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Preparing for a Diabetes-Friendly Holiday Season

Healthy Life wooden sign with a forest background

The holidays are here, and for parents of children with diabetes, this typically joyous time can quickly become scary. While the upcoming food-filled holidays take a bit of extra preparation and conscientiousness, it does not mean that you and the family will miss out on the holiday cheer.

With Halloween behind us, we have a few more dessert-filled holidays on the horizon and there is no reason kids can’t indulge in a piece of pumpkin pie or a Christmas treat. But it’s important to plan ahead; adjust your child’s carbohydrate intake to allot for the added sugar at dinner. By portioning your child’s carbohydrate intake throughout the day, you can calculate exactly how many sweets your child can have to maintain a safe daily blood glucose level. Another option is to talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about adjusting pre-meal insulin dosages to account for these extra sweets to keep everything balanced.

When building your shopping list and preparing your menu for the holidays, opt for healthy alternatives for your must-have sides; lighten your mashed potatoes with cauliflower, make a mixture of Brussel sprouts and quinoa (baked separately to avoid fat and calories from the turkey) to replace traditional stuffing, and homemade cranberry sauce sweetened with oranges or tangerines will complement any holiday meal. No holiday feast is complete without a slew of sweets. Fortunately, there are fat-free, low-carb and sugar-free substitutions for your favorite cake, pudding, ice cream and Jell-O mixes that all pair with fresh fruit toppings. There are millions of ways to swap out ingredients for traditional dishes without compromising flavor or spirit.

Portion control is key. Keep accurate track of the nutritional value of each dish and make sure your child knows exactly how much they can have of each dish. The holidays are a great time to empower your children to keep track of their health and learn how to balance and portion their meals on days before big feasts. One easy strategy is making sure your child’s tummy is full with healthy foods before going out to parties and events; this will make it easier to avoid the wrong foods and prevent overeating.

Most importantly, remember to have fun this holiday season. Diabetes doesn’t mean children can’t get into the spirit and enjoy the holiday traditions. This is an opportunity to teach your child about the importance of portion control, carbohydrate tracking, and reading labels so they remain vigilant about their food consumption. Healthy eating should be an ongoing conversation with your child as the holiday season kicks off this year to ensure a happy and healthy rest of the year.

For more help picking the best treats and alternatives for children with diabetes before the holidays, come to our upcoming holiday Shop with Your Doc events hosted by St. Joseph Hoag Health on Monday November 14th at the Food 4 Less on 1616 W Katella Ave in Anaheim or come out and see me on Nov. 16 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Food 4 Less, 914 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton. To reach the Center for Health Promotion, call (714) 618-9500.

This holiday season, St. Joseph Hoag Health is partnering with Ralphs and Food 4 Less stores in Orange County for the third annual “Shop with Your Doc,” events. The series promotes healthy eating by bringing doctors to local grocery stores to help shoppers read labels and learn good eating habits to prevent and manage chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Doctors and Registered Dieticians will be in local stores now through November to help you make this holiday season the healthiest for your family. For more information about this year’s events and locations, please visit

By Susan Watkins, RD, CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator)
Manager, St. Joseph Health’s Center for Health Promotion 

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One Comment

  1. Great article and very practical. I love the shop with a doc idea.

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