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Eat, Drink and be Merry: Tips for Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

Nov 18, 2019

by Valari Taylor, MS, RDN, LDN

The holiday season is upon us! For many, it means several weeks of celebration, events and gatherings with family and friends — and lots of food and drink. Everyone should be able to take part in the fun and festivities, and people with diabetes are no exception. 

People with diabetes can be at various stages in their journey. Some are newly diagnosed and need guidance in how to manage in social situations. There may also be that group who have not, for a variety of reasons, participated in celebrations in the past and are now ready but don’t know where to begin. There is a third group that has not disclosed their disease and want to fit in and be a part of the events and gathering but not bring attention to themselves.

It is important to work with your clients with diabetes and empower them to never let diabetes management concerns stop them from joining in the holiday season events and gatherings.

Work with your clients with diabetes and empower them to never let diabetes management concerns stop them from joining in the holiday season events and gatherings.

First start with a plan. Brainstorming with our clients on how to plan and prepare in advance for special events and gathering and not just at the holiday season is important. We know the hallmark of a good plan is to know your numbers. Help them develop a good plan that is centered on their personal blood sugar goals. Blood sugar goals for most adults suggest a blood sugar before meals of 80-130 mg/dL, blood sugar 1-2 hours after the start of a meal as less than 180 mg/dL, with an A1C less than 7%.

When deciding what to eat and drink at these holiday events and gathering, a key component of their plan should be one’s blood sugar goal. Work with them on being selective about what they eat and drink. There are usually a lot of goodies so choose the ones they can only get at this time of year and or the ones that are their favorites.

Keep the serving size small and build the remainder of your meal on healthier food choices. Serving yourself is also a great way to manage what you eat and drink. Eat smaller amounts of sugary foods and drinks. If they are not sure there will be anything they can eat at an event or gathering, recommend that they eat before they come so if choices are limited, no problem, they’ve already eaten. Or maybe they’ll choose to bring a healthy dish to share.

Encourage your clients to have a plan and get out there and enjoying the holiday seasons events and gathering. Let them know it is okay if they slip, just get back on track with your next meal. They key is that everyone is able to enjoy and celebrate the holidays! For more on the holidays and diabetes, check out AADE’s holiday season eating tips (also available in Spanish) at under “Tip Sheets and Handouts.”

AADE Perspectives on Diabetes Care

The American Association of Diabetes Educators Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Association of Diabetes Educators and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered, and proper attribution is made to the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

HEALTHCARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit

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