you’re tough! Try bundling up with an extra layer (and non-slip boots) or expanding your indoor options for keeping active: walk the mall and enjoy the decorations & music… or do your fitness routine in front of the TV while watching favorite holiday movies.

Find Fun Recipes – While you should still enjoy traditional favorites, there are lots of festive, yet healthy, ways to have holiday treats. Here are recipes for many holiday favorites tweaked to be slightly healthier! 

Take Time to Breathe – Sit by the fire. Light some candles or just dim the lights and breathe. Do it slowly and intentionally. Try the “four by four” technique – breathing in for four counts, holding for four counts, and exhaling for four counts. Take a few minutes each day just for yourself.

Be Mindful – Continue to practice mindful eating skills, including eating slowly and intentionally, noticing the flavors in every bite. Avoid eating standing up or while watching TV or looking at your phone. Remind yourself of the real meaning of the holidays – and savor the memories, time with family & friends, and the food you enjoy.

Keep Records – The holidays are not the time to stop your routines of checking blood sugar, keeping food records or weighing yourself regularly. Research shows these activities are linked with successful diabetes management for many people. If you fall off track or forget, don’t beat yourself up! This is a busy time – just hop back into your routine. Don’t be too judgemental of yourself if the results don’t always match your goal.

Stay Hydrated – Keep your water bottle filled with your favorite no-sugar beverage such as water, seltzer or a festive, fragrant herbal tea. Be careful of unwanted calories that can easily sneak in through holiday beverages such as eggnog, hot chocolate or mulled wine. Plan ahead!

Festive Fruits and Veggies – There are so many colorful and seasonal produce options. Think green kiwis, red pomegranates, red and green grapes, red and green peppers. Treat yourself and try some things you’ve never tried before such as baby honeynut squash or star fruit.

Bake & Share – Love to bake, but don’t want to have baked goods around the house? Offer to make pies for the local shelter. Share your favorite cookies with friends and neighbors.

Pick a Perfect Portion – You’ve heard, “good things come in small packages.” It’s the same with yummy foods. Make bite-size treats in mini-muffin cups, portion out the savory spiced nuts into small single servings, and keep the plate method in mind as you aim to fill half your plate with veggies. Remember – all things in moderation.

Get Support – The holidays can be a hard time for many reasons, not just sticking with healthy choices. Remembering the loss of loved ones or juggling demands from well-meaning friends and relatives can be stressful! As always, having a good support system can help you through rough times. It may be a compassionate spouse, empathetic friend who listens well, a supportive Facebook community, or a professional mental health counselor.

Have Sweet Dreams – Did you know that getting enough sleep is linked with better health? Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night!

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