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Managing Diabetes through the Holidays

November is American Diabetes Month, a month committed to raising awareness for pre-diabetics and the disease itself. November also means the holidays are fast approaching. The holidays are a time to spend with family and friends. Having diabetes and managing it during this time can be difficult because the focus is primarily on food.  With the right mindset, and some planning, the holidays can be a wonderful time to enjoy healthy and delicious foods while staying on track to keep diabetes under control.

As a diabetic, planning is key when it comes to medications, meal times, and portions. Special events, like the holidays, can sometimes be cause for some concern when it comes to making the right food choices. It is important while managing diabetes that meals and snacks are scheduled and controlled through portions, and the inclusion of the right and appropriate amount of carbohydrates. During the holidays, it can become more difficult to manage the timing of meals because they may be eaten earlier or later than normal. The holidays can also pose a problem because the healthiest options may not be available. Most foods are higher in fat, calories, and carbohydrates and many times are followed by high sugar desserts. Portion sizes may be more difficult to control because there are more choices at the dinner table at the holidays. With so much to keep in mind, here are some simple tips that people with diabetes can practice to keep blood sugar in control.

Tips for a healthy holiday:

  • If your meal will be later than normal have a small snack at your normal meal time
    See Apple Crisp Recipe below
  • Be selective with your food choices, only put your favorite foods on the plate
  • If you want to try every food, try only a little bit of everything
  • Encourage your family and friends to use smaller plates, a smaller plate means smaller portions
  • If you want dessert, share  with someone else, or plan to eat less carbohydrates during mealtime
  • Eat slow, enjoy your meal
  • When drinking alcohol avoid drinks with soda or mixers, these are usually higher is calories and sugar
  • If you are having an alcoholic drink, have it with meals or snacks to avoid low blood sugar later
  • Offer to bring dessert ( bring something that is diabetic friendly)
  • Physical activity after meals helps control blood sugar, take a walk with family and friends or play football in the yard

How to measure portions at the dinner table (everyone at the table can use these tips):

  • Fist= 1 cup or 1 serving of raw vegetables , 1 serving of cooked vegetables is ½ cup or half of the fist, 1 serving of rice or pasta is 1/3 of a cup or 1/3 of the fist
  • Palm of the hand= 3 oz., 3 oz. of meat or fish is a standard portion
  • Thumb= 1 tablespoon, 1 serving of butter
  • Tip of Thumb= 1 teaspoon


Holiday Recipes:

Apple Crisp

Cooking spray
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons margarine, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups peeled, sliced red apples (about 5 apples)

Preheat oven to 375⁰ F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, oats, margarine, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Blend with a fork until moistened (mixture should be crumbly). Layer apples in a pan and sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over top. Back 30 minutes.
1 Serving= ½ cup
145 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrate

Creamy Cheesy Cauliflower


10 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower, about 2 heads
2 teaspoons butter
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ cups 1% milk
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons finely minced parsley


Add 4 quarts of water to a 6-quart saucepan. Bring the water to a boil. Add the cauliflower, and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Drain. Set aside.

  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes until soft, making sure they do not turn brown. Combine the flour and milk, and whisk until very smooth. Add to the onions and garlic, bring to a simmer, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the cheese, and fold in the cauliflower. Garnish with parsley.
  • 1 serving = 1/3 cup
  • 90 calories, 12 grams of carbohydrate


The holidays should be both a happy and healthy experience. The tips above offer guidance to allow diabetics to understand the importance of managing blood sugar while enjoying the experience of a special time of year. Planning, portion control, and mindfulness will make the holidays a little bit tastier.


  • American Diabetes Association. Holiday Meal Planning. Accessed October 27, 2015.
  • American Diabetes Association. Six Holiday Tips. October 27, 2015.
  • National Diabetes Education Program. Helpful Hints for Holiday Eating. Accessed October 27, 2015.
  • Bobroff, L, Hillan J, Minton, E. Healthy Eating: Nutrition and Diabetes. Elder Nutrition and Food Safety. August 2011.
  • American Diabetes Association. Creamy Cheesy Cauliflower. Accessed October 27, 2015.
  • American Diabetes Association. Apple Crisp. Accessed October 27, 2015.


The Key to Family Health

 October is National Family Health Month. The Key to family health is bringing families together and building connections and traditions that last a lifetime.

Do you feel like you spend more time away from your family working hard to improve your quality of life? Don’t let all your hard work get in the way of spending quality time with your family. A healthy family is a happy family!
Spending time together as a family can help improve overall health and emotional well-being.

Three keys to improve Family Health are:
  • Healthy Eating
  • Open Communication
  • Physical Activity

Healthy Eating

Making healthy food choices for your family doesn’t mean it has to be dreary. Healthy eating can include a variety of foods, and we know the best foods are the ones prepared and eaten with loved ones.
Include all family members when preparing meals. It’s more likely that family members who participate in meal preparation will be more inclined to eat it. It’s definitely a great opportunity to incorporate all five food groups during dinner time to make a healthy balanced meal; these include: Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Protein and Dairy. Consuming a well-balanced diet on a daily basis can help decrease the risk of diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular and diabetes.
Most kids love pizza! So, preparing your own pizza at home and choosing healthy ingredients can be a great way to be together while satisfying everyone’s personal favorite foods. Individual flat breads are great base for thin crust pizzas. Make sure to choose whole or multigrain for the most nutritious option. Each family member can prepare their own pizza by adding delicious and colorful healthy toppings. Once you’re done selecting toppings, place it in the oven for a quick nutritious meal.

Recommendations for toppings include: Choose at least one from each category for a balanced meal.
Vegetables: mushrooms, bell peppers (all colors), spinach, arugula (add after cooking pizza), eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, tomato, onions, olives or any other favorite vegetable you would like
Fruit: pineapple, fresh avocado slices (add after cooking pizza)
Protein: chicken, ham, turkey, lean shredded beef, beans, tofu, turkey bacon, low sodium pepperoni
Dairy: low fat cheeses such as mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, feta
Grains: whole grain flat wrap, spinach flat wrap or whole grain pizza dough
Herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro, garlic, rosemary, parsley, dried chili powder, sage

You can also make your own sauce by blending a few fresh ingredients such as basil, olive oil, and garlic to make a nice homemade pesto sauce. Choose tomato for a more traditional pizza.  

Open Communication

width="238"Family meals allow parents to be role models while creating a healthy environment for kids. Now that you’ve got everyone involved in meal preparation, it’s a great time to communicate and talk to your kids about their day while sitting around the table to eat together. This allows family members to stay engaged and involved in what’s happening while being away all day. It’s also a healthy way of making all members of the family feel included and important. Communication involves active listening and asking open-ended questions, or starting an open-ended conversation. Try not to ask questions that will require a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Here are some tips for starting conversations with your kids:
“Tell me something fun you did today at school”.
“What kind of interesting projects do you have going on in school this week?”
“Who is your favorite teacher?”
A good conversation starter could include an experience you had when you were in school that your child could relate to and you can ask them if they’ve had a similar experience.

Physical Activity

width="238"After sharing dinner with your family, make it a routine to get up and be active together. Being active can help you decrease stress and improve mood and behaviors. It also helps keep your heart healthy and in shape, which can decrease the risk of heart disease and several other health conditions. It can also help manage diseases you might already have.  All it takes is at least 30 minutes a day. Being active together with your family can motivate and encourage you to help each other be healthy and stay healthy. 
Tips for being active with family:

  • Turn the TV off: Leave electronics and headphones at home and go out for a 30 minute walk together. Engage in conversation which will help you regulate your breathing while being active. It might even make the time go faster when you get carried away in conversation. If watching TV, use the commercial breaks to get up and do jumping jacks, pushups, sit ups or squats.
  • Question Game: When you’re out being active with family, play the question game and take turns asking questions while incorporating different exercises. This adds a little fun in your activity and it’s a good way to learn new things about each other.
  • Compete: While doing activities it’s always good to challenge and compete so you can motivate and encourage each other to work hard. Take turns seeing who can do more lunges or who can run the fastest. For bigger families, break up into teams so you can cheer each other on.
  • Help the environment: Have everyone in the family grab a trash bag and gloves and then head to the park. Pick up any trash you see as fast as you can. This can help your heart rate increase which can be great exercise, all while helping the environment.

Sources used:
UF/IFAS Extension. Healthy Living: Beating barriers to Physical Activity. Accessed October 9, 2015.
UF/IFAS Extension. Benefits of family meals. Accessed October 9, 2015.
UF/IFAS Extension. Family Nutrition: A recipe for good Communication. Accessed October 9, 2015.
Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition. Family dinners in a flash.      Accessed October 9, 2015.
Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition. Family Meals: Small investment, big payoff. Accessed October 9, 2015.


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