A Season for Balance: Tips for Eating (and Feeling) Well During the Holidays

Most events seem to be centered around food during the holiday season. Although we lead busy lives all year long, our schedules get overloaded from Halloween to New Years day. Along with the parties and social events that are part of this festive season, comes an abundance of food – food everywhere! And many of the foods at this time of year are not nutritionally dense veggies that are loaded with vitamins and minerals (and very few calories). Instead, we encounter fat- and sugary-laden treats and desserts or high calorie casseroles and fried appetizers. The truth is, that if you can continue to make good food choices during the holidays, you will not gain weight during this busy time of year.

Tips and Tricks for Eating Well During the Holidays

Eat What You Like, But Watch Your Portions

Eating what you like is “key” to feeling satisfied during the holidays. If you look forward to Aunt Ethel’s rainbow cookies or Cousin Anthony’s lasagna, you should eat these foods, and enjoy them.

  • Eat and enjoy those holiday classic foods with portion control in mind.
  • Be mindful and aware of what you are eating – as you’re eating your favorite food, savor the moment.
  • Load up the rest of your plate with lean protein (fish, chicken or turkey) and lots of veggies. That way you’ll be less tempted to eat too much of the calorically dense holiday treats.
  • Start your day with a nutritional meal. That way, you’ll be more likely to not overindulge later in the day. You can try one of these great recipes from Diabetes Strong
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol if you plan on indulging in sweet treats or a second helping of your favorite holiday dinner. This is an important time to strive for balance. Don’t deny yourself, but, keep in mind the affect that alcohol has on the body and blood sugars.

Stay Physically Active

There are times when we might not be able to go to the gym. But you should continue to be physically active. Exercise reduces stress and burns calories.

  • Look at your weekly schedule, and plan to fit in physical activity.
  • Make an appointment with yourself to walk, take a bike ride, or attend a fitness class with a friend. Perhaps you can find a Holiday fun run or road race to compete in with loved ones.

    Sarah of What Sarah Said

  • Do a fitness routine in the comfort of your living room. Christel from Diabetes Strong has a great library of free exercise videos appropriate for all fitness levels.

    Christel of Diabetes Strong

  • Wear a fitness tracker so you can see how many steps you are taking – and try increasing your number each day.
  • Don’t forget about our furry friends! They need to stay active during the holiday season, too, and can be one of the best sidekicks during a jaunt around the neighborhood. Animals can be so helpful with stress relief and you’ll BOTH feel better after exerting a little energy together.
  • Yoga is a great way to de-stress during the holidays. Stretching and breathing directly affects the nervous system. Never done Yoga before? Why not sign up at a local gym or studio. They often have free intro class packages. Don’t have time? There are lots of great online yoga programs and books for beginners. Even 5 minutes a day makes a difference to your health, well being and overall self esteem.

    Rachel of Yoga for Diabetes

  • The self care practices from the Sister Science of Yoga Ayurveda also come in handy. Sipping hot water throughout the day both cleanses and nourishes the system.  Give yourself an evening foot massage with almond, sesame oil or your favorite foot care cream. A nightly massage helps your to relax and promotes better sleep.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t get to the gym on a regular basis over the holidays. Be flexible and keep moving!


If you think you can’t meditate think again! Meditation is nothing more than concentration. Concentration brings your focus to an activity that requires all your attention. For instance, reading requires concentration. Have you ever noticed that when you start reading your mind sometimes wanders, or you fall asleep? The same thing happens when you meditate. As you bring your attention to your breath, an image or a sound your mind might drifts off. Bringing yourself back to the object of concentration is the act of meditation. Doing this for 5-10 minutes engages the relaxed part of your nervous system spending more time in your relaxed nervous system has all sorts of juicy benefits, better sleep, enhanced mood, more focus, even weight loss and balanced blood sugar levels. Great qualities to have on tap over the holidays!

  • A simple practice is to watch the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Every time you notice your mind wandering off into a thought or series of thoughts bring your focus back to the breath. The softer and more gentle the breath, the calmer the mind
  • If thoughts seem to be backing up on you think of them like caller ID on your phone. You don’t have to take the call!

 Have a Plan

Try to find out what is being served before you attend a holiday function. By knowing what is available, you can plan what you are going to select before you arrive. It’s a great idea to eat a healthy snack (for example a hand full of unsalted almonds or an apple) before you arrive at a party or social event. It will take the edge off your hunger, and allow you to make better decisions.

Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking water will help you keep hydrated. Try to drink plenty of water every day. Listen to your body! Drinking water at parties will also help you drink less alcohol.

 Keep Your Main Focus on Family and Friends

Although being with family can be stressful, try to enjoy the moment instead of focusing on food. Remember there are alternatives to food when you are stressed out – walk around the block or up and down a set of stairs instead of overeating. Celebrate your accomplishments, and enjoy the company of family and friends.

Take a moment to reflect on all the wonderful gifts you’ve received all year and the things in your life that you are appreciative of. You can think of your family, friends, the roof over your head, or anything that you know you are lucky to have. Having an active gratitude practice is a terrific way to curb stress and anxiety. When we begin to count our blessings and appreciate the many things we have to be thankful for, it’s a lot more difficult to feel down about life or stressed.

There are also some great online resources where you can find support from other people living with diabetes in getting through the holidays (and beyond) while staying on track with your health goals.

Why not commit to a diabetes challenge in the new year together with thousands of other people living with diabetes? A great free option is the January Fit With Diabetes challenge Diabetes Strong is hosting. It will focus on weight management, and is a great way to kick off the new year.

Want to access the perfect yoga practice for your type? Check out Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda by Rachel Zinman from Yoga for Diabetes.

If you’re looking for daily inspiration and insight into what it’s like to be a T1D twenty-something, follow Sarah MacLeod of What Sarah Said, where she shares posts about advocacy, the power of peer support, and her holistic health and wellness journey.

Have a wonderful holiday season. I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy 2018. May the upcoming year bring us all peace and joy. How are you celebrating the holidays? Please share your thoughts.

Yoga for Diabetes – online resource for all things Yoga and Diabetes www.yogafordiabetesblog.com
Yoga for Diabetes How to manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda

Diabetesstrog.com – Health and Fitness Website for people living with diabetes

What Sarah Said

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