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Guest Blog: Getting Diabetes Organized for the Holidays.

Here in the States, Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and the rest of the winter holidays are fast approaching.  And with those holidays usually comes a hearty dose of disorganization alongside all the fun.  Susan Weiner is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. She is the co-author of The Complete Diabetes Organizer: Your Guide to a Less Stressful and More Manageable Diabetes Life, and today she’s written a guest post to offer up some useful organizational tips for managing diabetes and the holidays.  (My favorite tip?  Avoiding BLTs, which have nothing to do with bacon.)  

And be sure to check out the end of the post for book giveaway!

Tackling Holiday Madness

Do you feel frazzled and overwhelmed from Halloween to New Year’s Day? We seem to have endless lists of things to do, in addition to our daily activities. Diabetes doesn’t take a holiday break. Between shopping, holiday parties, get-togethers and an abundance of high calorie, high carb foods, this can be a tough time of year.

What’s the best way to handle all of these activities and still properly manage your diabetes? With some simple organizing techniques, you can continue to successfully manage your blood sugars during the eventful holiday season.  It is often said that the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year”. But holidays may include some unwanted pressures for you if you have diabetes. Continue to make your health and diabetes management a priority. You’ll be glad you did!

Here are a few tips and tricks for managing holiday madness with diabetes:

Keep to a schedule – Do your best to stick to your healthy eating plan and exercise routine during the holidays. Always test your blood sugar (especially if you eat out more often).

Test your blood sugar – Test, test and keep testing your blood sugar. You might need to test more often if your schedule changes. For example if you shop for several hours at the mall, make sure that you test your blood sugar and remember to eat! Bring along glucose tablets or a fast acting source of carbohydrate. Scope out the food court at the mall to find some healthy options. And stay away from Cinnabon!

Be aware of BLT’s… bites, licks and tastes – Do you go to those warehouse stores around the holidays to buy some gifts or bulk food items? Pass up those free food giveaways. The calories, carbs and salt can really add up. If you decide to take a bite or two, make sure you’re mindful of what you eat.

Enjoy what you eat, but watch your portions – Do you have a special dish that you really enjoy on Thanksgiving? Of course you can enjoy a few of your favorite foods. Just remember to test your blood sugar and watch your portion size. Ask your host about the menu beforehand, so you know what to expect.

Stay physically active – Exercise can reduce stress and keep your blood sugars in check. Start a new tradition during the holidays. Play a game of tag or football outside before the meal, or sign up for a 5 K walk or run. You’ll feel energized!

Drink plenty of water, and watch your alcohol intake – Water will help keep you hydrated.  Drink water to help manage your weight. Try not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Drinking too much alcohol may also lower your resolve to make good decisions about food. Here’s one way to handle the eggnog (or Thanksgiving house cocktail): drink 2 full glasses of water (still or sparkling) for every alcoholic drink.

Strategy for office treats – Did you favorite vendor just show up with a great big basket of treats? Make sure you have a strategy for having just one treat, then ignore it, or better yet, have someone else distribute the goodies within your office. That goes for the open peanut brittle, the brownies your assistant baked last night and the goodies in the break room. Bring in some cinnamon and add a dash to your coffee. You can keep it at your desk, feel good and still be in control.

Lastly, don’t let cousin Martha’s or Uncle Fred’s comments about diabetes bum you out over the holidays. Some people act like they know everything about diabetes, and they can’t help but voice their opinions. Take a deep breath and let them know that you have this under control. Try to change the subject.

Hopefully they will get the hint and move on! You can enjoy the holidays and stay healthy and organized!

Thanks, Susan!!  If you’d like to win a copy of Susan’s book, leave a comment on this post with your best diabetes organizational tip, or a tip on how you keep your brain and/or glucose meter from imploding throughout the holidays and I’ll be randomly selecting the winners.  There are five copies of this excellent book up for grabs, and the giveaway is available through Friday, November 29, at 5 pm EST.  (This offer is only available for US residents.)

45 Comments Post a comment
  1. At holiday parties, don’t pick at the food spread – make a plate of what you want to eat, count the carbs, etc, bolus for it, and then don’t go back for seconds or graze at the table. IF you do go back for seconds, make sure you do the same thing – make a plate, count the carbs, bolus, and stick to it.

    11/25/13; 9:39 am
  2. Lucy Grubbs #

    I always try to make sure my girls carry extra glucose and strips since the weather also plays a factor in their insulin adjustments. And spending time atthe mall I have them bring stuff and text me to make sure they aren’t just snacking and not dosing-which my 17 yr old likes to do

    11/25/13; 9:44 am
  3. Great tips! I especially like the advice to not let people who think they know everything about diabetes bum you out.

    My best tip is to bring a dish that you not only enjoy but that you know will treat your blood sugar nicely.

    11/25/13; 9:57 am
  4. Hannah #

    I use a makeup organizer to keep all of my supplies together, and can write on it with a dry erase marker so I don’t forget my dosing!

    11/25/13; 9:58 am
  5. brenda #

    I am going to try very hard to keep to the 2 glasses of water for every glass of wine! I find it hard to keep my eating resolutions after a couple of glasses of wine, as mentioned in the column!

    11/25/13; 10:06 am
  6. steph m #

    I “learned” from my grandma last weekend that insulin is bad for me and I need to watch what I eat so I don’t have to use it all the time…thanks for the reminder about how to deal with fsmily :)

    11/25/13; 10:12 am
  7. Kelli #

    I always offer to bring a veggie or cheese plate to the party. This way I know I can fill my plate up with things that won’t raise my blood sugar much and it will be gluten free which I need due to Celiac Disease.

    11/25/13; 10:29 am
  8. Annie #

    I am lucky enough to have a wonderful family that works around my diet and schedule. That does mean however about two weeks of planning, phone calls , recipe sharing, etc with my extended family. Lots of work getting to the day but makes the day of easy.

    11/25/13; 10:38 am
  9. Kelly #

    I know most if us feel like we are already checking our blood sugars all time but it is super important to do so during the holiday. The holidays can be stressful which can make blood sugars rise, there’s always tons of yummy food around to snack on (or graze), and you are busy. So if you ca. Try to remember to check your sugar maybe a little more frequently you might be able to get a handle on higher sugars before you start feeling terrible or worse spend Christmas Eve in the ER.

    11/25/13; 10:53 am
  10. Natalie #

    what I’ve found to work best for me is to simply write things down, it’s so much easier to keep track trough all the craziness if you know what you’ve already ate and what your bg was. with it so easy to forget all the steps when so much is going on, this is a great way to keep track and remember everything!

    11/25/13; 11:05 am
  11. Katie S #

    I try to enter as much info into my pump as possible so that I have a full logbook when I download the info. For example I tell my pump when I have a low–even if I don’t need a bolus. That way it shows up in my records without having to write anything down.

    11/25/13; 11:06 am
  12. e-i #

    I’m amazed every time my niece offers to host a holiday get-together and accommodate everyone’s dietary requirements. Her mother is gluten-sensitive and lactose intolerant; I have T1 diabetes and have been vegetarian for decades. Her buffet is laden with two of this and two of that and labeled as sugar-free, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. I think it’s enough to open her house to everyone. I told her she should just add a note to her invite – B.Y.O.F.

    11/25/13; 12:07 pm
  13. Lisa #

    Holiday time is also the end of the year and time to order prescriptions, pump supplies, test strips, etc., especially if your deductible and out of pocket max have been met for the year. I love the BLT’s!! I will keep that in mind at holiday parties when the 20 visits to the food table for ‘just a bite’ adds up.

    11/25/13; 1:03 pm
  14. Love these tips! When I’m making a plate at a party, I try to load up on the low carb/no carb options, and then really portion control the rest. I also try to bolus early and eat my low carb/no carb options first — that way when I get to the carb-y stuff, my insulin is already starting to work.

    Most importantly, I make doubly sure to pack extra supplies when I’m at holiday parties and gatherings. There’s nothing worse than a bad pump set (and no backups) when you carpooled with four other people and just scarfed down two brownies. I’m not a fan of being the center of attention for diabetes stuff!

    11/25/13; 1:28 pm
  15. Bonnie #

    It’s my 4 year olds 1st Thanksgiving with T1D. We are bringing part of the meal, so we know for sure what’s in some of the food and that he’ll eat. We’ll also be making sure there is a lot of water consumed and an active game to run off some of the carbs.
    Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

    11/25/13; 1:51 pm
  16. Heather #

    I’m going to dust off the CGM and use that graph to remind/add incentive to stay in moderation.

    11/25/13; 2:16 pm
  17. Jenn #

    I have named all my robot parts (meters, pump, cgm). Not only does it help me keep things straight, but also helps my family understand what item I’m talking about, or asking for. It is so much easier to say, “Hey, could you bring me Charlie, please?” instead of “My meter, in the black case, on the kitchen counter.. yes the thing I test my blood sugar with.. could you bring it to me please?”

    11/25/13; 3:36 pm
  18. V #

    I make sure to bring my own bread (low carb or just a known weight to carb ratio). I also try to make the cake for the reception so I can do the real cake and the low-carb copy cat. I realized I feel better if I go to these parties prepared so I can indulge like the others in a safe control way.

    11/25/13; 3:48 pm
  19. Brenda #

    Use the date of Halloween as a trigger to remember to take stock of your medical supplies. Mark your calendar the next date you are authorized to fill prescriptions and order pump and CGM supplies. You might as get one last order in before the end of the year (and the start of new year deductibles)! Then, before Thanksgiving (when stores start to resemble a zoo) stock up on alcohol swaps, batteries, gluco-tabs and the other zillion things it will take to rock the D till after the holidays. You’ll be glad you did!

    11/25/13; 4:33 pm
  20. Nell #

    For our food snack days at work (and they seem to be every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas) I always bring cheese, chopped veggies, things that are healthy for all of us. Plus my co-workers are aware of my diabetes and bring food I can enjoy also. I rarely do the TLC thing. BUT my problem is the 2 weeks before Christmas thru until New Years, I can’t seem to work in exercise. I’m trying to do better this year….are your fingers crossed?
    Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

    11/25/13; 4:44 pm
  21. Since I will be traveling several times over the next month, I have already checked to make sure I will have enough supplies to get through well into January. The last thing I want to worry about is ordering pump supplies during the holidays. I love her encouragement to keep up the exercise routine during the holidays. It’s hard, admittedly, but it does keep my stress level and blood sugar levels down!

    11/25/13; 4:48 pm
  22. My best diabetes organizational tip relates to work life. It is easy for me to forget to test my blood sugar consistently when I am at work because I lose track of time. Everyday I keep a small post-it note stuck to my desk next to my keyboard with the times (for me, every two hours) written down that I need to check my bg. I write the bg reading next to the time. It’s a great way to remind me when to check, but also at the end of the day it provides a quick glance of the days bg trending, without having to pull it up on my pump or bg meter.

    11/25/13; 5:24 pm
  23. True that we are responsible for our decisions BUT it’s always helpful to have a cricket on your shoulder or a friend by your side to remind you when attention wavers. Sort of like swimming with a buddy.

    Healthy Holidays.

    11/25/13; 5:28 pm
  24. MJ #

    Tips, hmmmm, I’m a little new at this to be providing tips. I also keep using more test strips then my insurance allows : ( I’m the mom if a newly diagnosed four year old and I really need your tips! My little sweetie also has autism and therefore doesn’t communicate how she’s feeling very well. I’m enjoying reading other People’s blogs so that I can get some perspective on how my daughters feeling. I expect that the holidays will be a little challenging for us, stress and excitement are a lite tricky to bolus for and I pray to god we don’t catch any more colds or the flu. I guess my best top would be to stay positive and remember you can do this!! That’s what I’m doing. Thanks for blogging I really appreciate your experience.

    11/25/13; 5:40 pm
    • Kelli #

      When I use more strips then insurance will pay for I switch to a meter from either Target or Wal-Mart. Their strips are much cheaper if I need to pay out of pocket. Talk to your daughter’s team about a continuous glucose monitor. I would hope your insurance would approve it since it is difficult for your daughter to communicate her feelings and the CGM will alert you to highs and lows.

      11/26/13; 9:39 am
  25. Keeping to a schedule between now and the beginning of the new year takes tremendous effort. I often feel like The White Rabbit, “I’m late, I’m late to a very important date.” Too many holiday networking events are happening just before, during or just after 6 PM. Do I take my dinner Novolog early, after I nibble, or in the middle of the social swirl? My Levemir injection is also at 6, but that’s not as dependent on food. The last thing I want is a major low at a business social, not the way to introduce myself to a possible client or mentor.

    11/25/13; 6:10 pm
  26. Joni K #

    I like to host Thanksgiving at my house. I know, it sounds like it’s *more* trouble, but I keep it fairly simple, and I know what’s in all of the food/can choose lower carb items to serve. I’m T1 and my FIL is T2. Plus I have a 3 year old, who is not diabetic, but is picky. ;) so this works for all of us!

    11/25/13; 6:54 pm
  27. Leigh Fickling #

    Would love to read the book!! My best tip is to keep extra supplies at different locations. Grandmas house, daddy’s bag and mama’s bag. That way you can stay spontaneous and never leave your supplies behind!!

    11/25/13; 7:19 pm
  28. Kristee Kruse #

    We recently celebrated Thanksgiving at my In-Laws. I brought a low-carb corn casserole made with Splenda, instead of sugar. My 11-year-old diabetic son LOVED it!!!! He didn’t even know the difference!!! Our family tries to take it “One Day At A Time”. :)

    11/25/13; 7:38 pm
  29. Jessica #

    I choose my carbs carefully. If I really want dessert I make sure to choose veggies and protein for my dinner and spend my carbs on the yumminess that is the holidays. I also check my blood sugar more frequently. I find when on vacation from my normal schedule my blood sugars can get away from me faster than normal.

    11/25/13; 9:33 pm
  30. Alyssa #

    Would love a copy! My tip is to always know where food can be found! I am a 3rd year medical student, and while I carry food with me in my white coat at all times, when I am working long shifts I sometimes need extra. I know all of the best places to snag a juice in the hospital, and on my last rotation I kept a few strategically stashed granola bars at nurses stations. I guess the translation for the holidays is that wherever you go (holiday parties! caroling! over the river and through the woods!), stash a few juice boxes and granola bars in convenient places so that you’ll always be prepared, even when what you are carrying runs out!

    11/25/13; 9:48 pm
  31. John #

    A bunch of great tips. About all I could add is that if you’re on a pump, dual wave and square wave boluses are your best friends for high carb, high fat, large holiday meals and parties. Especially if you don’t follow a lot of the above tips about portion control and healthier grazing. :-)

    11/25/13; 11:26 pm
  32. Kristen Mercer #

    I don’t have any great ideas on how to stay on top of your diabetes during the holidays. Maybe that’s why an organizer my be extremely helpful. I need to remind myself to test more often during this crazy food all around you-all of the time…time.

    11/26/13; 12:22 am
  33. I seem to go slightly against the flow here – but I’m European, not eligible and thus allowed to play devils advocate. :)

    Most important tip: Enjoy the holiday season. Don’t let diabetes ruin it with overly complicated checking, rechecking and reorganising everything (easier here: no Dead-Turkey-Day or Ghost-and-Zombie-Candy-Day). Of course big meals need to be bolused appropriately – but if you guess the carbs wrong you’ll notice next test and can correct them down.

    Go ahead and actually eat a bit more than is sensible, enjoy an additional glass of wine or champagne and make sure the holidays are holidays. As long as it’s only a few days a year (and it is only a few days in the grand scheme of things), this won’t hurt you much.

    As long as you manage to not forget injections completely and keep a bit of your favourite glucose handy, you should be fine.

    11/26/13; 8:12 am
  34. Jocelin #

    I think the most important tip I have is to make sure to pack extra supplies, glucose tabs, make sure you have enough test strips because you may end up testing more than what you normally would.

    However I do feel that Thanksgiving and Christmas comes once a year so it is also a time to make sure that your Diabetes doesn’t control your life completely. Its ok to have a Christmas Cookie, or piece of Pumpkin pie, just make sure that you count the carbs and bolus yourself for it.

    11/26/13; 10:48 am
  35. Larry Kassa #

    When I know I will be eating at a holiday party I will drink a glass of water before I eat. This way it fills me and then I chew gum. With my jaw moving it tricks my brain I guess and think I am eating. I will say I do eat just a couple of cookies to satisfy myself. Hey no one is perfect. With diabetes type 2 I just try and eat all in moderation and test with my meter.
    Your book looks great and would be a good read. :-)

    11/26/13; 11:04 am
  36. Jennifer #

    Great tips!! Here are my ideas:

    This year for Thanksgiving, I’m in charge of bringing the most carb-heavy dish (dressing/stuffing), which is actually nice because now I know exactly what’s in it and can hopefully bolus more accurately. I’m also bringing along some Diet Cranberry Ginger Ale so I can still feel festive without feeling like I’m missing out on the champagne, cranberry sauce, or cider!

    11/26/13; 11:18 am
  37. Lynn H. #

    Love the post, especially the tip about two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. My approach to holidays is to enjoy everything in small portions (and maybe some not-so-small portions), but I stick to my exercise routine, test more frequently when grazing, and keep my water intake up.

    11/26/13; 8:30 pm
  38. Syed Irfan #

    Great article indeed. I would also recommend:

    i. Eating fruits and veggies
    ii. Abstaining from eating large meals before going to bed
    iii. Not forgetting for one second that ”meat products like chicken, pork, turkey and beef contain between 23-41% fat on average, or that a 3.5 oz. piece can deliver a whopping 80 mg of cholesterol.”

    11/27/13; 9:15 am
  39. Eileen B #

    I like the BLT’s and the recommendation to drink lots of water.

    11/27/13; 6:04 pm
  40. Marlene Woolley #

    The thing that has helped me the most is “STOP! Take a Deep Breath and Relax!” I have been a Type 2 Diabetic for 35+ years. This week I received a diagonisis of Type 1 diabetes. I have had a pump for nine months. Blood Sugars are well contolled but this is the most difficult challenge of my existence. I am determined that diabetes will not control my life but I often feel out of control and frustrated. I am excited to have discovered this blogand am looking forward feeling strength and being sustained my your knowedge.

    11/27/13; 6:32 pm
  41. Ponja H. #

    My 9 y/o daughter Abby is our T1D and has recently started on her insulin pump. This is our first Thanksgiving with diabetes as she was diagnosed 12/6/12 and last christmas is a blurr. When we do have big gatherings with lots of food we go through the line and fill our plates sensibly. We bolus, eat, and then go for a walk. That way you get exercise and you get away from the food. Thank you for this blog it is very helpful!

    11/27/13; 10:56 pm
  42. Eileen Blanchfield #

    I got the Diabetes Organizer on Thursday and have already read the entire thing and I agree with so much of it and have to do so much more to ensure I am always organized. Thank you for the book! It was a wonderful win.

    12/15/13; 2:30 pm

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