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The Sweet Life: A Guide to the Holidays with Type 1 Diabetes

Regardless of your ethnic or religious background, you most likely hold holiday traditions involving family, food, and festivities near to your heart. It’s important to include your child with diabetes in family meals and traditions during the holidays—and it can be done. Just have a strategy, and make sure it involves some of your child’s favorite foods! In anticipation of a party or family get-together, consider these suggestions.

Plan a pre-meal activity like flag football, sled riding, a snowball fight, or a walk. Increasing your child’s physical activity before they eat extra carbohydrates is a great way to keep their blood sugar levels in check. Getting the entire family involved helps keep the focus off the child with diabetes.

Know what’s on the menu. If you are not preparing the meal yourself, ask the host. Finding out key ingredients in a dish can help you plan carbohydrate counts. Ask your child what foods they would most like to have for their meal. Attempt to stay close to their normal meal carbohydrate count or to go just slightly over.

Tips for getting through mealtime

  • Veggies and lean proteins are great options.
  • Hydrate! Drinking water helps the body to rid itself of sugar. Also, drinking water may fill you up a bit, making it a bit less tempting to graze on unhealthy foods.
  • Be sure to save some carbs for dessert if this is important to your child.
  • If there are leftovers, why not pack up a few of your child’s favorites they did not get to try for a take-home meal for later? This way, they will get the chance to have all their favorites.

This chart of common holiday foods can help you draw up a game plan: http://beyondtype1.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/CarbChartHolidaysRed.jpg

Talking to your child’s provider may help. Does your child have an insulin pump? You may want to have a discussion with their endocrine provider about turning up their basal insulin rate for meals in which their food consumption will be greater than normal and possibly throughout the night.

Check your child’s blood sugar levels more frequently during these holiday meals. Plan to test throughout the night, as testing often is key to adequately manage blood sugar spikes.

Keep the focus on family and friends, not on food. Lastly, and most importantly, remember the reason for the season. Include time for exercise, meals, and relaxation. The holidays will be more enjoyable if your child is in good health.

Our resources page has more information on helping your child enjoy a healthy, active life with type 1 diabetes. You can also call UPMC Health Plan pediatric case managers at 1-866-778-6073. We are happy to help with diabetes education, resources, and tips.

Here’s to a fun holiday season!