Navigating Holiday Meals with Type One Diabetes

June 8, 2023

If during holidays or special events you either

  • “pretend you don’t have diabetes for the day” and suffer from major blood sugar swings


  • avoid all of the fun food and drink in order to stay in range

then here are 5 strategies to help you be able to enjoy the festivities without sacrificing your blood sugars.

  1. Get clear on your expectations: Is it realistic to expect your usual time in range during a holiday? Think about what your priorities are during this time and keep that at the forefront of your mind.
  2. Don’t forget about fat - remember that higher fat foods digest more slowly than carbs and tend to have a delayed impact on blood sugars. Think about how you can get ahead of that delayed rise so you don’t wake up high the next morning.
  3. If you’re traveling or going to be away from home - create an anchor to bring some element of routine and stability with you. Maybe you start the day with a glass of water, 5 minutes of breathing, a walk outside… it can be anything to help you feel grounded going into a day that will have some unpredictability!
  4. Expand your insulin strategy - lean on tools like a longer pre-bolus, an increased temp basal or a second shot to help you handle foods that aren’t part of your every-day diet.
  5. Optimize your insulin sensitivity - get your body moving! Maybe you workout on your own before the big meal or you rally up the whole family for a walk afterwards. Anything can help your body more effectively absorb insulin, which will go a long way on a day with more food.
  6. BONUS: remember the impact of language. Instead of “bad” foods, reframe holiday goodies and treats as “harder to bolus for” foods. Reflect on what else these foods bring to you - joy, connection, tradition, love, etc. It is okay to enjoy.

Remember, diabetes thrives off of routine and the easy solution would be to always stay in the comfort of your day-to-day life. BUT humans crave variety and if we’re not getting enough of it, we may feel sad or unfulfilled. The key mindset shift is instead of thinking that when you’re outside of routine you want to not be bothered by diabetes (you also end up thinking about diabetes here regardless here), but rather, to be more present it can help to actually pay attention to your diabetes.