How To Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable While Enjoying Holiday Foods, From An MD
From the start of fall to New Year's Day, we are exposed to pumpkin spice everything, rich and creamy holiday comfort foods (buttery mashed potatoes, anyone?), and party cocktails galore. But the bigger question is: How do we enjoy our favorite holiday treats without spiking our blood sugar? As a functional medicine doctor, here are my top six tips for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels so you can fully engage in holiday festivities:
Practice mindful eating.
First things first: It's completely OK to have your favorite dessert on hand and to indulge in that treat—I just wouldn't recommend doing so repeatedly over time. This tends to happen with leftover Thanksgiving sweets, for example. Instead of keeping three different types of pies in your kitchen, send family members or friends home with a few slices.
While you shouldn't deprive yourself of eating these tasty desserts (definitely don't give them all away!), indulging in leftover pumpkin pie every night for three or four days can take a toll on blood sugar.
Sneak in a workout.
If you know you're going to your bestie's Friendsgiving, try working up an appetite beforehand. Sneaking in a quick high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout is a great way to do that.
Not only do you get a great sweat in a short amount of time, but it also revs up your metabolism and stabilizes your blood sugar. If you have extra time, add in some strength training.
Eat satiating snacks.
Eat protein- and fiber-filled snacks before you go to a holiday gathering. Oftentimes we fill up on bread, crackers, chips, etc., once we arrive at a party because we've been waiting to eat until we get there. I highly encourage snacking on nourishing and satiating food before you go so your brain can make wiser, healthier decisions and keep you from spoiling the main event: your dinner.
Protein bars, nuts, and flaxseed crackers are some of my favorite snacks to munch on before social events—I know they'll keep me full and won't spike my blood sugar.
Try intermittent fasting.
When you know you're going to be eating a large amount of food at a holiday dinner party, you could consider shortening the window in which you eat. Try to be mindful of not eating too late at night (if you can help it) and also what time you eat your first meal the next morning.
Try to maintain a 12-hour fast, and work your way up if you've been intermittent fasting for a while. Always talk to your doctor to find out if IF is safe for you because there are many people (breastfeeding or pregnant mamas, diabetics, people with a history of eating disorders, etc.) who may be at more risk.
For people with dietary restrictions, like myself, it's so important to plan ahead. You don't ever want to be caught somewhere with nothing to eat. You're either going to be so hungry that you eat whatever you see and subsequently feel unwell. Or you'll get miserable and hangry without any options.
I always encourage anyone with specific food needs to bring options that are allergen- and dietary-restriction-friendly, whether they're at their mom's holiday party, a work event, or a social gathering.
Drink in moderation.
Alcohol can disrupt your sleep and spike your blood sugar. I recommend sticking to a two-drink minimum, spread throughout the night—sip and enjoy, don't down it!
The holidays are a time to spend in the company of loved ones, and this year is particularly special since many people didn't get to do that last year. Be sure to be mindful, eat great food, and soak up quality time with the people you love—all while sneaking in healthy decisions throughout the day.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who studied family medicine at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Georgia with a bachelor's of science in biology and psychology in 2004 and her doctor of medicine at American University of Antigua College of Medicine in 2010. She completed an integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil. She is also currently working on her functional medicine training with the Institute of Functional Medicine. Her interests include integrative, holistic, and functional medicine; women's health; preventive medicine; international medicine; and health care reform. She's also a certified yoga instructor and Reiki master. She enjoys writing and educating everyone on important health matters.