When you have diabetes, Christmas is a challenge. For the last few years my dad has had serious FOMO and managed to put himself into danger by eating and drinking far to many sugary things.
Eating at Christmas is part of the fun, and there’s no need to completely miss out on certain foods. My dad is having Christmas with me again this year and I need to be sneaky in giving him healthy versions of classic Christmas dishes. This might mean adapting recipes to make them healthier.
Thankfully, the purchase of diabetic alternatives is much easier than it used to be. With Tesco and Meridian offering sugar free mince pies and Christmas cake, the festive season just got a bit less stressful for me.
Here are some tips if you have a diabetic relation/have diabetes yourself:
Festive glucose glitch
At some point during the festive period, you may find that you have higher blood glucose levels than normal due to being less active than usual, overindulging or changing your routine. Don’t worry about one or two high readings as this shouldn’t affect your long-term diabetes control, but aim to avoid persistently high readings in order to avoid compromising your health.
Don’t get stuck on the sofa
Making sensible food choices and keeping physically active could help you to control blood glucose levels, blood pressure and blood fats and to manage weight.
There are lots of easy and fun ways to fit in some physical activity. A brisk walk is a great way to stay active – and it still counts if it’s in a shopping centre checking out the sales or walking off the Christmas meal (just resist stopping off at the pub on route home).
Make sensible choices (but still enjoy yourself!)
Here are some examples of the kind of easy ways you can cut calories and fat (diabetics often find their fat intake goes up when trying to avoid sugar) from your main Christmas meal without compromising on taste:
Turkey: Remove the skin and eat light-coloured meat (breast) rather than dark meat (thigh) to reduce your calorie intake.
Pigs in blankets: Use low-fat cocktail sausages and pierce the skins. Wrap with lean back-bacon (with the excess fat trimmed off) and grill, rather than fry or bake, to allow any excess fat to drain away. Try and limit yourself to two or three.
Roast potatoes: Keep the amount of fat you add to a minimum by dry-roasting or using spray oil.
Stuffing: Avoid high-fat, high-calorie sausage meat. Instead use vegetarian stuffing such as sage and onion or chestnut and cook in a separate dish to the turkey.
Vegetables: Try to fill at least two-fifths of your plate with vegetables. They are low in calories, help you feel fuller for longer and leave less room for unhealthy foods. If possible boil or steam rather than fry.
After-dinner treat: Of course Christmas wouldn’t be the same without dessert, such as a traditional Christmas pudding or mince pies served with brandy butter, custard or cream. Try making your mince pie without its lid, or choose single cream instead of double cream. Or make custard with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
Chocolate: There are so many sugar free chocolates you can buy now. Thorntons, Hotel Chocolat and MOO all offer some great selections. I found that having this and lots of nuts around the house offered a really high protein, sugar free option last year.
There are some great diabetic recipes for Christmas on the BBC site http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/diabetes to follow.
What to drink?
- Alternating between alcoholic and soft drinks can help to limit the amount of alcohol you consume and keep you hydrated at the same time. Fruit juices tend to be high in sugar, so go for sugar-free or diet drinks instead and use these for mixers as well.
- Another way of cutting down on calories and the number of units is to choose a lower strength wine.
- Try not to drink to excess, however freely the drink is flowing. Diabetes UK recommends men should have a maximum of 3-4 units of alcohol and women a maximum of 2-3 units. If you take insulin or some types of tablets, alcohol can lower blood glucose levels and therefore increase the risk of having a hypo, which is where your blood glucose level falls dangerously low.
- Remember not to drink on an empty stomach, as this can send your blood glucose level low and so can increase risk of a hypo. Always have a starchy snack before bedtime such as toast, cereal or a sandwich.
Basically you can relax into Christmas and enjoy it like everyone else but make sure, with the change in routine you don’t neglect your blood sugar readings or make bad choices. One year my dad went into a temporary diabetic coma just from eating too many mince pies and whisky which was terrifying for my mum so making small changes (most he won’t even notice) will help him.