If you’re watching your blood sugar this holiday season, seasonal holiday goodies may be a stressor this year. While there’s not one specific food that can make or break your blood sugar, it’s important to understand how to navigate these events for balanced blood sugar to feel your best. We spoke to dietitians and diabetes experts to find out exactly what foods you might want to limit this year.
It’s not just what you choose to eat or not eat for good blood sugar; it’s also how you pair foods together to create a balanced meal or snack for your blood sugar.
“For better blood sugar control during the holiday season, avoid eating starchy foods on their own,” explains Alissa Palladino MS, RDN, LD, CPT. “Instead, I recommend pairing them with a protein source. This slows down digestion, prevents blood sugar spikes, and helps you feel fuller longer.”
It’s important to remember that no one food or meal can greatly affect your total blood sugar control. It’s up to you to decide what foods feel worth it or not at your holiday party, but we aim to equip you with the knowledge to make that decision yourself. Let’s find out exactly what foods dietitians recommend limiting at your next holiday party.
This traditional sauce, although delicious, is packed with added sugar. With 22 grams per serving, this side dish quickly reaches the added sugar dietary guidelines. The guidelines recommend limiting added sugar to 25 grams or less per day for your health. That means one serving of cranberry sauce is nearly 90% of the daily limit for added sugars.
To prevent blood sugar spikes, consider keeping your serving to just a dollop, and pair it with holiday protein options like turkey or ham for best blood sugar responses after the meal. If you are looking for a healthier alternative, consider making your own cranberry sauce instead to control the added sugar content.
If you’re looking for a snack to keep you full at a holiday event, crackers are not it. Crackers typically are not only going to spike your blood sugar, but you may also feel hungry again soon. Crackers tend to be a source of quick digesting carbohydrates that can spike your blood sugar after eating them.
If you want to feel full and energized without the blood sugar roller coaster, one dietitian has a solution for you.
“Replace crackers or chips with nuts or seeds,” says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD. “These add some protein, fiber, and healthy fat to your daily intake instead of refined carbs. Go for lightly salted and keep serving sizes to a few handfuls per day.”
Candy is tempting to pop in your mouth when it’s sitting out on the counter in front of you, but it won’t be doing your blood sugar any favors. However, this sweet treat is primarily comprised of added sugar, and will spike blood sugar very quickly, especially when eaten on an empty stomach. Additionally, there’s not much nutrition besides simple carbohydrates—which means that you might find yourself with high blood sugar and still hungry, and that never feels very good.
“Watch the candies. These can be tricky because they’re seemingly small and innocent. They’re everywhere during holidays—chocolate morsels from the Advent calendar or Almond Roca just because it’s available can have a big impact on blood sugars,” advises Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD.
These little morsels might be a family tradition, but they can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Made with powdered sugar, butter, and a splash of bourbon, these are as close to a sugar bomb as you can get. Of course, the added sugar is bound to spike your blood sugar, but the butter in this holiday treat takes a long time to digest, and thus, keeps blood sugar elevated for longer. Foods that are a mixture of sugar and fat, like bourbon balls, tend to elevate blood sugar for a longer duration after eating.