Skip to content

Dietitian shares tips for the holiday season (that don’t ditch the dessert!)

For those living with diabetes, or anyone with healthy eating goals, the holidays can represent a challenging time for managing your diet. 

With the holiday season fast-approaching, many of us are filling our calendars with party invitations, and our grocery carts with foods we wouldn’t normally buy. For those living with diabetes, or anyone with healthy-eating goals, the holidays can represent a challenging time for managing your diet. 

At Sechelt Hospital Foundation’s Medtalks on Nov. 27, titled “Sweet Things: Holiday Strategies for Type 2 Diabetics that work for everyone,” registered dietitian Lauren Kapphahn stepped in with her top tips for surviving the holiday feast. 

Tip 1: Use the plate method. “Look at your plate and visually divide it into three parts—aim to fill half of your plate with veggies or fruits (preferably veggies), a quarter with protein, and the rest can be your energy-rich starches, ideally a higher-fibre option,” she said. 

This “plate method” follows Canada’s Food Guide and, “ensures you get all the nutrients you need to fuel your body and feel great while still maintaining good blood sugar control,” according to Kapphahn. When out at a restaurant, she suggested adding or substituting a side of cooked veggies or a salad to keep things in proportion. 

Tip 2: Make room for dessert. Kapphahn’s advice? Promise yourself that you will have a few favourites over the holidays and aim to make nutritious choices the rest of the time. 

“Barring allergies and food intolerances,” she said, “no food is truly off limits. Have dessert! It’s a myth that people with diabetes can’t. You just need to make a plan for it…” 

To minimize the impact on your blood sugar, reduce the carbs on your dinner plate and have dessert immediately after the meal so that the protein and fibre from your dinner can help to slow down digestion and absorption of the dessert carbohydrates. 

“Better yet,” she added, “if it’s a potluck, why not offer to bring the dessert and try some new recipes that are lower sugar or use sugar substitutes?” citing American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub (  as an excellent source for holiday recipes. 

Tip 3: Give yourself a break. “I hear my patients beating themselves up all the time,” she said, “and I have to remind them—you have a disease, not a character flaw. Be kind to yourself, banish the guilt, and make a plan for next time.” 

Her key tip for keeping the self-critic at bay: the 80/20 rule. Eighty per cent of the time, make food choices that will support your optimal health and blood sugar control. The rest of the time, give yourself a bit of a break. Your 20 per cent is for enjoying a holiday dessert! 

You can watch the full MedTalks session at and access valuable resources and tools provided to participants at the event.