How to manage your blood sugar during the holidays

A young girl bastes a turkey in the kitchen while her grandmother watches.

A little planning can take the stress out of managing your blood sugar this holiday season

Managing blood sugar swings isn’t always easy, especially during the holidays. All the carb-laden sweets, creamy side dishes, and sheer quantity of foods can be a recipe for disaster if you’re one of the 122 million people in the U.S. living with diabetes or prediabetes.1

That’s why we created this simple guide to help you stay on track with your blood sugar goals this holiday season.

Master meal planning

Whether you’re hosting the holiday meal or eating out, there are a number of things you can do to prevent blood sugar spikes during the holidays. As always, you should discuss your specific situation with your doctor or pharmacist, and be sure to follow your normal diet, medication, and blood glucose testing routine as closely as possible. But here are a few things to consider:

  1. Eat at regular intervals. Starving yourself to make room for a large holiday meal can cause a dip in blood glucose. Worse, you might be so hungry that you end up overeating. Eating a healthy snack between meals can keep you feeling satisfied and regulate your blood sugar. If you take insulin injections, try and schedule your snacks during your usual meal time and eat a little less when the holiday meal is served in order to keep your blood sugar stable.
  2. Eat balanced meals. The same meal guidelines you follow everyday apply during the holidays. An easy rule of thumb is to follow the Plate Method. Focus first on filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables — preferably steamed as opposed to covered in butter or cream if possible. Then fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein. Finally, fill the rest of your plate with healthy, complex carbs. If you choose to eat dessert, decrease the number of carbs you eat during your meal to offset the additional carbs.
  3. Swap in lower-carb foods. If you’re preparing the holiday meal or going to someone’s home and plan to bring a dish, there are plenty of simple ingredient swaps you can make to help prevent a blood sugar spike. Try cooking with cauliflower in place of potatoes, Greek yogurt in place of cream, and sugar substitutes in place of refined sugar to lower the carb count.
  4. Drink in moderation. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop too low because it blocks your liver from making emergency glucose. If you decide you want to drink, stick with a non-mixed drink or a glass of wine and eat while you drink to keep your blood sugar stable. It’s important to monitor your blood glucose level before, during, and after drinking, and continue to test frequently for the next 24 hours.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Whether you’re staying at home or traveling, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help keep your blood sugar in check.

  1. Keep moving. Continuing your regular exercise routine will pay dividends during the holidays. Staying active, like taking a daily light walk, increases your body’s insulin sensitivity. It also helps compensate for eating extra holiday calories and reduces stress.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep. Not sleeping enough, especially if you’re traveling or dealing with a time change, can make it harder to regulate your blood sugar. It can also lead to mindless late night eating. The CDC recommends aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
Manage your medications

Regardless of what you’re doing for the holidays, continue to take your medication exactly as prescribed. If you’re traveling, set a calendar reminder so that you keep taking your medication at the proper time. The Express Scripts® app makes it easy with automatic reminders so you never skip a dose.

If you forget to take your medication or have any questions about adjusting your medication during the holidays, our specially trained pharmacists are here for you 24/7. Express Scripts® Pharmacy’s Therapeutic Resource Center for Diabetes gives you direct access to pharmacists who understand your condition, so you always have the one-on-one support you need and deserve.

Posted date: December 3, 2021


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC Diabetes Infographics (May 4, 2021): https://nationaldppcsc.cdc.gov/s/article/CDC-Diabetes-Infographics.

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