A Bad Diabetic’s Guide to Christmas

Audio: Read by the author.

Christmas is a touchy subject for many diabetics. It’s quite possibly the single most concentrated dose of stress and carbohydrates people experience all year (depending on how Valentine’s Day goes), which isn’t exactly ideal for a disease which mandates avoiding those specific things. As a result, there are two distinct schools of thought when it comes to glucose-intolerant Christmas. The first: play it safe. Have a slice of sugar-free pie and a nice cup of peppermint tea while you sit in your armchair and contemplate things like ‘getting good grades in school’ and ‘taxes.’ That’s very respectable, and I do love peppermint tea, but I prefer a different approach. 

I love food. Always have. The single greatest irony of my diagnosis is that the thing which wants me dead is also the thing I rely on so heavily to maintain my mental health. On Christmas, my approach is to take a diabetic cheat day. I don’t go too crazy – I’m not trying to end up in the hospital – but on Christmas, I dial my insulin pen up a few extra notches and let myself indulge in some honest-to-goodness, down-to-earth, real holiday food.

I am an engineer by trade, which means I am nothing if not a problem solver. Presented with 2020, the Dickensian Worst of Times, more diabetics need a cheat day than ever before, but more diabetics are spending Christmas alone than ever before. I’ve found a need to make Christmas food for one without waking up on the 26th to a fridge full of terrifyingly sugary leftovers. I think I’ve figured it out, and I’m here to help you if this is your first time being a bad diabetic for the holidays.


The easiest and most obvious way to avoid having dangerous leftovers is to avoid having leftovers at all. There are a lot of recipes that, with some adjustment for cooking time/temperature, are nigh infinitely scalable. This is generally done to allow people to make party-sized versions of dishes, but can be applied in the other direction as well.

Don’t believe Big Potato when they tell you to buy two pounds of Yukon Golds for your mash. Most potato dishes are just potatoes, dairy, herbs, and bread crumbs, all of which exist in very small amounts. I once, for reasons beyond this article, made a single potato au gratin. Anything is possible.

The other option is to skirt around store-bought products which would otherwise limit your ability to scale a dish. Want mimosas but a) aren’t the type of diabetic who treats their lows with orange juice, and b) don’t want the rest of a giant bottle of OJ in your fridge? Squeeze your own juice. Grab a couple of oranges and go to town. It’s gonna have less sugar than the store-bought anyway. Plus you can customise it. Throw a lime in, toss a little grapefruit in there. The world is your citrus-based oyster equivalent.


An important thing to remember about celebrating Christmas alone is that there are no rules. As long as the final product looks good on Instagram, it doesn’t really matter how you got there. This means you can do whatever you want with food without fear of judgment.

Want to roast a turkey? Break it down first, freeze the rest, only roast a single leg, and just insinuate you did the whole thing. Those prepackaged foil trays of cinnamon rolls? Break it open, separate them all out, and just cook the ones you want. Foil and freeze the rest. Who needs a whole tray of cinnamon rolls? Don’t answer that.

If you’ve ever thought about purchasing ramekins, now is the time. They make phenomenal baking dishes for your weird little Easy-Bake Oven diabetic servings of traditional Christmas food. If you’ve not followed my advice from the last section and have a whole pie’s worth of pie ingredients, fold your pie dough over and make hand pies. Unlike regular pie, hand pies exist in discrete portions, so it’s harder to accidentally eat a second slice. Plus they have the added benefit of being able to be eaten with one hand, so you can give yourself insulin with the other hand when you realise halfway through that you forgot to dose for it.


Remember what I said in the last section about how there are no rules? That’s also true for food timing.

Typically, one of two things happens in a family holiday setting. Either everyone eats a big meal all at once (good luck dosing for that spike without your glucose hitting 12 mg/dL first), or there’s a grazing table where people can go back and forth picking at food throughout the day (arguably more dangerous because it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve eaten).

It doesn’t have to be like that, though. You need insulin – it only makes sense that your meals should be planned around that instead! Your body will hate you if you eat all 400g of carbs at once, trust me. Without normies holding you back, there’s nothing to say you can’t eat 5 meals with a much more manageable 80g carbs a piece. What, do you have better things to do?

Christmas any year is stressful enough. Add everything else that’s happened this year and I feel confident in saying everyone reading this could use a break. So maybe this is the year you relax a little. Take a mental health day, and have a little sugar this Christmas. You deserve it.

If you’re looking for further festive content, check out dubble’s Christmas playlist.

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Jack Sartin About Author

Jack Sartin (he/him) is a Type 1 Diabetic and helicopter test engineer who currently lives in Dallas, Texas. He loves food, coffee, cocktails, and most importantly, sharing that love with others. When he grows up, he wants to be a YouTube chef.

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