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Sharp Health News

5 ways to navigate the holidays with diabetes

Nov. 22, 2021

5 ways to navigate the holidays with diabetes

It looks like the upcoming holiday season might just feel a little more like holiday seasons of the past, filled with social get-togethers, – COVID- safe, of course – exhausting travel schedules and hours spent in the kitchen preparing a special meal.

Surviving the holidays while managing diabetes can be challenging. Dr. Gary Levinson, a board-certified internal medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, offers five tips for navigating the most wonderful time of the year.

  1. Stick to a healthy eating schedule.
    Busy schedules make it easy to skip meals and then overeat later in the day. This leads to potentially dangerous dips and spikes in blood sugar. Dr. Levinson suggests making mealtime a priority by sticking to a routine of three moderate meals per day with small, healthy snacks in between.
  2. Avoid grazing on snacks, treats and leftovers.
    Dr. Levinson suggests having healthy snacks on-hand to avoid the temptation to overeat or graze on sugary treats. Plan snacks that include at least two of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat.

    Sharp Rees-Stealy registered dietitian, Melissa Hughes, offers some easy, healthy snack ideas:
    • 1 apple with 2 tablespoons nut butter
    • 1 cheese stick with a piece of fruit
    • 1 cup veggies (carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) with 1/4 cup hummus
    • 1 hardboiled egg with a handful of cherry tomatoes
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries
    • 2 ounces of deli turkey rolled up with 1/3 cup mashed avocado
    • 1/4 cup raw nuts with a piece of fruit
  3. Know your way around the buffet table.
    You may not know what’s on the holiday party menu and whether or not there will be healthy food options available. Offer to bring a healthy dish that you enjoy. Eat slowly in order to avoid overeating, and walk away from the buffet once you’ve eaten a moderate-sized meal. Focus on meaningful conversations with family and friends instead of food.
  4. Avoid too much “good cheer.”
    Alcohol is processed by the liver, which affects how quickly your body metabolizes sugar and insulin. Many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and can have a serious effect on diabetes medications. Have a conversation with your doctor about how to safely consume alcohol while managing diabetes, and monitor your blood sugar regularly.
  5. Take care of your entire self — not just your diet.
    Factors other than diet alone can affect blood sugar levels. Managing diabetes successfully also includes regular exercise and a healthy sleep schedule. Dr. Levinson recommends enjoying a brisk walk after a heavy meal and scheduling time to relax and recharge during the holidays. “A good night’s sleep can help you feel your best the next day and stabilize your blood sugar levels,” says Dr. Levinson.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Gary Levinson about managing diabetes for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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