Tips for a Healthy & Happy Holiday with Diabetes

A discussion with a certified wellness coach about overcoming holiday challenges



Vicki: Welcome to an Uprise Health podcast. Today, we are joined by Meghan Steckowski. Meghan is a Content Marketing Manager at Uprise however, we invited Meghan today and are happy to have her for her specialty as a Certified Wellness Coach.

Meghan: Thanks Vicki, I’m really excited to be here today.

Vicki: We are really glad you are here too. I really wanted to talk to today when we were preparing for this podcast about the holidays coming up. I know that it can be a very challenging time for people with diabetes or even pre-diabetes. It’s typically a wonderful time of year and people get to spend a lot of time catching up with their friends and family but there is a big focus on food and I think that can be very stressful with having diabetes. I wanted to talk to you about that because I think people do want to enjoy the holidays and eat some delicious foods but they need to figure out how to not compromise their blood sugar goals. I thought I’d have you start us out today just give us some tips to help people prepare for a healthy and happy holiday season.

Meghan: Absolutely, I’m happy to. The holidays are one of my favorite times of year and it is a delicious time of year but also can be very stressful. And if you have diabetes or if there is diabetes in your family, it can be a little bit more stressful for you as the host and for them. One of the first things I talk about with the people that I’m coaching who are prediabetic or have type I or type II, is the timing of their meals. So, throughout the holidays and particularly for Thanksgiving a lot of times the family feasts or gatherings are at different times so you can get a little bit off schedule. Sometimes the meals are served at three or four or you are going to a brunch instead of having breakfast and lunch and that can be really challenging if you have your medication on the same schedule as your meals. So, if you are taking insulin injection or using a pill that lowers your blood sugar, you may need to have a snack at your regular meal time to prevent any low blood sugar reaction from not eating. To have more specific information about dosage and what you should do to manage your blood sugar doing those holiday times when the schedule is off I do advise that you speak to your diabetes care provider before the holidays so you can best plan how to handle the changes in that meal schedule.

Vicki: Yes, that makes sense. I think that I’ve discussed with you that my son in law is a Type I diabetic and I know the timing is a very important thing because I know he will call and say, okay the time that we will arrive and then the lag between time when I will serve, he kind of wants to feel it out so he can plan, I’m so glad that you brought that up. The other thing I wanted to ask you about is I like how you said it is challenging for the people that are diabetic but it is true, that the hosts want to be mindful too.  I’m always trying to strategize and be selective about what I’m going to serve. I want to have you talk a little bit about that as well. The types of things, as a person who is hosting, what are things you can do to make a delicious and also more diabetic friendly feast, you know for your family or friends who are diabetic?

Meghan: Absolutely, one of the most important things is, don’t forget about the vegetables, right? There are so many delicious foods and desserts and even favorite or traditional appetizers that are served and vegetables really can bring a lot of flavor and nutrients to your table and color as well. So, in the Fall time and during the holiday season there are really great squashes out there, and pumpkins and brussel sprouts and cauliflower and broccoli all that have a lot of great nutrients and if are prepared properly can be low carbohydrate options for your diabetic and for people who are trying to follow a diabetes friendly diet. One of the most important things you can do is have them roasted or steamed and then if you are going to have say a mashed potato try to have another vegetable option that is a low carbohydrate like the few I just mentioned so you want to make sure you have things other than corn, peas and potatoes because those are your high starch vegetables. And I know Vicki, you and I talked about this the past, when you are looking at your plate, you want to help support people to make the best choices. The plate should really be divided in half and that should be your non starchy vegetables so as a host when you’re planning your meal and planning  your table and if you are like me you like to write everything our beforehand so you know you have enough to feed everyone and some proper options so you really want to be sure you have enough for those people who are prediabetic or watching their carbohydrate intake so they can fill half their plate with non-starchy vegetables.

Vicki: That is a great recommendation and I was also thinking about when you were talking about some of the options, the cruciferous vegetables, the broccoli, the brussel sprouts. We have a lot of vegetables during Thanksgiving , even if it is an off year when my son in law isn’t attending because they swap, you know how that is once your kids are married, I find that even the non-diabetics really gravitate towards those yummy vegetables and as you said there are so many great ways to prepare them. And I’m glad you mentioned the diabetes plate because one of the other things we talked about is in terms of the protein and a lot of people talk about the mashed potato and gravy and those things are important to be mindful of but I remember you saying just the plain turkey is a really good choice too. I don’t want people to forget it.

Meghan: Yes, absolutely there are so many times the people I’m coaching ask, hey what’s better the light meat or the dark meat and they are really concerned about making that healthier choice. And really in the end when you look at that table, the turkey aside from the vegetables is one of the healthiest things you can have on your plate. So really the fat content in the dark meat is very slightly slightly higher that the white so load up on the protein and your non starchy vegetables and then be really mindful and have smaller portions of those starchy comforts that are the mashed potatoes and your specialty holiday sweet potato pies or casseroles and stuffing as well.

Vicki:  That makes sense and I was thinking about when you just said smaller portions, I know my son in law and a young lady who lived on our street growing up was a Type I diabetic, they had this saying they called Toby Two Tablespoon rule and that is a mouthful if you say it fast but basically what they would say is from a time they were young and even older that they would follow that you can just have a taste of something to be mindful of the portions and they would call it the two tablespoon rule. They would scout the table and see things that they may not want to have a larger quantity of but not depriving themselves. And really two tablespoons is kind of big when you have a lot of options as you do on a holiday table usually so I’m glad you mentioned the portions. So, Meghan what would be the next thing you would want to tell people, you talked about the vegetables, the timing, about the potions what would be the last thing we need to keep in mind as we approach the holiday season.

Meghan: Well, we are going to take a right turn and talk about exercise. Right? We know exercise helps manage our blood sugar levels, it helps with our stress, it helps us really sleep better and overall, it should be a part of our holiday traditions as well. So, a lot of time the focus is around food, we want to expand that. Expand our traditions to really make new traditions that allow the family to be active together. It is a really great time to make some new family traditions and to stay active. So, things like after dinner walks or pre dinner walks if you aren’t the one preparing the meal, dance parties, football games, baseball games whatever you can do to be outside to enjoy that fresh air and get active. Vicki, I know you have a couple of ideas to stay active indoors.

Vicki: I do and I like when the weather permits because if in you are in a colder area like I am in New England, a lot of times on a day when it isn’t raining or pouring, we will do a pre or post walk. I love your idea of having everyone outside, if possible, I think it’s great if you have a bigger group to not have everyone under foot. So that is another practical side of it and then if it’s inclement weather or you’re not in a situation where it is conducive to go out, we would do games with kids and they are also fun for adults but we would have a little dance party where everyone is dancing and someone is in charge of turning the music off.  Or we would have a Simon Says with jumping jacks and that gets everyone’s heart rate up. Then we try to keep electronics out and the only electronics we would allow on the holidays is the Wii where you are doing the dancing and bowling or tennis that’s fun and you can take turns. And our final thing which I had shared with you which is kind of crazy so I wouldn’t recommend doing it for long periods of time but it is fun for short bursts of aerobic exercises, we called it bubble wrap attack. I know during the holidays a lot of people are getting a lot of things mailed to them and we would take the bubble wrap and pounce up and down on it. That is a great exercise and very much fun for the kids and pretty much everyone got a kick out of it. So those are my indoor go to’s to keep physical active.

Meghan: Thanks, those are some really great ideas and I know that a lot of time during the stress of the holidays, I know if you are hosting and have to put on this big holiday event it is sometimes nice to have a little alone time. So going out for a walk weather permitting, take the dog, take a close family member that maybe you haven’t caught up with in a while can be a great way to unwind and relax.

Vicki: Well Meghan, thanks for chatting with us about this today. I also wanted to mention to folks as well, I had just read recently in New England Dairy’s, I think it is in their November newsletter, they had a excellent little spot light on diabetes and diabetic recipes and one of the ones they listed was a spinach feta yogurt dip which I made which was delicious and also serving it with veggies. One of things I would recommend from having a diabetic in the family and my son in law and daughter do a lot, is that you want to make sure you have something there that you will like that is a good thing to eat that is good for you in terms of your health but also tastes good that is a great go to so I would recommend or people hosting or people going check out that recipe. And I want to thank you again Meghan for coming today and speaking with us and also to remind everyone to go to and you can check out information on healthy options on chronic care for people with diabetes as well as digital tools that can help people keep track of their weight, keep track of lifestyle things to help them out. Meghan, have a healthy, happy holiday.

Meghan: Thank you. Same to you.