Did someone say pumpkin spice and everything nice?

It’s that special time of year for holiday gatherings and cheer with family and friends. If you are a person with diabetes or dietary restrictions, it can also be a challenging time. Don’t fret! From festive potlucks to seasonal treats, it’s still possible to enjoy a taste of the holidays while keeping blood glucose and weight levels in check. With November marking National Diabetes Month and the start of the merry season, there’s no better time to share our “holiday survival” tips and tricks, including some personal inspiration from Wider Circle members with diabetes. Read on and get ready for a happy, healthy holiday. 

1. Think twice before skipping meals

When you skip meals, you are likely to eat even more food at your next meal and eat faster because you are so hungry. And if you’re a person with diabetes, skipping meals or a lack of meal structure could result in dangerously low or high blood sugar levels (Cleveland Clinic).  Instead, keep your regular meal schedule and enjoy reasonable portions when it comes time to sit down for the holiday spread.  

2. Take a walk around the block

Research from the American Diabetes Association indicates that walking is one of the most common and effective forms of physical exercise for people with diabetes. It’s easy, helps relieve stress and you can do it practically anywhere. Walking is also a great cardiovascular activity; another important benefit because people with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease. Extra bonus: regular walking burns calories, which in turn can help control weight. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. That may sound like a lot, but it is very doable if you split it up into chunks — like 3 times for 10 minutes per day, or 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week. 

“I have made changes little by little and today I feel much better and have lost weight. I share the tips with my family that I learn from my Wider Circle friends and now everyone is making changes in their diet. We go for a walk every day and feel happier.”

– Hector Galvan, Wider Circle Member with type 2 diabetes

3. Fill your plate with colors and the right portions 

Aim to cover half of your plate with colorful, festive fruits and vegetables. This will increase the nutritional value of your meal, help you feel full quickly and decrease the number of calories you consume. For portion guidelines, make a “pie chart” on your plate following the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Plate Method. It’s a stress-free way to plan your portions without any counting, calculating, or measuring.

The Diabetes Plate Method (ADA)

4. Choose drinks wisely

Watch out for those pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint mochas. Many holiday drinks are high in calories or sugar, and it’s easy to lose count of your portions when you are having a good time. Try substituting whole milk with nut milks, cutting syrups in half, or sticking with low- or no-calorie drinks like water, tea or sparkling water.

5. Lean on the power of peer support 

Making lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, even when you know they are good for you. When you work together with a neighbor or group of peers, you can inspire and motivate one another to reach your goals. At Wider Circle, our members meet regularly to learn about nutrition and health, and many enjoy sharing their personal success tips and favorite healthy recipes.  

“Since joining Wider Circle I have learned so much information about how to eat healthier. I’ve eliminated all junk food and put more vegetables into my diet. I consume more green juices and less processed products.

– Rene Valdez, Wider Circle Member with pre-diabetes  


Hector’s Festive Mexican Cabbage Recipe

Start your holiday mornings off right with this diabetes-friendly dish (contributed by Hector Galvan, San Diego, CA)

  • Half a head of Cabbage, shredded
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • Half an onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 chili peppers 
  • Combine with a little chicken broth and salt to taste. Steam until cooked through. Serve with eggs or egg whites on the side. Enjoy!

Want more healthy holiday tips and recipes? We love this toolkit from the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.

The information included in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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About the author: Brian Christina