Tips for juggling T1D during the holidays


Holidays are a time of magic made up of sparkling lights, the piney scent of Christmas trees, bows and ribbons, hot chocolate and sweet and savory food. It’s a time to enjoy the company of friends and family at festive celebrations. It’s also a time that can be challenging for people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). During this time of year, it’s important to remember that having T1D doesn’t mean missing out on the celebrations.

Cassie Stevens’s son Will was diagnosed with T1D when he was fourteen years old. She recalls, “During the first year of diagnosis, I pretty much boycotted Easter because of the candy. That was frustrating for Will and probably not my best moment. Now during the holidays, he can eat whatever he wants; he just has to cover for it.”

Cassie’s best advice to other parents? “Let your child have fun. You won’t get it right every time. So you test, correct, and try again.”

Diabetes Research Institute’s Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN, says that when it comes to holidays and special events, pre-planning can be very helpful.

“It’s important to enjoy family holidays and special functions,” Susan says. “It’s not just about the food. What do the holidays mean to you besides food? Try to be mindful in your choices. Savor the flavor of whatever you choose to eat, and listen to your body’s satiety cues.”

Marci Tatham is one of four people in her family with T1D, and she was diagnosed a few days before Christmas. Having a supportive and empathetic family helps her navigate the stressors of the holidays.

“It can be extra challenging with all the decadent foods around during the holidays,” Marci shares, “but I feel confident at this point with my T1D that I can make the necessary corrections to ensure my numbers stay in check.”

Navigate the holidays with T1D using these tips that will decrease the stress and increase the fun:

  • Stay active. You’ll feel better and have more energy, and it will balance off some of those extra treats, whether your chief concern is blood-glucose control, weight management or both.
  • Don’t skip meals before a party. Instead, eat regular meals that include carbs, protein and a little fat. It will help keeps your appetite and blood sugars controlled.
  • Plan ahead. Learn the carb count of the holiday foods you love. Make a plan to fit them in, so you don’t feel deprived on the holidays.
  • Eat mindfully. When offered a high fat or high carb holiday treat, consider whether you really want it. Are you hungry? Is it something you love? Or would you just be eating it because it’s there? If you save those choices for the things you really love, it will help keep things merry and moderate.
  • Test blood glucose frequently.
  • Be kind to yourself. Remember, holiday season comes once a year. If your blood glucose spikes or drops, correct and move on.

Remember that there is more to the holidays than food. Enjoy your friends and family and embrace this magical time of year!