10 Tips to Manage Blood Sugar During the Holidays

Enjoy the holiday festivities and manage your blood sugar levels with these easy tips, tricks and swaps.

You can still enjoy holiday meals when you have diabetes. The key is planning and portions

If you have diabetes, monitoring blood sugar is always top of mind. During the holiday season, however, when cookies, cakes, and indulgent dishes beckon at every turn, it can be even more of a challenge to keep your blood sugar levels steady.

"It can be difficult to maintain a healthy meal plan when holiday get-togethers are often centered around foods we wouldn't normally consume," says Owen Kelly, a diabetes nutrition expert at Abbott. "The good news is that although you should be mindful of what you eat, especially carbohydrates, the right strategy can help you make better choices while still enjoying this time with family and friends."

With these ten planning strategies and food swaps, you'll be able to enjoy the festivities and stay on track with your nutrition.

1. Plan Ahead

Before you get to any event, have a plan in place for what you'll eat. Looking at restaurant menus ahead of time is also a good way to help lower your calorie and sugar intake. And if the event is at a friend's house, ask the host what they're planning to serve. While you're at it, offer to bring a healthy dish that complements their meal.

For example, if you know that there will only be hors d'oeuvres, plan to select those that are lower in calories and minimize spiking your blood sugar. Welcome vegetables and lean proteins to your plate, and be cautious of dips or sauces, which can add hidden calories, salt or sugar.

2. Don't Skip Meals

Skipping breakfast can negatively impact your nutrient intake and blood glucose, and increase the risk for type 2 diabetes Kelly says. A new study by Abbott and The Ohio State University found that adults who skipped breakfast ate more snacks, increasing the intake of refined carbohydrates and added sugars. The study published in The Journal of Nutrition, also found that skipping breakfast negatively impacted the overall diet of adults, particularly those with diabetes. There is a reason mom always said breakfast was the most important meal of the day.

If you are too busy to sit down for a meal, consider preparing portable meals and snacks for these grab-and-go kinds of days!

If you're not sure where to start, our diabetes meal planning guide has you covered. With multiple healthy options for every meal of the day — and snack time, too — alongside nutrition tips and facts, keeping your blood sugar under control just got a little easier.

3. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated and drinking water is essential for our overall health and well-being, but research shows it may also help with weight and cholesterol management. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that drinking more water is associated with eating fewer calories, as well as less sugar and salt.

While more studies need to be done to confirm this, researchers believe that drinking more water may reduce the temptation to consume sugar-sweetened drinks.

4. Be Smart About Carbs

Foods rich in carbohydrates can provide a lot of good nutrients. But compared to fats and protein, carbs have the most significant impact on blood sugar. That's why it's important to choose your carbs wisely and opt for whole grains and low glycemic index foods — carbohydrates that have less of an impact on blood sugar levels — whenever possible.

Diabetes-specific meal or snack replacements, such as Glucerna®shakes and bars, are always a good option. Composed of blends of carbohydrates, designed to minimize blood sugar spikes, fiber, protein and vitamins and minerals, and with up to 250 calories per product, they're a smart, portion-controlled choice to keep in your arsenal.

Related: Better Choices Add Up! Check out the Interactive Snack Swap Calculator

In contrast, foods with a high glycemic index and glycemic load cause blood sugar to rapidly increase, which causes spikes in blood sugar. Aim to limit refined and processed carbohydrates and choose fiber-rich whole foods, such as apples, carrots, beans, and cashews.

5. Pay Attention to Portions

It's not just what you eat; it's how much of it, too. When looking to manage   your blood glucose, here are some simple guidelines to keep in mind for healthy portions:

  •  One cup = a fist
  •  3 ounces = palm of your hand  
  • One tablespoon = thumb

6. Lighten Up

Most traditional holiday recipes can be made healthier with simple substitutions. Instead of rice or mashed potatoes, swap in cauliflower. Use Greek yogurt instead of high-fat sour cream. And sweet potato casserole can be replaced with roasted sweet potatoes for a more diabetes-friendly offering.

For more than 800 additional healthy diabetes holiday recipes and swaps, visit the American Diabetes Association's content hub.

7. Slow Down

Did you know that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to catch up with your stomach and let you know that you're full? Eating slowly can help you recognize that you feel full before you overeat meaning you consume fewer calories. To help slow down your eating, chew slowly, place your utensil down or take a sip of water between bites.

8. You Can Have Dessert, but …

If dessert matters to you, plan for it. Eat fewer carbs beforehand so you can enjoy a piece of pie later. Remember, the pie will probably be high glycemic index carbs, so be mindful of portion size and consider skipping the sugary toppings.

9. Keep on Moving

Although most holiday gatherings revolve around sharing a meal, consider adding more physical activities to the festive agenda. A game of tag or hide and seek outside can be a fun tradition, as can going on a family walk after mealtime.

10. Don't Beat Yourself Up

If a food setback happens, don't give up. "A lot of us can overindulge, despite our best efforts," Kelly says. "Instead of feeling guilty about it, focus on getting back on track at your next meal."

Even when there are tempting goodies around every corner, it's still possible to stay healthy while monitoring blood sugar this holiday. And with diabetes holiday recipes in your back pocket, you can ensure there's always something you can eat guilt-free at the table. So plan, be mindful, and cut yourself some slack, so you can eat, drink and be merry with the best of them.

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Small Dietary Changes Can Help Lower Your Blood Sugar and Manage Diabetes

Small Dietary Changes Can Help Lower Your Blood Sugar and Manage Diabetes

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and another 1 in 5 people don’t know they have the chronic condition. As the rate of diabetes continues to rise, it’s more important than ever to adopt healthy habits and strategies to manage diabetes. Keeping your glucose in check is of the utmost importance when you're managing type 2 diabetes. Often, ensuring your glucose levels stay within a healthy range requires a multifaced approach of a healthy eating plan and exercise along with potential medication. Managing diabetes doesn't have to feel like work, though. In fact, even slight behavior and eating plan changes may have a significant impact on your glucose management. And according to a new pilot study, diabetes specific nutrition as part of a balanced diet shows promise to help improve glucose management. How Diabetes-Specific Nutrition Shakes May Help Pilot data from Abbott and published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care illustrates the important role diabetes-specific nutrition and continuous glucose monitoring can play on glycemic response management of people with type 2 diabetes. The study found that when participants with type 2 diabetes replaced their typical breakfast and an afternoon or evening snack with a diabetes-specific meal replacement, they experienced a lower glucose level after breakfast. The real-world study also demonstrates how continuous glucose monitoring with Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre® Pro can help physicians conveniently monitor glucose trends and patterns to make more informed treatment decisions for people with diabetes. The small randomized controlled trial looked at the impact of two daily servings of Glucerna Hunger Smart® shake, a diabetes-specific nutritional formula, on participants' glucose levels. Eighty-one adults with type 2 diabetes were enrolled in the study and followed a two-week intervention. In the baseline phase (days one through six), participants continued to follow their regular eating pattern. During the intervention phase (days seven through 14), participants were randomly divided into one of three groups: Group A: Control group with no dietary intervention. Group B: Participants drank one Glucerna Hunger Smart shake as a breakfast meal replacement and a second shake as a mid-afternoon snack. Group C: Participants drank one Glucerna Hunger Smart shake as a breakfast meal replacement and a second shake as a snack before bedtime. In assessing the glucose levels of participants throughout the study, researchers found that drinking a Glucerna Hunger Smart shake twice daily was associated with a 47% reduction in post-meal peak glucose after breakfast, as compared without/before Glucerna Hunger Smart[TS1] . What Does This Mean for Those Managing Type 2 Diabetes? Abbott’s Glucerna brand is one of the most clinically studied diabetes specific formulas with more than 50 clinical studies spanning 30 years.*  This research shows that although diabetes is a complex disease, one tool that  may make it easier to manage is with the help of a meal or snack replacement such as Glucerna Hunger Smart shakes. Scientifically formulated with CarbSteady®, a unique blend of slow-release carbohydrates to help minimize glucose spikes and 15 grams of protein to help satisfy hunger, Glucerna Hunger Smart shakes can serve as a meal or snack. It also packs zinc, vitamins A, C, D and E to support immune health, as well as 6 grams of fiber in 180 calories, and nutrients to help support immune health. While incorporating this nutrition shake to your everyday routine, as part of a balanced eating plan, may help you manage your blood sugar levels, there are a few other ways you can keep your health on the right track.

When estimating portions, a cup is about what size?
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