Diabetic diet, Diet, Living with Diabetes

Diabetes During Holidays

Yummy carbohydrates to think about when you have diabetes during holidays.. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa food is undoubtedly the .

Yummy carbohydrates to think about when you have diabetes during holidays..

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa food is undoubtedly the star of the celebration. This special time of the year is filled with joy, traditions, family, friends and calories too. How do your holiday favorites stack up? Should diabetes hold you back from enjoying these delicious holiday goodies? I think it’s not a bad idea to review what is really in them. This will allow you to make reasonable choices and help you decide on portion sizes. Also remember to consult with your endocrinologist or diabetes specialist. Yes, holidays are here. So Diabetes and Holidays. Do they clash?


Holiday drinks patients with diabetes need to know about
Holidays and diabetes


This traditional holiday drink dates back hundreds of years and is sure to set you back several hundred calories. Well, that would be perfectly fine as long as you control your portion size, you can certainly enjoy it. Let us review what is in eggnog. Like many of the holiday favorites listed here, it can be homemade or commercially prepared.

  • Eggnog can contain over 300 calories per cup, 36g of carbohydrates per cup and over 30g of sugar. Keep in mind that any alcohol added increases calories and also insulin secretion resulting in low blood sugars.

What do diabetes doctors say? Our diabetes specialist Dr. Ergin says a healthier alternative to Eggnog would be Vanilla chai tea. Chai tea is an unsweetened black tea, chai tea by itself contains no fat or cholesterol and is a calorie-free drink. A chai tea latte made with chai spices, black tea and skim, soy, or almond milk is a lighter option if you want something creamy. This delicious alternative can be sweetened with sugar alternatives.

Monitor your blood sugars before and after consuming these carbs. If you have remote glucose monitoring, your coach or diabetes doctor will be able to help you remotely as well


Hot Chocolate

It doesn’t matter if you live in a warm or cold climate, hot chocolate is a holiday drink that is a long-loved favorite. Nutritional values vary greatly based on how it’s prepared. For most, using whole milk provides the creamiest and tastiest outcome. With diabetes, can you have it? Absolutely, but know how much you can safely enjoy. Here is a summary:

  • 1 cup (8 fl. Oz) of homemade hot chocolate contains about 192 calories, 26.7g of carbohydrates, 24.2g of sugar and 5.8g of total fat.
  • Calories can be reduced if low fat milk is substituted for the whole milk. Keep in mind marshmallows added to top off the hot chocolate are excluded from this nutritional breakdown. Popular commercially produced marshmallows contain about 100 calories for a serving size of 1.1 oz, 24g of carbohydrates and 20g of sugar!

Remember, if you are on insulin ask your diabetes specialist or endocrinologist about how much insulin you need to take for carbs you consume.

Gingerbread Anything!

Gingerbread definitely a sweet treat to be mindful of this holiday season. The nutritional facts for Gingerbread can vary greatly since some may be store-bought or homemade, small or large. They may also be decorated in an array of gumdrops, icing, chocolate, licorice…you name it! Let’s look at those iconic mouthwatering Gingerbread men cookies.

  • A large Gingerbread cookie (about 3oz) contains about 340 calories, 59g of carbohydrates, 22g of sugar and about 10g of fat.
  • A small Gingerbread cookie (about 1.4oz) contains about 160 calories, 29g of carbohydrates, 14g of sugar, and 3g of fat.

Size and portion control remain key for enjoying this treat. However, compared to serving size, this cookie is calorie dense at about 114 calories per ounce.


Holiday treats for diabetics
Holidays and Diabetes


It’s that inevitable sight at many holiday gatherings. Fruitcake is a mosaic of colorful ingredients and is often purchased prepared but can also be homemade. Before noting the nutritional facts one top question is “What are the green specks and chunks in the Fruitcake?” The green pieces are actually artificially colored candied cherries which of course accompany the red candied cherries, candied pineapple and nuts. So, here is how this treat can affect your diabetes. You can discuss this also with your diabetes coach or diabetes educator.

  • 1 piece of a 1.5oz commercially prepared Fruitcake contains about 139 calories, 26.5g of carbohydrates, 12.8g of sugar and 3.9g of fat.

Fruitcake is one of those holiday foods that you either love or hate. So, if you love your Fruitcake just keep portion control in mind when enjoying as with all the other holiday favorites

Candy canes

These iconic striped sweets that adorn Christmas trees all over the world are something nobody can ignore. Many times, you’re left with candy canes well into the new year after deconstructing the Christmas tree. So, here’s what you need to know about this Christmas candy.

  • 1 standard candy cane contains about 30 calories, 14g of carbohydrates, 14g of sugar and 0g of fat.

With correct amount and right diabetes medication you should be able to handle these carbs during this time of the year

Peppermint Bark

Another treat directly related to the candy cane is that yummy peppermint bark! This again is one of those sweets that can be commercially purchased or homemade.

  • 1 serving (1.2oz) which is 3 squares of a common commercially produced peppermint bark contains about 200 calories, 20g of carbohydrates, 19g of sugar and 13g of fat.

Again, your endocrinologist or diabetes doctor will advise you this: Moderation is key. If it’s a holiday must have, you can consider savoring one square instead of the serving size of 3 squares

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Pecan Pies

Pies are always an encore for holiday dinners. Some people favor either pumpkin, sweet potato or pecan pies. If you’re like me, you love them all! These delicious pies either commercially prepared or homemade pack a serious punch when it comes to calories, sugars and carbs. The nutritional facts below are based on typical commercially prepared pies.

  • Pumpkin Pie: 1 serving (1/6 of 8’’ pie about 4.7oz) contains about 279 calories, 36.3g of carbohydrates, 18.4g of sugar and 12.6g of total fat.
  • Sweet Potato Pie: 1 serving (about 4oz) contains about 300 calories, 43g of carbohydrates, 22g of sugar and 12g of total fat.
  • Pecan Pie: 1 serving (1/6 of 8’’ pie about 4.7oz) contains a whopping 531 calories, 76.1g of carbohydrates, 37.6g of sugar and 24.6g of total fat.

Keep in mind, the nutritional facts provided above are based on standard commercially prepared options. You can find countless recipes that use sugar substitutes like Splenda, if you wanted to reduce the overall sugar and calorie content. Ask your diabetes coach or diabetes educator for more recipes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the most loved cookies of all time. If your Christmas tradition involves leaving some of these out with milk for Santa (which ultimately results in, you munching on them leaving only crumbs as evidence of Santa’s existence for the children) this is for you. For this example, we used a popular brand of refrigerated cookie dough.

  • 1 cookie (0.7oz) contains about 90 calories, 12g of carbohydrates, 7g of sugar and 4.5g of total fat.

Many homemade reduced sugar recipes can be found and are actually quite tasty and easy to make.

I’m sure your endocrinologist or diabetes doctor won’t prohibit you from having one or two of these delicious cookies during theChristmas season.

Sugar Cookies

This generic cookie that we cut, shape and decorate on the holidays speaks for itself. “Sugar” cookie. Depending on the recipe or what brand of dough is used, determines the nutritional values. But for this example, we used another popular brand of refrigerated cookie dough.

  • 1 cookie (0.7oz) contains about 90 calories, 12g of carbohydrates, 6g of sugar and 4g of total fat.

Something to keep in mind: The nutritional facts provided do not include any decorating with icings or candy which can impact total calories, carbs and sugar dramatically. Ask your diabetes coach or diabetes educator for more guidance if needed.


Yummy food for diabetics
Diabetes and holiday sweets

Dinner Rolls

Passed around the table at most holiday dinners, rolls almost always make an appearance. The example used here is a popular brand of sweet butter rolls that you can pick up in your local bakery section.

  • 1 roll (1.1oz) contains about 100 calories, 16g of carbohydrates, 4g of sugar, 2.5g of total fat.

Another popular choice is that flaky crescent roll. This dough is found refrigerated, quick and easy to make so no wonder it’s a common choice.

  • 1 roll (1oz) contains 100 calories, 11g of carbohydrates, 3g of sugar and 6g total fat.

Our endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) says that many easy and delicious alternative options exist. Dr. Ergin says “try substituting for a whole wheat dinner roll and if you prefer a sweet roll, a honey oat dinner roll works great as a substitute”. These can be homemade or purchased.

Whole wheat is a good source of fiber which can slow the absorption of glucose into the blood. Whole grains also contain essential vitamins and minerals which makes them a better choice over refined carbohydrates. Whole wheat also has a lower glycemic index directly influencing blood glucose spikes.


Green Bean Casserole

This traditional Thanksgiving side dish once again appears for Christmas dinner in many homes. Since it’s green beans, you may think it’s a more innocent choice over the mac and cheese…but those fried onions say otherwise. The nutritional information provided below is for a homemade green bean casserole using the traditional choice of mushroom soup as well as the fried onions.

  • 1 Serving (0.75 cup) contains about 148 calories, 17g of carbohydrates and 8g of total fat.

Macaroni and Cheese

 This crowd pleaser of a side dish is the envy of every diet. It’s hard to resist the creamy, cheesy comfort of a good mac and cheese. But this is definitely a “must watch” for many. Here, we’ve used nutritional facts based on a typical homemade recipe and will vary based on recipe ingredients.

  • 1 cup contains about 492 calories, 54g of carbohydrates, 13g of saturated fat and an astonishing 909mg of sodium.

This is one of the choices patients with diabetes will hear from a diabetes specialist  to avoid. If they are using remote glucose monitoring more than likely blood sugar alarms will go off. But once again, portion control.

Potato Latkes

A delicious Hanukkah staple, potato latkes provide that savory salty goodness while the applesauce couples to add that needed sweetness to balance out this glorious dish. The provided nutritional facts are based on a typical potato latke recipe and can vary.

  • 1 medium-sized latke (2 oz.) contains about 100 calories, 13g of carbohydrates and 5g of total fat.
  • 1 cup of Applesauce contains about 166 calories, 43g of carbohydrates, 36g of sugar and 0.4g total fat.

Ask your diabetic coach for more guidance if needed.


Wine makes a great pairing with any dinner, holiday dinners included. Below are standard nutrition facts for popular wine choices to accompany meals.

  • Pinot Noir (10% alc.): A 5.0 fl. oz. serving size contains about 123 calories with 3.4g of carbohydrates.
  • Cabernet Suavignon Red (10% alc.): 5 fl. oz. serving size contains about 124 calories, with 3.8g of carbohydrates.
  • Pinot Grigio: 5. fl. Oz. serving size contains about 114 calories with 4g of carbohydrates.
  • Moscato: 5 fl. Oz. serving size contains about 127 calories with 11.4g of carbohydrates.

Looking at the above wine choices do you see a pattern? The sweeter the wine, the higher the carbohydrates. “Dry” wines tend to be lower in carbohydrates but should still be consumed with caution. On average, sugar-calorie content of wines depends on style.

  • Bone-Dry <1 sugar calories per glass
  • Dry 0-6 sugar calories per glass
  • Off-Dry 6–21 sugar calories per glass
  • Sweet 21–72 sugar calories per glass
  • Very Sweet 72–130 sugar calories per glass

Your endocrinologist or diabetes specialist will tell you that too much alcohol can also lead to low blood sugars especially when you are on insulin. Yet, all of these delicious traditional holiday favorites can certainly still be enjoyed. With so many scrumptious alternatives available for almost every dish, you can still savor the flavor you wait all year for. If you’re not in to trying an alternative option, portion control, medication adherence and glucose monitoring will go a long way to ensure you have a healthy and safe holiday.


Ahmet Ergin, MD, CDE, ECNU

Endocrinologist and Founder of SugarMDs

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