Holidays and Your Diabetes

by Duane Wesche, RPh, pharmacist, Missouri Baptist Medical Center

The holiday season presents problems for people with a variety of health issues -- but diabetic patients always seem to have the most difficulty. 

Problems occur because of the weather (it’s generally colder and not as conducive to exercise), the various activities and rushing around, and especially, the food.

Having diabetes shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your holidays, whether you stay at home or travel to celebrate. Preparation is the key to managing diabetes during holiday travel and festivities. With a little planning and work, you can stay healthy and still enjoy the holidays with your family and friends. The first thing to do is get a flu shot if you haven’t had one yet this year.

If you plan to travel, don’t forget your medications and, if you’re insulin-dependent, your insulin and other supplies. Always pack extra in case of delays. Be sure they are all labeled properly and don’t check these items if you fly. Carry them on and store them in the bins above you. Be sure to inform the TSA personnel about your insulin supplies -- such as needles and lancets -- and, if you’re on a pump, you will most likely have to be visually inspected or patted down.

Carry fresh fruit, glucose gel or tablets, and other healthy snacks with you. Carry your insulin in an insulated bag with refrigerated packs. Drink water in place of sugary sodas or juices. Test your blood sugar as your physician instructs. If you fly, drive, or take a bus or train, be sure that every few hours you stop, or get up, and walk around. This will keep your circulation moving, break up the monotony of sitting and help you stay alert.

When it comes to parties and feasting:

  • Eat a healthy snack before going; this can help you avoid overeating at the event

  • Try to follow your meal plan, even asking the host beforehand for the menu; offer to bring a healthy or nutritious dish or snack for yourself and others

  • Make healthy choices; limit portion sizes; if there’s a buffet or food table, make you plate and go to another area or room to avoid temptation and the pressure to overeat

  • Drink low-calorie beverages and, if you have alcohol, limit yourself to one or two drinks a day and only with meals

  • Try to stick with a routine to stay active, throughout the winter and especially during the holidays; get at least 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week

The holidays are a wonderful time to see friends a family. Nearly everyone loves the festive times and, with a little preparation and sticking to your plan, a diabetic patient can have as good of a time as everyone else. Enjoy, but be safe.