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Q&A: How can I avoid blood sugar spikes during the holiday season?

For those who have diabetes or who are sensitive to blood sugar spikes or lows, holiday parties can be a minefield.


Q: How can I avoid blood sugar spikes and lows during the holiday season?

A: Now that the Halloween costumes and decorations are stuffed into storage until next year, the holiday party invites are likely rolling into your mailbox. While it's always exciting to connect with family and friends during this special time, the holidays also can be stressful, especially for those suffering from diabetes.

With cookies, cakes, and indulgent dishes displayed on the table at every holiday event, it's a challenge for even the healthiest eaters to stay on track. For those who have diabetes or are sensitive to blood sugar spikes or lows, holiday parties can be a minefield.

Indulging in sweet treats can cause a blood sugar spike. These spikes may cause blurred vision and fatigue, which can be especially dangerous given all the driving many do on the holidays. People with diabetes also are more prone to blood sugar lows during the holidays because meals and medications are not on a normal schedule. Blood sugar lows can cause fatigue, fainting, excessive sweating, and confusion.

To reduce your chance of having blood sugar spikes and lows, follow these simple tips

  1. Propose a potluck: Depending on the event, you may have the opportunity to bring your own dish. If so, choose a healthy one like a vegetable tray with a holiday-theme dip, or a cheese-and-pepperoni plate that allows for some indulgence that won't spike the glucose levels.

  2. Don't skip meals: Skipping a meal to save calories for a holiday party is not a wise choice. This lack of nutrients could lead to a lower-than-normal blood sugar level that spikes when you can't resist a sugary treat. If you take your insulin or other diabetic medication on schedule but then miss a meal, you will put yourself at risk for dangerously low blood sugar.

  3. Mindful planning: Think about the healthy choices you want to make to help reduce the chance of overindulging in sweet drinks or desserts. Instead of a whole slice of your aunt's famous pecan pie, consider splitting a slice with someone, or choose to have a small cookie instead. And be sure to understand how and when to take your diabetic medication. If your medication requires you to take it at meal time, stay on that schedule.

Of course, just like the rest of the year, it's critical to exercise, drink plenty of water – especially if you have an alcoholic drink — and get plenty of sleep.

Enjoy this joyous season with family and friends, and with the help of these tips, keep your blood sugar levels on track.

Donna Raziano, M.D., MBA, FACP, AGSF, is chief medical officer of Mercy Home Health and Mercy LIFE. Together, the organizations serve more than 35,000 people in Southeastern Pennsylvania.