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Slice of pie on a white plate with a cup of coffee sit on a blue table cloth.

Health Watch: Managing diabetes during the holidays

Pharmacy professor offers strategies for a healthier holiday season

The joy of end-of-the year holiday gatherings means the comforts of starchy dishes and sugary desserts. While most people can navigate the blood sugar spikes, those with a diabetes diagnosis can easily see blood sugar rise to high, unhealthy levels.

Jennifer Clements, the director of pharmacy education for USC’s College of Pharmacy at the Greenville campus, urges those who are at risk to think ahead with strategies beyond checking your blood sugar levels and counting carbohydrates. 

Background: Diabetes is a long-lasting health condition that impacts the body’s ability to turn consumed food into energy, resulting in an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. Impacting all social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds, Diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. with estimated cases reaching 37.3 million in 2022. 

Palmetto impact: According to the American Diabetes Association, 530,000 people, or about 13 percent of South Carolina’s adult population have diabetes and more than 35,000 people in the Palmetto State are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Additionally, nearly 35 percent of the adult population has prediabetes and many others are unaware of their health risks. 

Better choices, healthier holidays:

  • Be smart about the sides you chose, and during second helpings skip them entirely in favor of protein-packed turkey and nutrient-rich veggies.
  • Skip beverages with sugar or honey in favor of unsweetened tea, zero-sugar soda, water or sparkling flavored water.
  • Factor the dessert into your entire meal, as a small slice of pie can have as many or more carbohydrates than a full meal.
  • Taking a lengthy walk after eating can stabilize your blood sugar and help digestion.
  • Fix a plate of leftovers for the day after. It can help control carbohydrate consumption and prevent overeating, especially if you take sides you skipped during the main meal.

Getting it right: “As a person with diabetes, you can celebrate end-of-the-year holidays and be proactive with your choices,” Clements says. “Be mindful about portion sizes. Drink water with meals. Go for a 15-minute walk after meals. These tips can help your sugar levels during the holiday.”

USC’s Health Watch series helps readers deepen their understanding of the latest health recommendations and news through the expertise of our clinical faculty.