7 Tips on Navigating the Holiday Season with Type 1 Diabetes

Posted December 6, 2023
Christmas Cookies on PlateThe holidays are an exciting time of year. Still, for many of us living with a chronic disease like type 1 diabetes, the holidays can add even more stress and decision-making to our already chaotic lives. Did you know that people living with type 1 diabetes make an additional 180 decisions a day on average?!

Debunking Diabetes Myths Around Festive Meals

Added stress for those with diabetes could be from dealing with the insensitive food comments others make about sugar-causing diabetes, which isn’t true. A person with diabetes may have to navigate how to handle comments others make about what the person with diabetes should or shouldn’t be eating since they have diabetes. 

For example, “You have diabetes, so you shouldn’t be eating Christmas cookies.” Some people with diabetes may have their well-meaning family or friends make sugar-free alternatives that the person with diabetes may or may not have asked for. Yes, people with diabetes can have the “regular versions” of foods and keep their blood sugar stable. It depends on the person with diabetes and their preferences!

Managing Holiday Routines and Blood Sugar Levels

On top of the food comments and special versions of foods being made, changes in our sleep, eating, movement routines, increased travel, and eating different or new foods can make carb counting tricky. All these factors can cause it to be challenging to enjoy ourselves, keep up with regular routines, and manage blood sugars.

Dietitian’s Tips for a Diabetes-Friendly Holiday

As a dietitian living with type 1 diabetes, here are some of my tips for navigating diabetes during the holidays.

Stabilizing Blood Sugar Through Consistent Nourishment

Nourish yourself all day. I don’t recommend “saving up” for the big meal. Eating consistently throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar, energy, and mood stable.

Indulging Mindfully: Enjoy Your Favorite Holiday Treats

Enjoy the food! If your favorite dish is being served, have some, and take home some leftovers! You can incorporate your favorite dessert into breakfast or a snack the next day by having the dessert with Greek yogurt, your favorite nut butter, chia or flaxseeds, fruit, etc. Also, you can just enjoy the leftovers by themselves!

Smart Dessert Strategies for Better Blood Sugar Control

Eat dessert with your meal. This is not a requirement, but if you have the option, it may benefit your blood sugars to have dessert with your meal because the protein and fiber from your meal may help stabilize the carbohydrates in the dessert.

Educating Others and Advocating for Diabetes Awareness

If you have the capacity, educate others about diabetes. This could be like explaining how your diabetes technology works or challenging diabetes stigma by providing education.

Connecting with Others for Emotional and Social Support

Connect with friends with diabetes, “diabuddies,” in person, online, or share with those in your life who are open to listening. Diabetes can be isolating. You don’t have to deal with it all on your own!

The Importance of Self-Care During the Holiday Rush

Practice self-care. Self-care can look like having low-blood sugar snacks on hand, designating time for rest, staying hydrated, practicing saying no, and having boundaries. No one can do it all!

Embracing Imperfection: Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

Go easy on yourself. It is okay if your blood sugar isn’t perfect. The holidays can be a busy and emotionally challenging time of year. Try to give yourself grace and be present.

Brianna BechererArticle by Brianna Becherer MS, RD, LDN, CPT
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