It’s the holiday season! The holidays are about giving thanks, celebrating life, and enjoying time with family. But let’s be honest, the holidays are about great food, the whole grand spread stretching across the dinner table! The holidays can be exciting, but if you are one of the 30.3 million people diagnosed with diabetes, eating turkey, stuffing, and extra-loaded mashed potatoes could mean bad things for your glucose levels and some not-so-approving conversations with your physician. In this article, we will be sharing tips and tricks on how to navigate the holiday dinner table in a diabetes friendly way.
Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes
​There are two types of Diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. The difference between the two types of diabetes lies within the pancreas’s response to glucose, or sugar. In non-diabetics, glucose enters your bloodstream after a meal and stimulates insulin production. Insulin is a molecule in your body that ultimately allows glucose to enter cells for energy. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreatic beta cells that are responsible for producing insulin are destroyed. A lack of insulin prevents your cells from getting the glucose they need, leaving them without their primary energy source. Those with Type 1 diabetes often are diagnosed from childhood and are insulin-dependent, meaning they cannot make their own insulin and rely on an outside source such as insulin pens. Type 2 diabetes is the more common type of diabetes found amongst affected individuals and is typically diagnosed later in life. These people have insulin resistance where the body produces insulin but cannot properly utilize it for glucose uptake. Ultimately, both types of diabetes lead to irregular blood sugar levels.
How to Navigate the Dinner Table
Substitutions: The best option to avoid a spike in sugar levels would be to bring or cook your own meal! This way you can control what ingredients are going into your meal. There are several easy substitutions you can make that will benefit your health while keeping you satisfied. Try reducing the carbs in your food by using less bread and more vegetables for your stuffing. Instead of using potatoes, cauliflower makes a great substitute for at least half if not all the potatoes called for in the recipe. Try opting out of getting that tempting cranberry sauce or jelly. If you cannot resist, search for a reduced sugar or sugar free option. See this website for some diabetic friendly holiday recipes.
No Time to Cook Your Own Meal? No Problem! Since it is the holidays, if you are not in the mood to cook your own meal, no problem! You can still enjoy the spread with minimal guilt by being mindful of your choices. Start with a smaller plate of your favorite foods from the spread first. Take your time and eat slowly so that your brain and stomach have time to register the food entering in your body. This way, when you’re full, you will know right away and be less inclined to keep eating. Try picking more vegetable-based sides rather than those with bread, pasta, or potatoes. Avoiding alcohol is also a good option since it can negatively interfere with the diabetic medications you may already be taking. And last but not least, dessert! What is a holiday without those pumpkin or apple pies? If you plan on eating dessert, cut back on the other carbs so that you can enjoy that pie with less guilt.
Don’t Forget to Monitor Your Blood Sugar!
​Even though it is the holidays, it is still pertinent to ensure that you are on top of checking your blood sugar and taking your medications as prescribed by your physician. Checking blood sugar levels regularly will let you know if you are on track with goal blood sugar levels and whether additional modifications need to be made. If you feel that you will forget, keep your medications and/or glucometer at your bedside table so that they are in view when you wake up and before you go to bed! Leaving sticky notes throughout the house or setting reminders on your phone are also good ways to remind yourself. Consistently taking your medicine ensures adequate processing of the glucose that enters your body and is crucial to preventing harmful spikes or dips in your sugar levels. If you ever have any questions about your medications or about diabetic conditions, be sure to contact your doctor or pharmacist. Happy holidays!

This article was written by student pharmacist Cynthia Ly.