How to Enjoy Festive Foods with Diabetes
When it comes to food, Christmas can be a bit of a nightmare for those of us with diabetes. The traditional Christmas dinner may seem like a minefield, those tempting trays of nibbles, constantly circulating the family gathering, can be tricky, to say the least, while buffet spreads are often the gastronomic equivalent of shark-infested waters. But, if you have diabetes, there are ways you can enjoy Christmas, without denying yourself completely of those festive treats. Here are a few tips to help not just survive, but enjoy Christmas and the foods of the season.
Enjoy Food in Small Amounts
When eating over Christmas the key is to think about how a treat may affect your blood sugar levels. It is important to think about not just what you’re eating, but how much you’re eating and what you are eating that food with.
Douglas Twenefour, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, says: “We want everyone with diabetes to enjoy their Christmas and that doesn’t mean denying yourself your favourite festive treats or missing out on Christmas drinks. The key is to plan and be mindful of how a treat may affect your blood glucose. Enjoy small amounts of ordinary festive foods and balance this with healthier recipes and snacks,” he says.
Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach
The alcohol can be free-flowing over the Christmas period, but it is important to remember not to drink on an empty stomach. This can send your blood glucose level low and put you at risk of a hypo (hypoglycaemia), says Twenefour.
“If you’re having a drink then make sure you have something to eat with it,” he says. “Try not to drink too excessively, however freely the drink is flowing. Alternating between alcoholic and soft drinks will help to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume and keep you hydrated at the same time.”
With the daily family gatherings, the cold temperatures and the temptation to spend all day in front of the telly, it can be easy not to stay active. But Twenefour says staying active is crucial in managing your blood sugar levels, so try to make time for some nice wintery walks.
“An important thing to remember is to stay active, as this will help you to manage your blood glucose levels, so take a wintery walk to a local park or landmark,” he says. “One or two high blood glucose readings shouldn’t affect long-term diabetes control, but people should aim to avoid persistently high readings.”
Festive Alternatives to Christmas Classics
Diabetes UK suggests a variety of healthier alternatives to those traditional Christmas dinner favourites, which will save calories and some great grams of fat too. Here are some suggestions.
Christmas Day Starter
For your starter, rather than Pâté on toast, go for a pumpkin and chestnut soup. It will save you over 220 calories and 11g of fat. Starting your Christmas dinner with a smoked marcel salad can also be a healthier alternative to prawn cocktail, saving you over 130 calories and 11g of fat.
Christmas Day Main Course
You can still enjoy your turkey with all the trimmings, just with a different selection of err, trimmings. Leave the sausage rolls and Yorkshire pudding, swap your roast spuds for sweet potatoes and the stuffing for apple sauce. Such food alternatives can reduce calories by more than 365 calories and 29g of fat.
Christmas Day Desserts
For your dessert, if you can’t find a diabetic Christmas cake, try swapping your calorie-heavy pudding and brandy cream for fruit salad with crème fraiche. It will save you over 585 calories and a whopping 25g of fat. Alternatively, leave out the mince pies this year and try a chocolate mousse instead. It will save you 490 calories and 28g of fat.
Instead of cheese and biscuits, try some low-fat houmous and dippers to save 220 calories and 17g of fat. Also, replace those bowels of crisps and nuts with a nice mixture of dried fruit. It will save you over 180 calories and 26 of fat.
For more information and for other festive tips and advice from Diabetes UK, visit: diabetes.org.uk/enjoying-Christmas.