The holiday season is officially upon us. But for those living with diabetes, this can mean a load of extra planning. The average day for someone with diabetes already requires a ton of forward thinking, but during the holidays, there are additional factors to consider.

Luckily, a little preparation goes a long way. And the effort will pay off in many healthy ways.

In light of going into my fifth holiday season with type 1 diabetes, I want to share five tips I’ve learned along the way. Here’s my advice on how to survive — and thrive — during this festive season:

Check the menu beforehand

If you’re headed to a meal at a friend’s or family member’s home, see if it’s possible for your host to make simple modifications to the menu. Ask them, for example, to substitute something small, like swapping out the typical carb- and starch-heavy mashed potatoes for cauliflower mash.

If, however, your work holiday party happens to be at the new restaurant downtown, it’s best to check the menu ahead of time. If possible, see if the restaurant will work with you on a few healthier dishes that you can eat.

Plan ahead with your carb counting

Carbohydrates have the biggest impact on blood sugar levels, so it’s important to count them carefully and treat accordingly.

If you’ve been waiting all year for your aunt’s famous pumpkin pie, include it as part of your carbohydrate allowance. Save your carbs for dessert and choose a salad or vegetables as your dinner sides, rather than a piece of cornbread or scoop of mash.

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Bring a dish

When attending a holiday party, ask the host if you can bring a dish or two. By bringing along something you’ve personally cooked, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a healthy option or two to choose from.

If you’re stuck on what to bring, consider opting for lower carb sides like veggies or protein-based dishes. You can even prepare a dessert with sugar substitutes.

Check your levels often

Keep a close eye on your blood glucose levels. You’re likely to be out of your normal routine: on a different schedule, eating holiday foods, and traveling.

If you wear a continuous glucose monitor, it’s especially important to check it more than usual. By being aware of where you stand, you’re better able to make smart decisions for meals and activities.

Enjoy yourself

Although the holidays do bring delicious treats, remember this is a time for reflection and spending time with the ones you love. Keep on track with things that make you feel good like exercise and relaxation.

You can even ask the people you’re spending the holidays with to join you for a workout, be it a game of football in the backyard or a morning group run. Whatever you opt for, make sure to savor everything from the food you choose mindfully to the sweet memories you create.


Paloma Kemak is a 29-year-old full-time diabetes advocate from Scottsdale, Arizona, who received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in April 2013. Through her blog, Glitter Glucose, and Instagram, she’s been able to connect with people worldwide. Paloma loves sharing her favorite products, foods, fashion, and personal life.