November 4, 2023

Big meals, buffets, pie – oh my! During the holidays, it can be challenging to maintain normal blood sugar levels. But have no fear, Hy-Vee dietitians are here to help with four tips for keeping blood sugar levels in check heading into the holiday season. With a strategic plan, you can both enjoy your holiday meals and feel your best. Try these tips for balancing blood sugar at your next holiday meal.

Incorporate vinegar before a big meal or something sweet. – Did you know vinegar contains acetic acid that can help reduce how high your blood sugar will get after eating? It works as the acetic acid inhibits the enzyme needed to break down starch, so starch is broken down more slowly. It then also encourages the muscles to store more fuel as glycogen, which additionally helps decrease the amount of sugar in the blood. Before eating something high in starches or sugars (or before a big holiday meal), sip on a glass of water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar mixed in. Any kind of vinegar will work. For optimal flavor, many people prefer the taste of apple cider vinegar. Try stirring in some cinnamon powder and a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice or sparkling water to enhance the flavor. If the vinegar tastes too strong, start with 1 teaspoon, and gradually increase the amount over time. Or, instead of drinking water with vinegar, you may choose to incorporate vinegar into a salad with an oil and vinegar dressing or into a vegetable side dish that is eaten at the start of the meal.

Start your meal with vegetables first. – The fiber in low-carbohydrate vegetables slows down digestion and prevents blood sugar from spiking after eating starches or sweets at the end of the meal. Fiber in vegetables is very effective helping control blood sugar! Always think to yourself “vegetables first.” When grocery shopping, aim to fill a good portion of your shopping cart with vegetables. When attending a holiday gathering, offer to bring a vegetable-based dish to share to ensure there will be at least one vegetable option to start your meal. When setting up the holiday food buffet line, purposefully place vegetable dishes at the start of the line and aim to fill a quarter to half your plate with vegetables. When out to eat with friends or family over the holidays, order a vegetable side to enjoy first before the rest of your meal. If you keep a positive association with vegetables and really focus on how beneficial they are for blood sugar, eating them first at meals will become one of the easiest yet most effective lifestyle changes to help improve your blood sugar.

Enjoy dessert and find ways to move that feel good for your body. – Especially during the holidays, it’s helpful to find a style of eating that is both for health and for pleasure. The best time to enjoy something sweet for dessert is at the end of a balanced meal. The fiber and protein from the meal help slow down digestion and will help prevent blood sugar from spiking as high. Plus, we know stressing about eating or being too restrictive can often backfire and be worse for blood sugar in the long run. Timing dessert after a balanced meal will allow you to become satiated with a smaller portion, and by balancing blood sugar, cravings will also be diminished. Next, it can be helpful after a big meal with dessert, to find a way to move that feels good for your body. By moving your body after eating, your muscles start to utilize some of the sugar from your blood, lowering blood sugar and decreasing the level of insulin needed in the body to bring blood sugar back down following the meal. Try going for a walk, playing an active game with your family, getting up to do the dishes, or enjoying some stretching or light resistance exercises. Even just a few minutes of movement can help your blood sugar numbers, promote digestion and better energy levels.

Have smart snacks on hand for when things don’t go as planned. – Over the holidays, many people are traveling and staying with family and eating routines are often thrown off with different mealtimes and various factors. For times when things are somewhat out of your control, come prepared with smarter snacks on hand for any emergency hunger situations that arise while traveling. Choose shelf-stable items that will have a minimal effect on blood sugar but will satisfy a hunger craving by providing some fiber and protein – such as Blue Diamond almonds, Catalina Crunch Snack Mixes, and Good Measure Bars.

This Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe contains everything when it comes to fall harvest. It is filled with roasted Brussels sprouts, fresh apples, crispy prosciutto, almonds and so much more. Enjoy this as your vegetable starter at the beginning of a holiday meal.

Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

All You Need:
4 Jazz apples, or Braeburn apples, cored and cut into chunks
2½ cups water
2 tbsp, plus 1 tsp, fresh lemon juice, divided
1 lb Hy-Vee Short Cuts Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 (3-oz) pkg prosciutto, torn into pieces
4 tbsp Gustare Vita olive oil, divided
Hy-Vee salt, to taste
Hy-Vee ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup chopped Blue Diamond almonds
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
½ tsp Hy-Vee stone ground mustard

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place apple chunks in a bowl. Cover with water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; set aside.
  3. Toss together Brussels sprouts, prosciutto, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper on a large baking pan; spread mixture into a single layer. Roast 10 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from oven. Drain apples. Stir apples and almonds into Brussels sprouts mixture. Roast for 10 minutes more or until Brussels sprouts are tender.
  5. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, mustard and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  6. Toss vinaigrette with roasted Brussels sprouts mixture. Serve immediately.

Discover how you can work with a Hy-Vee registered dietitian through nutrition services such as our A1C Screening Tour, Balancing Your Blood Sugar Program, and an On-Demand Diabetes Nutrition Tour. Learn more by visiting The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.