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Surviving the Holidays with Diabetes

Thanksgiving family fest sized

Surviving the Holidays with Diabetes

Family eating for thanksgiving
Stony Brook Medicine Expert gives tips on how to have an effective diabetes management plan during holiday festivities

STONY BROOK, NY, NOVEMBER 20, 2015 – The holidays are a time to gather with family and friends. It’s also a season to indulge in all of your favorite holiday foods and drink. For people living with diabetes, keeping blood sugars under control is often a challenge, but the holiday season can bring additional hurdles.

Stony Brook Medicine endocrinologist and diabetes expert Joshua D. Miller, MD, MPH, says “people living with diabetes can enjoy the holidays if they manage their disease wisely.” Dr. Miller offers tips on how to survive the holiday season and start 2016 in good health.

Joshua Miller
Joshua D. Miller, MD, MPH

Call the Doc: November is Diabetes Awareness Month and the kick-off to the holiday season. Dr. Miller suggests using this time as good reminder to check in with your doctor to talk about the events ahead and to review your diabetes management plan.

“With advanced preparation and a good action plan, people with diabetes can enjoy the holiday season and indulge in those holiday treats,” says Dr. Miller.

Plan Ahead: Pre-planning meals is an excellent way to control calories, carbohydrate content and more. “During a meal, having a protein and a fiber with your carbohydrate is a great way to control the post-meal high blood sugar that often occurs,” says Dr. Miller.

Dr. Miller suggests budgeting your carbohydrate and caloric intake during the day. “It’s okay to want the stuffing, but consider limiting your caloric intake during the day to help allow for the larger meal later in the day.

Speak Up: “If you are attending a family meal or party, consider letting your host know you have diabetes and that you might have some dietary requirements,” says Dr. Miller.

“There are plenty of ways to have a healthy, tasty meal that is ‘diabetes friendly’. There are many low carb and low sugar options to accompany a holiday meal, and desserts can even be prepared using sugar alternatives.” Dr. Miller suggests going to the American Diabetes Association’s website to learn more healthy recipes that can be prepared for the holidays.

Add Holidays ‘Spirits’ in Moderation: “Alcohol can have a significant effect on blood sugar,” says Dr. Miller. “Depending on the type of beverage, it can raise or lower your blood sugar within hours after consumption.”

Dr. Miller reminds patients to monitor blood sugars closely if you’re planning on sipping a few holiday cocktails, but to try to limit your intake to 1 or 2 servings, and to skip the mixers. “Juices, sugary sodas or high-calorie drinks added to alcohol can be detrimental to people living with diabetes.” And if you manage your diabetes with insulin, talk to your doctor about any potential side effects from drinking alcohol.

Finding Peace during the Holidays: Even under the best of circumstances, the holiday demands do add an extra level of stress for most people. For people living with diabetes, stress and inadequate sleep can impact blood sugar control, overall health and well-being.

“Between shopping, cooking and attending parties, it’s easy to forgot to monitor your blood sugar, trying using your smartphone to set up reminders,” says Dr. Miller. “Some blood sugar meters can also perform this function.”

Also try to carve out some time during your busy schedule to de-stress with activities like walking, practicing yoga or relaxing. “A pre-dinner walk can really do wonders.”

Don’t Let the Cold Ruin Your Routine: The holiday season is, for most people, associated with colder weather. Many people are hesitant to venture out into cold weather to exercise. Don’t let weather dictate your activity level. Dr. Miller suggests finding an indoor option to stay active, especially to continue the momentum you may have found in the warmer months. Some examples include exercise DVDs, yoga, gym workouts, a community center, and indoor mall walking. All activity counts and improves both your mental and physical well-being.

And remember, the best “gift” you can give yourself this holiday season is good health. So plan ahead, have a good action plan, and enjoy the season.


About Stony Brook Medicine:

Stony Brook Medicine integrates and elevates all of Stony Brook University’s health-related initiatives: education, research and patient care. It includes six Health Sciences schools — Dental Medicine, Health Technology and Management, Medicine, Nursing, Social Welfare, and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences — as well as Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and more than 90 community-based healthcare settings throughout Suffolk County. To learn more, visit


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