Holiday Meal Planning and Tips When You Have Diabetes

The holidays can be tough when you are working hard to manage your diabetes and trying to make appropriate choices when it comes to your diet. However, holiday meals and traditions don't have to disrupt your diabetes control. With a little preparation, you can be ready to enjoy your time with family and friends.

In addition to getting help from your doctor and care team, here are some tips to help you enjoy meals and gatherings while maintaining control of your blood sugar.

  1. Plan Ahead 
    Holidays can be stressful, especially for people with diabetes who have to think about monitoring their blood sugar. As much as you can, try to plan your meals, snacks, and medicine schedule in advance of any family gatherings, so you can fully enjoy the day while managing your blood sugar. 
  2. Think About the Timing of Your Meals and Snacks 
    Make a plan in advance for how you will make changes if a holiday meal does not line up with your regular meal or snack schedule. If you take insulin or other medicines, you may need to adjust your eating times to prevent hypoglycemia. Have foods to nibble on while you are cooking or waiting to eat, like veggies with a low-fat dip or a small apple with peanut (or another nut) butter. Check with your doctor if you have questions. 
  3. Be Physically Active 
    When you plan for your meals and snacks, also plan times to be physically active to help maintain your blood sugar, especially when you may be eating more than usual. Some ideas include taking a walk (ask family or friends if they want to join you), play your favorite music and move to the beat, try a chair workout, or play with a pet.
  1. Try Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Holiday Foods 
    There is a wide variety of diabetes-friendly holiday recipes on the internet. One good resource is the American Diabetes Association Diabetes Food Hub. It offers recipes from many cultures and has features that allow you to create a shopping list, save recipes, and build a meal plan. Try these ideas: 
  2. Be Selective and Eat Smaller Portions 
    Many holiday foods can be high in fat and/or calories: mashed potatoes, sweet potato casseroles, tortillas, stuffing, white rice, dinner rolls, noodles, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and other desserts. If you want to try everything, take one or two spoonfuls and balance your plate with vegetables and lean proteins. Use the "plate method" as a guide:  
    Plate Method 
  3. Eat Plenty of Vegetables 
    Vegetables without added fats or salt can help fill you and keep you from overeating. Examples include broccoli, collard greens, carrots, jicama, squash, bok choy, eggplant, green beans, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Try to resist the urge to add salt to your veggies. 
  4. Fit in Sweets Selectively 
    Holidays are special times, and most people can enjoy a small serving of their favorite dessert now and then. When you plan for it using the tips above, sweets can be included with your meals.


We encourage you continue to work with your doctor and care team to manage your diabetes. If you are due for a lab test, like the A1c test, mark it on your calendar since the end of the year can be busy. Visit to find a Kaiser Permanente lab near you.


Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, P.C. (Permanente) is our network of over 1,500 physicians who practice in our medical centers located in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.

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