3 Expert strategies to prevent blood sugar spikes this holiday season

  • 2 Minutes Read

Decadent temptations, a lengthy holiday to-do list, and colder days make it more challenging to prevent blood sugar spikes during the holiday season. These dietitian-approved tips will help keep you in target range, so you'll feel your best during this festive time of year.

Prevent blood sugar spikes

Control carb portions to prevent blood sugar spikes

Many of the most tempting traditional holiday foods are high in carbohydrates (the nutrient that causes blood sugar levels to rise the most). Steer around the carb-heavy sides and load up on lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables. Eating protein and veggies first helps you to feel full on whole foods while leaving room for a carbohydrate-rich treat.

Chances are, you'll be satisfied after taking just three bites of that special-occasion holiday food. Of course, the first bite is as good as you remember. The second bite-fine as well, though not as good as the first. As the third bite comes around it doesn't taste any better than the first bite. What if you permitted yourself to eat that high-carb holiday item and stopped at three bites?

Watch your alcohol intake

If your holiday festivities involve alcohol, read on for another blood sugar tip. You might look forward to a drink as a way to unwind or loosen up when socializing. However, drinking alcohol makes it harder to manage weight and can lead to low blood sugar levels hours after you've finished drinking.

The liver stores and releases glucose into the bloodstream between meals. Yet, the liver prioritizes processing the alcohol, instead of regulating sugar levels when alcohol is on board. If you take insulin or a sulfonylurea to lower blood sugar, this can be especially problematic.

With diabetes, it is really important to have alcohol with food and not on an empty stomach. Save on calories and sugar by choosing a glass of wine instead of a sweet cocktail. If you drink regularly, make sure to talk with your doctor or diabetes educator about individual blood sugar tips when enjoying alcohol.

Get up and move after a meal to help prevent blood sugar spikes

Make it a point to do something active after eating this holiday season. Staying active by moving muscles helps move sugar from the blood into the cells.

Physical activity also helps tissues use insulin more effectively. Going for a walk after that big Thanksgiving meal helps digestion and blood sugar management. It's also a fun way to connect with family and friends.

If you take insulin or other medications that can cause low blood sugar, such as sulfonylureas, make sure to always carry quick-acting carbohydrates with you during exercise, in case your blood sugar should drop low. On the other hand, if your blood sugar is too high, it is best to wait till it comes down before exercise. To learn more about blood sugar and exercise, click here.

What to do if you fall off track and eat more than planned

You know that the foods you eat make a big difference in managing blood sugar levels. So what should you do if you end up eating and drinking more than you'd planned?

Take a moment to step back, take a deep breath, and try to eliminate any negative, unhelpful thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Managing blood sugar is an ultra-endurance event, not a sprint. Overeating one meal will not make or break your blood sugar management. There will be times when you end up eating more than you intended, and can't prevent a blood sugar spike. Occasional setbacks are a normal part of managing blood sugar over the long term. The sooner you can let go and move on, the better off you'll be both mentally and physically.

While food and drink are important aspects of the holiday season, they make up a fraction of this rich and colorful time of year. The holidays are a time to slow down and enjoy family and friends. Cheers to a healthy and happy holiday season!

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Diabetes->Blood glucose Holidays / Parties->Thanksgiving
Nov 22, 2021
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

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