Put the Sugarplum Down

Managing Your Diabetes During the Festive Season

Holidays are supposed to be filled with joy, but for diabetics too many holidays are filled with visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations. If you speak to anyone working in the ER at Thanksgiving and Christmas they will tell you that the number of diabetics they see increases at these times. It happens year after year. They may even be able to name a few who are regulars. It feels like diabetes and holidays don’t mix.

The need to manage your blood sugar doesn’t take a holiday. If you have diabetes, we can think of better ways to spend these holidays than to make friends with the medical personnel at your local ER. Control diabetes and have fun.

Seven Holiday Tips from the American Diabetes Association

The American Diabetes Association is an excellent resource for tips, advice, recipes, and ways to cope with those times when you wish you didn’t have to watch what you eat. They recommend 7 tips on keeping your blood sugar on an even keel and enjoy the holidays without feeling left out.

  1. Focus on friends and family, not food.
  2. Don’t overdo it at parties, watch your portion sizes.
  3. Eat before you eat. (In other words, don’t skip snacks and meals to “save room.”)
  4. Bring what you like.
  5. Moderate your drinking.
  6. Remain active.
  7. If you mess up, get back on track. Don’t beat yourself up.

The ADA reminds us all that the holidays are meant to enjoy the people around us. Holiday activities have become very focused on food but that doesn’t have to be the only reason to get together. If you are the host, plan other activities such as decorating the tree, playing board games, or wrapping packages for charity. A nice walk after each meal wouldn’t hurt either, physical activity after a meal can help regulate blood sugar.

If you are a guest, there is nothing wrong with quietly letting the host know that the food looks delicious. Close family and friends should know of your condition. It’s OK to gently remind them if they press unwanted food or drink on you. You could even enlist some support; someone to help you say no.

Over the River and Through the Woods: Traveling with Diabetes

Travel can be a challenge, with your normal schedule out the window and with the need to carry medication. But with some planning, everything will go smoothly. The Centers for Disease Control have some recommendations for keeping it together on the trip.


The CDC recommends taking twice the amount of medication and supplies than you think you will need. There is no way to control the weather, the airlines, or other sources of delays. To control diabetes pack appropriate supplies including snacks or glucose replacement in case of hypoglycemia from missing a meal. Packing a glucagon emergency kit and keep your health insurance card and emergency phone numbers where they can be easily found.

It is becoming easier to carry insulin without the need for a cooler. If you are able to do so, new injectable insulin pens are becoming available that can be carried in a purse or backpack without needing refrigeration. And keep all your medication in your carry-on luggage.

Staying Healthy

The CDC also recommends keeping up with all vaccinations and to get a flu shot every year. Wash your hands often and try to avoid people who are ill. The latter can be difficult in the confines of an airplane, however, so be prepared to defend yourself. Ask for a different seat if at all possible if your neighbor coughs, sneezes, or blows his nose to excess.

Keep moving, too. Walk around the plane every hour or so. Stop the car to stretch your legs. Blood clots can happen to anyone and movement is the best way to avoid them.  Drink plenty of water, not soda,  juice or other sugary drinks. The winter air is dry and staying hydrated helps your body keep germs at bay.

Have Fun

You know, so many of these tips are good for anybody who wants to watch their diet during the holidays or who has any chronic medical condition. Don’t feel alone in your special needs. There are others who are living normal lives with diabetes. You can, too.

Authored by: YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas