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Diabetes: 15 Lifestyle and Diet Tips For The Holidays

Tis’ the season to be feasting. Holiday-proof your diabetes plan with 15 life-changing lifestyle and diet tips, without giving up on your favourite treats.

Article contribution by Homage

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Nothing is more exciting than the highly anticipated year-end holiday festivities. For those living with diabetes, however, anxiety finds its way in with concerns about holiday treats that tend to be heavy in carbohydrates and fats. How does one stay on track with his or her diabetic routine without missing out on the delicious festive food? 

Bring out the eating show because we have 15 surefire tips to holiday-proof your plan. From lifestyle modifications to workout routines to full course meal plans, manage your diabetes with care and moderation this holiday season. 

But first, plan your holiday lifestyle ahead

Before you whip up your eating game plan for the holidays, prioritise your diabetes management—first things first. When it comes to managing your diabetes during the year-end holidays, any adjustments to your diabetic routine need to be considered. Will you be going on vacation or staying at home? Here are some key points to note. 

Maintain your diabetes discipline

The first step to a successful holiday plan for those living with diabetes is to plan your activities ahead of time and make some readjustments to your lifestyle. You might be tempted to take a break, but your diabetes will not. To keep yourself accountable, remember to T-R-A-C-K your progress:

● T - Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor

● R - Regularly exercise every day

● A - Always maintain your weight

● C - Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels

● K - Kick the bad habits

Consider downloading a tracker app that allows you to log your blood sugar levels, insulin doses and food intake. Some great examples are Diabetes:M and mySugr.

Make a travel agenda or schedule

Taking a trip somewhere? Travelling without a planned agenda means you might have to eat unfamiliar food and your mealtimes might be delayed. Firstly, come up with a schedule to work out your activities, mealtimes and break times. If you are travelling in a group, make sure you keep your members aware of your requirements. Secondly, make sure you’re able to order food that fits with your meal plan or pack your own. Thirdly, pack your medications, supplies and healthy snacks in a cooler and away from direct sunlight. Lastly, remember to have fun!

Go for your diabetes checkup

Have you gone for your regular health screening? Even in the busy year-end period, going for your checkup is vital to ensure you’re fit for travel. Discuss with your doctor about your plans and seek advice on how to adjust your insulin doses and what activities to avoid if they are not safe for you. If you’re travelling abroad, you may need more medicine prescriptions in case you run out or misplace them. Additionally, you may need to ask your doctor for a letter for the medical supplies you're bringing into another country. 

Stay physically active at home

If you plan to stay home instead, keep your body moving by breaking from long bouts of inactivity. You don’t need expensive equipment or gym memberships to keep yourself physically fit. Plenty of home workout routines can be low-impact and still a load of fun. Try playing badminton, cycling, dancing or walking. Are your family members coming down for a visit? Let them join in the fun with some family Zumba. Just 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your weight management. Exercise also has many proven benefits besides helping you lose weight; It strengthens your heart, combats chronic conditions and improves memory. 

Engage a support system

Diabetes never sleeps. As tempting as it may be to let loose during the holidays, it’s crucial to religiously stick to your diabetes discipline. But you don’t have to go at it alone. Enlist support from close family, friends or support groups to help keep you accountable in your journey of living with diabetes. Having a strong support system can give you the motivation you need to stay in control of your condition. Ask your close contacts to help you keep track of your diet and accompany you in performing your daily activities.

Brace yourself for the endless food parade

Another important step to making this a successful holiday is to keep your diet in check. Fortunately, keeping a healthy diabetic diet does not mean you’ll have to miss out on your favourite foods forever. What it does mean though is that you’ll have to be well aware of what you put into your body. This is especially necessary during the holiday season when you have lunch and dinner reservations lined up with family and friends. 

Plan your meals ahead of time

Going to a dinner party at your parents’ place? Plan your meals during the day so you can compensate for what you’ll be having that night. A diabetic diet requires the discipline of meal preparations and normal mealtimes. Nevertheless, family functions can be tough when you don’t know what you will be served. Why not let your host know about your regular mealtime and dietary requirements? Maybe you experimented with a healthy recipe for diabetics during the lockdown. Try sharing the recipe with your host. Most people will be happy to accommodate your preferences because they care about your well being, too.

Control your pace and space

If you’re going to a buffet, a great trick is to take a smaller plate so you can exercise portion control. Choose healthier carbohydrates, plant-based foods and healthier fats. Once you have filled your plate with the necessary nutrients, step away from the buffet aisle. Then, take your time to eat and chew your food. Chewing your food thoroughly prevents overeating and promotes better digestion and absorption. Experts say you need to chew your bites at least 32-40 times before swallowing, depending on the texture. An additional tip: Don’t drink water while you eat because it dilutes your enzymes, making it harder to break down your food.

Stay healthy with a variety

Choose wisely what you put on your plate: Start with foods that are rich in fibre and nutrients like leafy greens, broccoli or beans. These fibre-rich foods are packed with energy to help you eat less and slow your sugar absorption, at the same time. It’s also a good idea to take less salt and processed food as they are bad for your heart. All that said, it can be tough to remember what’s good for you and what’s not. Try playing a little game of Eat This, Not That:

● Eat whole grains or pasta, not white bread or white rice

● Try fish or turkey, not sausages or ham

● Take fresh fruits, not fruit-flavoured juices or alcoholic beverages

Avoid fad diets and the ‘alternatives’

Fad diets like ketogenic or palaeolithic diets have taken the Internet by storm. However, gaining popularity doesn’t make them right. These low-carb, high-fat dietary regimens may not be the best idea for two main reasons: 


  1. They completely eliminate vital food groups for diabetics like grains. 

  2. They encourage eating more saturated fats which are dangerous for diabetics. 


Food substitutes or ‘alternatives’ on the other hand is another popular trend online. Sugar-free foods and meal-replacement energy drinks apparently help you slim down but contain sugar alcohols that can cause stomach discomfort. Ultimately, you should speak to your doctor to evaluate which diet would be suitable for you.

Don’t put treats on your naughty list

Candies, ice cream, cookies, cakes—they’re everywhere your head turns during the festivities. You don’t want to let sugary goodness be your downfall, but you don’t have to deprive yourself either. It’s okay to have one or two of your favourite treats. As long as you know how to limit yourself and control your serving, nothing should stop you from a slice of Aunty Sheila’s heavenly custard pudding. Some of these desserts contain booze, so ask first before you down that scrumptious treat. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation but bear in mind its impact on your blood sugar as well as its interactions with your diabetes medication.

Keep in mind that this is no one-size-fits-all approach, but take it as advice to make healthier choices in your diabetes journey.

Manage your feelings about the holidays and diabetes

For many living with diabetes, the holidays can be an incredibly stressful time. Having to deal with the hassle of planning way over time and the unforeseen routine disruptions is no joke. And if that’s not enough, battling diabetes can be difficult when others don’t understand what you’re going through. For what it's worth, here is some advice to take one step at a time and learn to be kind to yourself. 

Deal with stress and anxiety 

Factually, the complications of diabetes come with stress and anxiety. There is evidence to suggest that anxiety is both a risk factor and an effect of diabetes. Thus, take note of the different anxiety symptoms such as rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, nervousness, gastrointestinal problems, lethargy and insomnia. In some cases, anxiety can also cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and/or panic attacks in which case you should see a doctor as soon as you can. Always remember to check your blood sugar and pressure levels so you can prevent any severe symptoms.

Catch up on some sleep

One in two individuals with type 2 diabetes may struggle with sleep disturbances, insomnia and next-day fatigue. This is due to the unstable blood sugar levels, especially during the night. These can lead to worse sleep disorders if not dealt with. Besides carefully managing your blood sugar levels and maintaining a stable sleep schedule, other ways to improve your sleep quality are:

● Try Meditation and muscle relaxation techniques 

● Lower the temperature and light settings in your bedroom

● Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and long screen time

● Consider sleep aids like melatonin

Remember, you are not what you eat

When it comes to family reunions, some things are better left unsaid. Yet, some people find a way to say hurtful words anyway. Regardless of what’s been said and done, don’t take the matter to heart. Instead, learn to be the bigger person and forgive any careless remarks. It will take time to rebuild the trust that’s been lost. Give yourself the time and patience. Perhaps, your biggest critic is none other than yourself. When you find yourself battling with unrealistic expectations, understand that your diabetes journey is more than just what you eat. It is your road to becoming a healthier individual with a healthier mindset. 

Reward yourself with things you love

Furthermore, recognise your individual worth by celebrating all the milestones you’ve achieved on your road to recovery. Needless to say, doing things for yourself can improve your confidence and self-esteem. Perhaps you caught something at the mall that made your eyes light up, like a shiny new watch or a fancy fit to wear at festive parties. If you’re looking for something more practical, invest in wearable technologies like a medical-grade smartwatch that helps you monitor your health or diabetic socks that help improve blood flow. Or maybe all you want is a day off: Pamper yourself with a spa night and some night tea. 

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

Finally, the holiday season is a time of love and thanksgiving. A gratitude attitude keeps you grounded in reality as well as helps you channel positive thoughts and feelings. What are some things that you are grateful for? Create a list of 5 things you are grateful for in your journal every day. You can name people, things, events or experiences. This will aid in coping with diabetes or any other chronic distress. Other than that, remind yourself to relax and enjoy all the exciting experiences. Most importantly, cherish this time with the people you love.

Taking care of your diabetes

About 3.6 million Malaysians live with diabetes. We have walked the journey with numerous families and their loved ones with trusted in-home diabetes care. From physical exercises to vital signs monitoring to post-surgery care, you can count on our Care Professionals to take good care of your loved one with diabetes. Want to learn how we can help with diabetes care and management? Speak to our Care Advisors today.

Homage is a personal healthcare solution that connects caregivers, nurses and therapists with seniors that need on-demand holistic home care in their own homes, allowing them to recover and age with grace, control and dignity. You can find Homage Malaysia on Facebook at @homagecaremy and Instagram at @homagecare_my



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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Living With Diabetes. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/index.html 

  3. Diabetes.co.uk. (2019). Diabetes and Anxiety. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.diabetes.co.uk/emotions/diabetes-and-anxiety.html 

  4. Hoskins, D. (2018). Retrieved November 5, 2021, from Sleeping Aids and Diabetes.https://www.healthline.com/diabetesmine/sleep-aids-and-diabetes#1 

  5. Pacheco, D. (2020). Lack of Sleep and Diabetes. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/lack-of-sleep-and-diabetes 

  6. Revelant, J. (2020). The Diabetes-Anxiety Connection: How to Spot the Signs and Find Relief. Everyday Health. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diabetes/symptoms/diabetes-anxiety-connection-how-spot-signs-find-relief/ 

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