Easy Steps to a Happy and Healthy Holiday

The holiday season is upon us and you know what that means – lots of family, friends and food! For many of us, the holidays also come with added stress and opportunities to stray from healthy habits. There are presents to buy, parties to attend, and family to see.

But the holidays don’t have to be defined by stress or gluttony this year – start planning now by checking out our new recipes, holiday meal plan, and our list of solutions to holiday dilemmas below. You’ll find that you can enjoy you the season and be healthy while you do it!

Dilemma # 1: Staying active when there are so many other things on your To-Do List this time of year…


  • Plan ahead to keep up your exercise routine. In fact, set a goal for this holiday season. Be realistic and specific. For example, you may want to go to the gym for 45 minutes at least 4 times each week. 
  • Sign up for a fun event that you need to train or prepare for like a reindeer run, turkey trot, or a walk that raises money for a good cause (it is the season of giving, after all). Get other family members involved so you can stay active together through these colder winter months.
  • Start a new tradition with your family and friends to take a walk after your holiday meal. The dishes can wait!
  • Take advantage of your time on days off. You may have extra time off from work or school this time of year. Take advantage of that extra time and use it for physical activity. Go to the gym or make it a social thing and get friends together to play a pickup football game. You may even want to take the kids sledding or skiing if there is snow on the ground. 
  • Remember that cleaning counts. Doing chores around the house usually means you are moving around. Being the host for the party may be a lot of work, but you are also getting in some physical activity when you get the house ready for your guests.
  • Shopping can help you get your steps in. Wear a pedometer when you go to the mall. Use the usual tactics for increasing your step count – park at the back of the parking lot and always take the stairs. When you wear a pedometer, shoot for 10,000 steps every day.


Dilemma #2: Fitting in dessert – what do you do to satisfy your sweet cravings?


  • Research has shown that the type of carbohydrate is not as important as the amount of carbohydrate you eat when it comes to controlling blood glucose levels. Yep – that means that you can substitute sweet treats for other carbohydrate foods in the same meal. 
  • Find examples of how you can adjust your meal plan to fit in a portion of dessert at Thanksgiving and other holiday events this year. 
  • Sometimes we have more than one choice dessert choice, and everything looks good. If you find yourself wanting to try more than one dessert, remember to keep portions in perspective. Pick two things, and try half a portion of each.
  • Offer to cook a dessert to bring. Choose a recipe that is diabetes-friendly and easy to portion out.


Dilemma #3: Overeating – How do you avoid a belly ache and high blood glucose levels after dinner?


  • Be mindful when eating appetizers. These are just the start of a long evening of food. Remember that many tempting finger foods are packed with calories and carbs. Stick to fresher appetizers like veggies and hummus or pita wedges and guacamole. 
  • Use the Plate Method when you fill your plate at dinner time, and resist going back for a second round of food. This meal planning method can help you keep portions in perspective.
  • Sitting in front of leftover food after dinner can lead to grazing, which can lead to overeating. Remove yourself from the temptation. Grab a buddy and go for a walk together to get some fresh air. You can also excuse yourself and help with the dishes, go play with the kids, or gather a group to play a game. 
  • Approach holiday foods with a new attitude. Don’t focus on eating as much as you can. Take a mindful approach to eating - eat each food slowly and truly enjoy it. Eating your food slowly and savoring the taste can make for a more enjoyable experience and you may find that you eat less. You may also want to check out the Hunger Rating Scale, a tool that can help you decide when you are full and it is time to stop.
  • Eat the foods that are special dishes and signify the holidays to you.  Choose your favorite foods and skip the ordinary choices.  Rolls may be your spouse’s favorite, but you may prefer sweet potatoes.


Dilemma #4: Holiday celebrations often include alcohol – how much should you be drinking and what are the best choices?


  • The American Diabetes Association recommends that if you drink, women would have no more than 1 drink per day and men should stick to no more than 2 drinks per day.  
  • You can still have a drink and enjoy it. People with diabetes who are on insulin or some medications are at risk for hypoglycemia if they drink without eating food. Be sure to have a healthy appetizer with your drink, or wait until dinner so that you are not drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Don’t feel like you have to drink alcohol. Instead, opt for low-calorie drinks like tea, coffee, water, diet sodas, or club soda with lime. Many alcoholic drinks, especially those made with mixers, provide some carbohydrates, which you should count in your meal plan if you have diabetes.
  • Calories from drinking can add up quickly, and they don’t give us the same “full” feeling that food does. Below is a list of drinks that are better choices if you choose to have alcohol at your holiday party this year:
    • 12-ounce Light Beer 
    • Wine spritzers (white or red wine mixed with club soda)
    • 5-ounce glass of dry wine or champagne 
    • Mixed drink made with 1.5 ounces of 40-proof distilled spirits and a low calorie mixer like diet soda, club soda, water, or a low-calorie juice
  • Some holiday drinks to watch out for include:
    • Drinks made with syrups and sweet mixes like margaritas or martinis 
    • Heavy beers that are more than 6% alcohol by volume
    • Spiked egg nog or hot chocolate
    • Anything with multiple types of liquor like a Long Island iced tea
    • Drinks made with cream or creamy liquors like a white Russian    
    • Drinks served in glasses larger than a standard portion size (standard portion sizes are 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 40-proof distilled spirits)

As you can see, to every problem, there are multiple solutions! Though holiday traditions seem to focus on food, don’t forget the other reasons why you celebrate this time of year. By planning ahead, you can still enjoy quality time with your family and friends while keeping up healthy habits.

Holiday Recipes

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