I can’t believe I ate the whole thing! Have you ever found yourself being offered a piece of pie at a holiday party or family gathering and asking for a sliver only to end up with an oversized slice? Oftentimes especially during the holiday season, we can go astray creating a plethora of unmindful mishaps with overdoing on those sugary seasonal treats and delights.
The good news is that breaking the cycle and maintaining balanced blood sugar levels are possible. It may not be easy if the support is not in place, but with a little bit of grit and determination, one can learn to maintain healthy blood sugar levels with a few simple lifestyle tips by RISE Next Health Summit Expert Dr. Will Cole.
Whether you have a diagnosed blood sugar problem or just want to avoid the ups and downs many of us experience over the holiday season, here are a few tips to incorporate into your end-of-year routine:
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help regulate blood sugar levels, even in those who are at risk for type 2 diabetes. One study, in particular, showed (9) that fasting improved blood sugar response in men—regardless of how much food they ate.
As you might guess, this makes fasting a great practice to adopt over the holidays. It’s also super simple. To get started, just leave a 14- to 16-hour window between dinner and breakfast the next day.
I know it’s tempting to sit on the couch this time of year, but if you can get active for just a few minutes every day, your blood sugar levels with thank you. It doesn’t really matter what you do—it could be something as simple as tennis or an at-home yoga routine. Or, opt for HIIT and resistance training, which have been shown to (10) improves glycemic control and insulin sensitivity.
If you haven’t had a chance to get active during the day, take a 10-minute walk after dinner. Studies have shown that walking after the main meal resulted in lower blood glucose levels. In fact, one showed that it reduced (11) blood glucose by around 12% compared to a 30-minute walk at any other time of day. Make it a family activity and invite everyone to go with you. The dishes can wait!
Of all the blood sugar offenders, sweetened beverages are probably the worst. Studies have shown that people who consume more than two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day have a 99% increased risk (12) of developing LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) and a 20% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you can avoid sweet cocktails, sodas, and high-sugar holiday drinks (I’m looking at you, pumpkin-spiced latte), you can drastically cut down your sugar intake without missing out on any of your favorite foods. Instead, keep your water bottle with you at all times and sip regularly. If you get bored with plain water, add some fresh lemon juice, a splash of blood-sugar balancing (13) apple cider vinegar, or pick up some sparkling water on your next grocery store run. Being properly hydrated will also help you avoid snacking mindlessly, as many people mistake thirst for hunger.
Cinnamon is famous for its blood-sugar-balancing properties. Studies have shown (14) that it’s a useful add-on therapy in treating diabetes and cinnamon consumption is associated with a statistically significant decrease (15) in levels of fasting blood glucose.
Luckily, cinnamon is an extremely versatile ingredient that goes great with almost anything. Add it to your morning coffee or your afternoon tea. You can incorporate it into a ton of recipes, like sweet potato dishes, oatmeal, and smoothies.
Finally, when you sit down at the dinner table, fill your plate up with dishes containing veggies, healthy fats like coconut or avocados, and healthy carbs like sweet potatoes and squash, first. These foods will provide fiber (which can also influence blood sugar control (16) in a positive way, leave you satiated, and help you avoid simple carbs and empty-calories foods, like dinner rolls.
Everyone deserves to enjoy the holidays and indulge on occasion, but you also deserve to feel your best and not experience the crankiness, fatigue, and brain fog caused by the blood sugar roller coaster. By making a few tweaks like the ones above, you can have the best of both worlds.
Dr. Will Cole, a leading functional-medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing health programs for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders, and brain problems.