Jeanette Terry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old, and she has since lived with diabetes through difficult life transitions, including the teenage years, college, and having children. She addresses the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes—going beyond medical advice—to improve overall adherence and management.  

Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time spent with family and friends. However, it can also be a dreadful time for your diabetes control if you are not careful. It is extremely easy to get wrapped up in holiday festivities and activities that take your mind away from your diabetes. And if you deviate from your regular daily routine on Thanksgiving it can make balancing your blood sugars even harder. But it is possible to have a great time and enjoy this day and season without losing control of diabetes. Here are a few tips to help keep your blood sugar levels in check:

First, make a plan. If you are not hosting Thanksgiving yourself, talk with the host to find out what food is planned. This can give you an idea ahead of time about what to expect. Not only should you plan your Thanksgiving meal, but food for the entire day. If the holiday meal is scheduled for a time that is different than you normally would eat, make sure you take it into consideration as you plan the rest of the day’s meals. Don’t overdo it on other meals or you won’t be able to enjoy all of your holiday favorites.

Next, plan your carbs. Once you learn the time of day and the food that is planned for the Thanksgiving meal, plan the rest of your carbs for the day. You know you will probably be eating more during the main meal than you normally would in one sitting, so try to make your other meals smaller and very low in carbs. Start your day with a high protein breakfast that is low in carbs, and then avoid wasting your carbs on snacks as the day continues. By lowering your carb intake throughout the day, you can allow yourself more of the carb-loaded dishes that the Thanksgiving meal is known for.

Even if you plan well, you will still not achieve good blood-sugar control if you don’t practice a little restraint. When you are filling up your plate, think portion control. Allow yourself to try everything, but maybe not seconds and thirds of everything. Listen to your body. When you are full you should stop eating. Overeating has been the culprit for many miserable Thanksgiving nights over the years. Not only can it leave you feeling stuffed, but your blood sugar will go through the roof and it may take days before you feel like yourself again.

The final tip is, when in doubt, test your blood sugar. Testing often throughout the day will help you know what your body is doing and what you should and shouldn’t consume. Just because your schedule may be off doesn’t mean you get a day off from testing your blood sugar regularly. If anything, test more often to make sure you are where you should be.

Above all, just relax and enjoy yourself. Stress can mess with your blood sugar levels too, so try your best to enjoy the holiday and all that comes with it.

For more on Thanksgiving and diabetes:

What to Eat - and What to Avoid - This Thanksgiving
The Emotional Side of Sticking to Your Diet Over the Holidays