Blood-Sugar-Friendly Holiday Swaps + Tips


Holidays usually mean gathering with friends and loved ones around a meal. For people living with diabetes, the holiday season can be challenging and even trigger worries about counting carbs, dealing with food-shaming relatives or feeling the need to be restrictive with certain foods or drinks.

Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so here are some tips for how to either swap out ingredients to make them more blood-sugar-friendly, or other things you can do if you want the recipes to stay the way grandma made them.


Swapping ingredients in your favorite recipes to make them blood-sugar-friendly isn’t required or always preferred but can help ease the stress of the holidays for some people living with diabetes. Instead of thinking of foods as good or bad, thinking of foods as blood-sugar-friendly or not blood-sugar-friendly can help set you up for success during the holidays and beyond! Here are a few ways to make swaps in your recipes for a less stressful holiday.

Holiday drinks

Whether you’re enjoying a warm seasonal coffee from your local barista or a fruity alcoholic drink in your kitchen, here are a few swaps you can make to your holiday drinks.

  • Hot chocolate: get sugar-free hot chocolate, or make it with almond or coconut milk or water
  • Holiday punch/alcoholic drinks: try sugar-free syrups and mixes or use sugar-free juice instead of juice cocktail mix
  • Coffee shop drinks: when ordering, ask for almond milk instead of cream and sugar-free syrups as shown in some of our favorite Instagram recipe hacks

BONUS TIP: Make sure to get a glass of water in between other drinks to help ensure you stay hydrated!


Yes, people with diabetes can enjoy baked goods, especially during the holidays! If you choose to, here are some ways to swap ingredients in your desserts for less of an impact on your blood sugar levels this holiday season.

Sugar swaps

Flour swaps

  • Almond flour 
  • Coconut flour
  • Soy flour
  • “Keto” Wheat flour
  • Flaxseed meal

Sugar-free baking

  • Sugar-free jello packets
  • Zero sugar or sugar-free cake/cookie/muffin mixes (some may be labeled as “Keto”)

BONUS TIP: Not all flours can be substituted 1:1, so look for conversion charts like this one to adjust your recipe. Also, some artificial sweeteners can actually raise blood sugar levels so consider using natural sweeteners in smaller amounts instead. 

Keep the same recipe

Don’t want to buy new ingredients? You don’t have to! Swapping ingredients to make a recipe more blood-sugar-friendly is one choice, but you can also enjoy the recipes the way grandma intended by taking the following steps to help minimize the impact on your blood sugar levels.

Pair your carbs with proteins + fats

Coupling carbohydrates with protein will help slow down digestion and will help you feel fuller longer. Here are some delicious pairing ideas for your holiday plate:

  • Wine + cheese
  • Grapes + nuts
  • Hummus + raw veggies
  • Crackers + turkey slices
  • Greek yogurt + granola

Hold the toppings

Most pies and cakes are delicious as they are, so holding off on extra toppings can help reduce your sugar intake and minimize spikes in your blood sugar levels. You may consider cutting out or cutting back on toppings like:

  • Sprinkles
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate or caramel drizzles
  • Graham crackers or chocolate chips
  • Fruit toppings (especially the kind in cans)
  • Ice cream

Diabetes doesn’t take a holiday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. While you should continue taking your medications and checking your blood sugar levels, if counting carbs and monitoring your food intake is overwhelming, remember that one meal won’t make or break you. Use these tips to make recipes more blood-sugar-friendly or enjoy them as they are with some adjustments. 

You can also introduce new traditions this holiday season to help avoid post-meal spikes like walks with the family to enjoy some fresh air together and take in holiday lights. However, people with diabetes don’t have to exercise or starve themselves all day to “earn” their holiday meals. Eating is an important part of diabetes management and eating foods you enjoy is just as important for your mental health as it is for your physical health!

Looking for some fresh holiday recipes? Check out Beyond Type 1’s recipe page. We’ve linked some of our favorites below. Want to submit a recipe to us? Email us at or submit your recipe here!



WRITTEN BY Liz Cambron-Kopco, POSTED 12/13/22, UPDATED 05/23/23

Liz has been living with type 2 diabetes since 2014, but grew up surrounded by it as a first-generation Mexican-American. With a bug for research, Liz pursued a PhD in molecular biology and spent her early career studying insulin signaling in invertebrates to understand how insects' tiny little bodies work. Along with advocating for women and girls in STEM, Liz shares her personal journey with diabetes on her social media platforms to help teach people to become their own advocates. Her passion for advocacy led her to join the Beyond Type 1 team. When she's not advocating, Liz enjoys hiking with her husband and their terrier/schnauzer mixed pup Burberry.