Keep an Eye on Diabetes during Holiday Dinners

November 24, 2014

Aging parents and others with diabetes often find the holidays difficult: there are so many tempting sweets around! Here are a few tips to keep your loved one satisfied during the holidays while still keeping an eye on blood sugar.

Pre-Dinner Drinks

Diabetics should really avoid alcohol; however, if the readings indicate that a small drink is acceptable, do not mix alcohol with sugary sodas.  Stick to diet sodas, and make sure your loved one doesn’t drink while hungry; an empty stomach means that sugar from the drink gets absorbed more quickly.


There are plenty of great appetizers for aging parents with diabetes.  Raw vegetables and dip can be delicious, and cheeses, mini-quiches, mushrooms and hard-boiled eggs are usually diabetes-friendly.  Watch out for any appetizers that have high sugar content, of course, and try to guide your loved one away from appetizers made with white flour instead of whole wheat.  Avoid excess salt as well, since blood pressure is often an issue with diabetics.

First Course

Salad is great, especially if you use dressings sparingly.  Soups should be limited to small amounts, as so many of them have very high salt content.

The Main Event

For many people, the holidays are all about the ham or the turkey.  If it’s ham your loved one is craving, make his or her portion without any glaze.  Turkey (or chicken) should be served without the skin, and baked rather than fried.  Red meat can be an option, but the leaner the better.  With all of these choices, try to watch the portion size; it’s tempting to get stuffed at the holidays, but eating “just enough” is much better for loved ones with diabetes.

On the Side

As a general rule, anything made from fresh vegetables will be better for your aging parents than something frozen or from a can.  If fresh vegetables are not available, try to find canned or frozen foods that are low in sodium.  Yams are a big holiday favorite, but they often come prepared in a high-sugar manner, so be careful.  Also, avoid gravies and heavy sauces.

The Finish Line

Sure, those cakes and pies are scrumptious, but they can send blood sugar soaring.  Keep a careful eye on what your loved one is eating at dessert time; if it seems appropriate, let him or her have a small serving of a sweet and then move on to a healthier alternative, such as fresh fruit.

The holidays are a celebratory season, and you want your loved one to enjoy them.  Just do your best to make sure that your aging parent enjoys them in blood sugar-moderation.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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