Healthy Holiday Guide For Blood Sugar Balance

The holidays are a time full of joy, gatherings, traditions, and, and of course, our favourite dishes and desserts! In a time full of happiness and celebration also comes stress for those who are trying to keep their blood sugars under control. You want to stay healthy, but you also don’t want to miss out on your favourite foods this time of year. How can you do both? 

Think about it this way: by building a strong foundation of healthy habits year round, a few days of holiday indulging isn’t going to suddenly reverse all the progress you’ve  made. There is so much focus around these handful of days when really it’s the other 360 days in the year that actually make an impact on your health. Don’t sweat the small stuff and shift your focus to where it matters. 

Here is where I would you like you to focus your energy on:

1. Listen to your body and your taste buds.

There’s a popular saying that “food is fuel” and, while that’s true, it’s also much more than that. Food is culture, memories, religion, celebration and tradition. We even have an entire holiday where a roast turkey serves as the symbol! 

You may feel tempted to indulge in seasonal dishes knowing that you probably won’t get to have them again for another year. But you know that having too much can spike your blood sugars. 

Instead, be picky, choose foods that you really enjoy and add other components to your meal like protein and healthy fats to counteract a large spike in blood sugar. (Extra tip: if you’re still feeling like you’re missing out, ask to take some home to enjoy later in the same way!)

2. Don’t skip meals before a big dinner.

It feels like it should make sense. Skip breakfast and lunch, save on the calories and carbs so you can get to eat extra for dinner! Right?

…Actually, this couldn’t be more wrong.

When you sleep, your body is hard at work trying to keep your blood sugars at a good level and using up extra stores throughout the night. By the time you wake up, your body is ready for some replenishment! When you skip breakfast, your body has a dip in blood sugar and then tends to over compensate by using up more stores to raise it again. 

Give your body a break at all the extra work and have a balanced meal for both breakfast and lunch, no matter how big of a feast you are trying to prepare for later on. 

3. Consider putting a hold on weight loss goals.

Did you have a goal of losing so many pounds before the holidays were suddenly here? Do yourself a favour and don’t stress or skip meals over it (hint: stress can actually make things worse).

Take this time to enjoy being with loved ones and be kind to yourself. You can go back to focusing on losing weight once your schedule resumes back to normal. Constantly stressing about what you eat can lead to feelings of guilt and end up doing harm to your mental health. Chronic stress can also come with chronic inflammation in the body, so do yourself a favour and just focus on the little things you can do to make healthy decisions throughout the day to maintain your current weight.

4. Start the day with a savoury breakfast to keep sugar cravings in check.

Speaking of breakfast, try starting with something savoury like eggs, avocado toast, smoked salmon, or leftovers. This can help from cravings getting out of control later on in the day.  If sugar cravings are a big challenge for you, read more  here.

5. Keep moving. 

I know- it’s cold, snowy, and dark out all the time! Getting in physical activity sounds like the last thing you want to do. 

Exercising doesn’t have to mean going on a run outside or lifting weights. Go for a walk with a friend at the mall, try a new group workout class either in-person or online, or take on that labor-intensive house project you’ve been meaning to do (snow shovelling can be quite the workout). 

6. Stay hydrated – and watch out for sugar in your drinks.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you really are hungry or if you just needed a good chug of water. Having a large glass of water 10 minutes before a meal can help you decide! 

When choosing beverages other than water, be sure to look at two things on the nutrition label: carbohydrates (sugar) and serving size. A drink may not seem like it has a lot of sugar in it until you realize you’ve had three serving size glasses already. Try diluting options like ciders and lemonade with water to cut down on the sweetness.

7. Start with veggies at least 2 out of 3 meals in the day.

It can be easy to poke around your plate, leaving the vegetables for last when all you really wanted was the main dish. Challenge yourself to start with the veggies on your plate for at least 2 out of 3 meals in the day!

Practice the Diabetes Plate Method as well when building your plates. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ protein foods, ¼ carbohydrate foods, and a low-calorie drink on the side. 

8. Check blood sugars to see which foods and combination foods work best for you. 

Everybody is different and there is no one size fits all approach to controlling blood sugar. Try this: create a balanced plate based on the Diabetes Plate Method and test your blood sugar afterwards. Continue trying this and keep a journal on what food combinations work best for you. 

9. Create an evening routine. 

Keeping a consistent routine before bed can help to signal your body that it’s time for bed. Whether it’s staying away from screen time an hour before bed, reading a book, washing your face with warm water, or stretching. 

Getting good sleep is necessary for hormone production and regulation, which directly impacts our body’s ability to control blood sugar! Learn more about hormone imbalance and its impact here.

10. Try a low-sugar version of your favourite sweet treat. 

If there was any time for sugar substitutes and alternatives, it’s now! There are hundreds of options to choose from and most can easily be replaced in an existing recipe one for one. Some recipes can even be cut back on the amount of sugar as much as ¼ cup and many do not notice a difference in taste.

Swapping refined flours for oat, almond, or buckwheat is also a great way to increase the fibre and protein amounts in a recipe. This helps to slow down the spike in blood sugar. 

11. Bring your own healthy dish to a family dinner. 

Not sure what’s on the menu? Take the lead on bringing a healthy dish so you can be confident in knowing that you’ll have a balanced plate. A great option is a healthy charcuterie board, click here for inspo.  

Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday season!

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