Jeanette Terry, T1D, addresses the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes to help improve overall adherence and management.

I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays…well, mostly love. But I do hate that I can’t control my cravings or food choices very well. There are just so many delicious things to eat. All holidays are hard for me to deal with diet-wise, because I have a hard time sticking to healthy food choices in social eating situations. But in the final weeks of the year when we have one holiday after another, it seems to turn into a very long stretch of poor diabetes management.

I have set goals in the past to limit my indulgences, but when the time actually comes I always seem to give in to oh-so-delicious but oh-so-bad-for-you food that is plentiful at holiday gatherings. So this year I am starting early and am going to practice and try my best to train myself to automatically say no to food that I know will throw off my blood sugar levels. When the time comes, I am going to be ready to turn down those creamy, buttery, perfect mashed potatoes and that large piece of pie.

It’s a mental game. You have to prepare yourself so that when it’s time to make that decision it won’t be a matter of choosing what will taste best, it will be about choosing what is best for your diet and your diabetes. That can be a hard adjustment to make, because if you are like me, food is the number one thing that makes the holidays merry and bright. But I sure don’t feel merry and bright after I make poor food choices or overeat or do anything else that throws my blood sugar out of whack. So let’s work together on doing better. I would like to share three steps I’m taking that can help you make healthy food choices at holiday gatherings.

1. Make a list

Make a list of all of the delicious things that you know will be around during the holidays or at a specific get-together. Pick one or two of the items on the list that you will allow yourself to eat in a conservative portion size. You do deserve to enjoy a little bit of holiday goodness; just don’t go overboard. Next, review the rest of the list and practice in your head how you will turn down those food items. For example, before Halloween I remind myself over and over how I will leave the bowl of trick-or-treat candy and my children’s stash alone. For Thanksgiving, I bring in reinforcements because that is my favorite holiday and the most difficult time for me not to overeat. So I tell my husband to help me make good choices. If I go back for seconds or start to head for one of the off-limit food items on my list, he reminds me lovingly but sternly that I will feel horrible for the rest of the week if I don’t stick to my plan.

2. Don't keep sweets lying around

In training myself to make good food choices it is important to not keep sweets lying around. There is a lot of treat sharing during the holidays, and an amazing number of plates of goodies end up at my house. How can you resist them when they’re sitting out where you see them again and again? So whenever a new plate arrives, I taste one of the items and get rid of the rest. You can give them away to someone else or just throw them out. You may feel bad about treating a gift like that, but in the long run you would feel worse when your blood sugar spikes every time you eat more.

3. Make the holiday special

Do something else to make the holiday special. So many holidays are centered around food that it can be a letdown if you don’t participate in that part of the holiday. So find other ways to enjoy that time with family and friends. Whether it’s playing games, telling family stories, or going to a holiday music performance, use your imagination and make some new traditions where the focus isn’t on food.

4 Holidays should be happy!

The holidays are a special time. Don’t waste that time either feeling crummy from eating unhealthy food or feeling left out because you avoided a food-centered tradition. It can be very hard to retrain your brain, and it will take some time. But in the end it will be worth it because after the holidays you will feel your best and won’t regret your choices. Help your holidays to be happier by taking the time to remember what each holiday is about and making new memories with your loved ones that will last for years to come.

What helps you to make better food choices during the holidays? Share your best tip by commenting below.