November is National Diabetes Education Month: 10 tips to manage blood sugars throughout the holidays

Low-Sugar Pumpkin Mousse Parfait ... Serves 8 - Ingredients: ¼ c. reduced fat cream cheese, 1 pkg (4 serving size) vanilla instant sugar-free pudding, ¾ c. skim milk, 1 can (15 ounce) solid packed pumpkin, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, ½ tsp. ground ginger, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, 3 cups reduced-fat whipped topping, divided, 4 ginger snap cookies, roughly crushed. Directions: 1. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. 2. Add pudding, milk, pumpkin and spices and beat on low; gradually increase to medium-high, beat for 1 minute or until smooth. 3. Fold in 1 ½ cups of whipped topping. Stop mixing midway through to allow sides of bowl to be scraped. 4. To assemble each parfait, spoon ¼ cup of mousse into 6-ounce wine or dessert glasses. Spoon 2 tablespoons whipped topping on top of the mousse. Top with another ¼ cup of mousse. 5. Cover and place parfaits in the refrigerator. Chill 1 hour. 6. Just prior to serving, top each glass with a dollop of whipped topping and 1-2 teaspoons gingersnap crumbs. Nutritional information: Calories 138, Total fat 6g, Saturated fat 3g, Protein 3g, Carbohydrate 19g, Cholesterol 5mg, Dietary fiber 2g, Sodium 249 mg. Submitted photo.

by Veterans Memorial Hospital Diabetes Educators

One of the most challenging times to keep blood sugars controlled is over the holiday season. There are countless family get-togethers, endless treats at work, and the weather is less than ideal for many exercise routines.

It seems as though it wouldn’t be a big deal if blood sugar levels go up a little or a few pounds are gained over the holidays. After all, when January arrives, the weight will get back to normal and sugar levels will once again be under better control. Right?!

To an extent, that could be true. If you’re in good overall health, doing well with your diabetes control and still producing reasonable amounts of insulin, a day or two of indulging a bit more than usual in holiday food shouldn’t be a problem.

The length of time the overindulgence goes on, and how many times, though, are important factors. The holidays can easily extend well past New Year’s. If you slip into bad eating habits, you can do long-term damage from the increase in your blood sugars and weight gain.

You can keep your weight and blood sugar levels under control during the holidays using these tips:

1. Maintain your schedule
If you overeat, trying to compensate by skipping a meal afterward may actually cause you to overeat during that next meal or snack. Even on your holiday and days away from work, try to wake up at your usual time, eat, exercise and take your diabetes and any other medications close to the same time as you usually do.

2. Check your blood sugar frequently
If you are taking insulin or medications that lower your blood sugar, check your blood sugar more frequently during the holidays, especially before driving a car or adjusting your insulin doses. Make allowances for the changes in your work and exercise schedules as well as your eating opportunities. Also, if you realize you have eaten more carbohydrates than you should have, do not skip checking your blood sugar because you know it will likely be high. By acknowledging how overindulgence affects your blood sugar, you may be able to make better meal planning decisions at your next holiday event.

3. Budget your sweets and treats
To keep your blood sugars from skyrocketing, include sweets and treats as part of your carbohydrate budget - not in addition to it. Choose the meat and side vegetables and salad at dinner. Your carbohydrate for dinner could be Aunt Elsie’s nut roll that she only makes during the holidays, that is always too hard to resist.

4. Watch your alcohol intake
Moderate alcohol intake can have a potentially dangerous blood sugar-lowering effect, so don’t drink on an empty stomach. The amounts of calories and sugars vary significantly among drinks so it can be useful to search nutrition information about your favorite drinks. Recommendations for alcohol for those with diabetes are no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men. (One drink equals four ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, one ounce of distilled spirits.)

5. Download mobile tools
You can download mobile apps to your phone that help you count carbohydrates of certain dishes, and let you know how much insulin you need to take (if you use it with meals). These apps can help eliminate some of the stress and guessing when you are offered foods you do not normally eat.

6. Order smart in restaurants
You’d be pleasantly surprised how many restaurants offer healthy options not mentioned on the menu. Ask for options with less saturated fat and sugars, and choose less fried food. Substitute olive oil with fresh pepper for butter. You can also substitute side dishes instead of the usual French fries. Ask for a baked or boiled potato (skin on) or fresh, steamed or stir-fried vegetables instead of mashed potatoes.

7. Cook light, healthy dishes to take with you to parties.
If you’re going to a holiday dinner, ask if you can bring a dish - one lower in calories and fat - such as a vegetable tray or vegetable-based appetizer. There are many delicious, diabetes-friendly recipes, like low-sugar pumpkin mousse parfait, that you can bring to holiday parties. You can find more low-sugar recipes from the American Diabetes Association at

8. Be ‘party smart’
At the party, enjoy some of the vegetable-based appetizers first, then the meat or cheese appetizers. Place your appetizers on your napkin instead of a plate and you’ll be less likely to overfill it. Another tip: don’t stand near the buffet table or food when talking at a party. It’s also important to stay hydrated. Drink water or club soda with a lime or lemon twist. Keep a calorie-free drink in your hand to keep your hands busy.

9. Stay active
If you can’t stick to your usual exercise program during this busy time, do some fun activity with family or friends. If 40 minutes a day at one time isn’t possible, break your exercise up into 10- to 15-minute segments, two or three times a day. Choose a walk around the neighborhood with family members after Thanksgiving dinner rather than couch time watching the football game. The fresh air and physical activity after a delicious meal will be refreshing!

10. Remember the reason for the season
Put the focus on family and friends and not on food. Most definitely enjoy what you do eat and savor each bite! Most important, remember to include time for exercise, meals and relaxation. The holidays will only be great if you’re in good health to enjoy them.
For more information, call the Diabetes Education office at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411 ext. 172.

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