Holidays — especially holiday meals – have quite the reputation when it comes to nutrition thanks to the centerpiece of the meal, the famed side dishes (which typically always include generous helpings of carbs) and the spread of seasonal pies as a finale. Moderation during the holidays can be difficult regardless of your circumstance, but particularly difficult for those living with diabetes who need to maintain a delicate balance when it comes food intake, medication and monitoring of their glucose levels.
Managing diabetes on a routine day is a challenge but couple that with holiday treats and traditions, the experience can be overwhelming no matter if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, or it’s your first holiday season post-diagnosis or your 50th. Thankfully there is innovative diabetes technology and best practices out there that can support you on your diabetes journey during the holidays and year-round. Here, we’ve rounded up the some really helpful advice from people living with diabetes because personal experience related to the importance of exercise, tracking your food intake, planning ahead and having the right continuous glucose monitoring device (like Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2) are important to properly manage one’s own condition.
Find the right tools
As you explore treatment options and diabetes management options, ask your doctor about Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2. The FreeStyle Libre 2 is the only iCGM system available that continuously transmits glucose data every minute with customizable, optional real-time alarms† to alert users when their glucose is high or low without scanning. Now available for children (ages 4 and older) and adults with diabetes, this latest technology sustains performance for up to 14 days1, providing trends, insights and actionable data. It’s a game changer for people living with diabetes because this information provides peace of mind that people are making the best choices for their health and ultimately maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“My tips for managing diabetes during the holidays are my tips for managing diabetes year-round. I think we place so much expectation on what we’re going to eat and what we’re going to do and all these stresses around the holidays. But when you have diabetes, what you eat and how you nourish your body and how you manage your levels — that’s an everyday practice, holidays or not. It’s just a matter of having the right tools that help you manage it. For me, that is my FreeStyle Libre 2 system. It’s the tool that I use to help me make informed decisions about where my glucose levels are. With a quick one-second scan using a handheld reader, I can see my glucose reading, trend arrow and eight-hour glucose history. I really try to make every day amazing and fun. And if you have the tools, then then it’s going to be great.”
— Alysse D., founder of Ready to Stare
Exercise and ask questions
“Exercise is really important. During the holidays there are a lot of great seasonal treats paired with stress from random external forces not typically in place year-round. I make sure to walk on my treadmill at least once a day or take my dogs on a walk with my husband! This could range from a slow, 10-minute walk to a brisk, 45-plus minute walk. Walking usually helps glucose levels rise slowly and steadily decrease while also increasing insulin sensitivity.
My recommendation for managing glucose levels during the holidays is to make sure you don’t forget to keep track of your levels regularly. I also recommend not being shy when eating food away from home. I always ask what ingredients were added to a dish and, most of the time, the host has no problem sharing. You don’t want a stubborn glucose high at the end of the night. Drink lots of water to help the fiber you are eating digest properly and don’t forget to count those carbs. If you are feeling overwhelmed from a social situation, kindly excuse yourself and go get some air or take a walk around the house. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!”
Plan your insulin around meals
“My biggest concern managing diabetes during the holiday season is being very intentional about the timing of taking medication which in my case, is insulin. I usually take mine 20 minutes before I eat. Another thing that tends to be challenging is knowing exactly how many carbs I’m going to eat because, you know, it’s usually a lot of food.
With the FreeStyle Libre 2 system, it allows me to see if my glucose levels are going up or down in real-time so I can know when I need my insulin and pre-treat. So, if my glucose level is already high, an arrow trend lets me know where it is headed so I can determine if I need take even more insulin than I would due to the meal. I put similar mitigation strategies in place if I see my glucose is low and dropping. Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 system arrow signals a downward trend and alerts me if I need to pay attention and course correct.”
— Lexie P., founder of The Sugarless Society
Track your food
“With my Type 1 diabetes, I find that it helps to pay extra attention when tracking what I eat. Every little bite counts, so tracking accurately helps me count carbs and provide myself with the correct dose of insulin. I also always make sure I stay active throughout the holidays even if it is a walk or jumping jacks. Physical activity helps me to manage my glucose highs.”
— Bella B., founder of xoxoBella
Balance your carbs and find cooking swaps
“With managing diabetes, there are no days off. However, having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of your favorite holiday goodies. My son has Type 1 diabetes, so he takes insulin for meals. Every year we bake Christmas cookies, and his endocrinologist agrees he should be able to enjoy that holiday treat. With this in mind, we do things like making sure he has a low carbohydrate dinner when he is having the cookies for dessert. My tip for other families managing diabetes around the holidays is to balance your higher carb favorites with low-carb options throughout the day to keep your glucose levels in check.
My son also aspires to become a chef, so we get really creative in the kitchen – whipping up low-carb versions of our household favorites. For example, we love a strawberry shortcake recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Kids cookbook. However, instead of using regular flour we use almond flour which has very little carbs. I would highly recommend that families swap out higher carb ingredients for lower carb ingredients when making your holiday dishes. You’d be pleasantly surprised how delicious most dishes still taste with a few health focused tweaks like swapping white sugar for a sugar substitute.”
— Shalyce T., founder of ShalyceTyson.com
“Holidays are a time for celebration, enjoyment and fun with family and friends and this, naturally, means lots of delicious food—food that is often not the best choice if you want to keep your glucose levels on target. For people with diabetes, the challenge becomes harder to stick to a healthy diet. The best thing to do is plan. Begin the day with a healthy breakfast that includes fiber, complex carbohydrates and protein and never arrive hungry at a festive meal! Before heading out for the holidays, compensate during the day with low-calorie, low-carb and low-fat food that includes salads. Start your meal with a bowl of soup or salad. Use healthy substitutes: low-fat milk for whole milk, natural sweeteners rather than sugar. These are small changes that taste great but keep the carbs and calories in check.”
— Vidya S., founder of VidyaSury.com
This article was created by SheKnows for Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 System.
The FreeStyle Libre 2 system includes a self-applied sensor (the size of two-stacked quarters) that is the easiest glucose sensor to apply1 and worn on the back of the upper arm, eliminating the need for painful fingersticks to test glucose levels.‡ Easily check your glucose levels with a painless2 one-second scan instead of a fingerstick.‡
WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS*: The System must not be used with automated insulin dosing (AID) systems, including closed loop and insulin suspend systems. Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment. Do not take high doses of Vitamin C (more than 500mg per day), as this may falsely raise your Sensor readings. Failure to use the System according to the instructions for use may result in missing a severe low blood glucose or high blood glucose event and/or making a treatment decision that may result in injury. If glucose alarms and readings from the System do not match symptoms or expectations, use a fingerstick blood glucose value to make diabetes treatment decisions. Seek medical attention when appropriate and contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) or visit* www.freestylelibre.us for detailed indications for use and safety information.
*For full indications for use and safety information, see more here.
†Notifications will only be received when alarms are turned on and the sensor is within 20 feet of the reading device.
‡Fingersticks are required if your glucose alarms and readings do not match symptoms or when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol in the first twelve hours.
1Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care.
2Haak T, et al. Flash glucose-sensing technology as a replacement for blood glucose monitoring for the management of insulin-treated type 2 diabetes: a multicentre, open-label randomised controlled trial. Diabetes Ther. 2017;8(1):55-73.