Diabetes Diet and the Holidays

Sugary foods are just about everywhere this time of year: cookies, cakes, and pies—at the office, at school, and at home. But this doesn’t mean you have to eat them every day! While there’s a lot of temptation (and sometimes pressure from friends and family) to overindulge, it’s possible to enjoy the holidays without overdoing it on the sweets. You can maintain your weight and keep your blood sugar within target! I wish I could say it was totally easy, but I know it’s not. It takes discipline and mindfulness. However, the rewards for eating well, exercising, and limiting sweets this time of year will be well worth it.

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A general rule of thumb is limiting sweets to one or two times per week. I tell my patients with diabetes to do this, but I encourage people without diabetes to do so as well! If you’re celebrating a holiday or a special occasion on a Saturday, for instance, and you know you’re going to have dessert that night, try to avoid having sweets during the workweek. If a colleague brings oatmeal cookies to the office on the Friday before your event, you don’t have to take one just because it’s there. (Of course, if oatmeal cookies are your absolute favorite, take one and enjoy it, but be sure to have a smaller portion of dessert on the Saturday. And if they aren’t your favorite, pass them up.)

Being selective with desserts will help prevent you from going over your calorie budget. It can also prevent unnecessary high blood sugars and post-dessert guilt.

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Now that you have a good idea for handling sweets, let’s talk about exercise. It’s ideal to keep up your routine, even during this busy time of year. It’s recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, five or six days per week. On top of that, it’s suggested that we incorporate two or three days of resistance training per week. It’s okay if you don’t have a gym membership, you can do exercise at home or near your home. Go on a nature hike, take an aerobics class, or put on some music and dance. See if your family and friends want to go on a fast-paced walk with you. You can do resistance training at home as well. Think planks, push-up, crunches, wall sits, and leg lifts.

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The Friedman Diabetes Institute wishes you a happy and healthy holiday season. Enjoy some of your favorite foods, but do so in moderation. Get lots of physical activity and be well!

Lynn Polmanteer, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, is a nutritionist and diabetes educator at the Gerald J. Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Hospital. »