Managing diabetes through the holidays

Mother and daughter

Holidays and diabetes: tips for enjoying family, food, and fun by Jaime Cline 

The holidays can cause a lot of anxiety and stress for people like me who that manage type 1 diabetes.  Between the stress of my normal routine being disrupted, the never-ending parade of yummy holiday treats, and countless holiday parties—it’s a lot to manage! I want to be able to indulge a bit and really enjoy the time spent with family and friends without feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and worried about how to manage my diabetes. I’m definitely not an expert or a doctor, but I want to share some things that have really helped me!


Strategies to manage diabetes and the holidays


Work out in the morning

This one is non-negotiable for me.  Working out in the morning helps me set the tone for the day, gives me energy for all the holiday events, and helps improve my insulin sensitivity.  Exercising helps me manage my blood sugars throughout the day and motivates me to make healthier food choices too. So, whether it’s a weight session in the gym or a Turkey Trot before the big dinner, I always make sure to get some kind of physical activity in the morning.  Bonus points if my family or friends can join me!  


Set my intentions for the holidays

Before the holidays, I set my intentions for the season.  I think (and journal) about  how I want to feel during the holiday season.  I think about how I want to feel physically and what’s most important for me during the holidays.  This shows up for me in two ways—my diabetes and my stress levels. Doing this helps me stay on track with my diabetes because it prevents instances where I’m grazing at the charcuterie board for hours or I find myself eating 18 pounds of my mom’s amazing homemade fudge.    

It helps my stress levels, which helps my diabetes management too because I don’t commit myself to all of the events—just the ones that align with my intentions for the holiday season. This way I’m not getting overwhelmed trying to juggle 8 different parties scheduled on one weekend, hosting all of our friends for a Friendsgiving, and doing all of the classroom holiday party planning for our daughter.  


Plan my holiday calendar in advance

Planning the holidays in advance is just straight-up tactical advice.  I have all the parties, dinners, events, and holiday celebrations listed on our family calendar, so I know what’s coming up not only for the day but the week AND the month.

This is so helpful because I can make more intuitive food choices. I can “pick” which events I’m going to indulge a little bit more at and which ones I’ll stick to more healthy options. I don’t skip meals on the day of the event. I try to practice portion control when I am eating something that’s a little more on the sweet side.  


Bringing my own healthy dish

When I am bringing something to a party (an appetizer, a side dish, or even a dessert), I choose to bring one of my healthier options.  Sometimes it’s my broccoli and cheese casserole or it’s my low-carb cheeseburger sliders. By volunteering to bring a “healthier” option, it gives me at least one yummy dish that I don’t feel guilty about indulging in.  

More times than not, there are others at the party that are on a specific diet, and they are grateful for the lower-carb option too!  


Giving myself some grace

I can’t say this enough.  Don’t beat yourself up because you ate too much on Thanksgiving, overindulged on Hanukkah, and accidentally ate the cookies that were supposed to be left out for Santa.  Managing type 1 diabetes is hard enough without the extra challenges of delicious holiday food, alcohol-laden parties, and travel to visit family.  

Remember that the holidays are a hard time for anyone to stick to healthy eating habits. Don’t get discouraged.  You can get back on track the day after the holiday. I think it’s also important to give yourself a high five for the things that you did well!  


Happy holidays

Whichever strategy you choose to get through the holidays, I hope you remember to enjoy them and have fun. From my family to yours, happy holidays!


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Submitted by Charles Stone (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

medtronics has been a life saver from day one. insurance has been a challenge throughout my 18 years or so on a pump but you have given me life as a 50+ year type 1 diabetic. thanks for all you do and your great STAFF. I named my pump Kathy because she goes with me where ever I go and this way I can show to others how she takes great care of me 24/7. the one thing Medtronics needs to create is a vain finder. So I can stop the bleeding when I hit the wrong spot.

Submitted by Nicole (not verified) on

In reply to by Charles Stone (not verified)

Thanks for the kind words, Charles, and for allowing us to be a part of your journey for 18 years!

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