While everyone is excited about enjoying the indulgent festive season, those with diabetes might be wondering – What can I eat without making my diabetes worse? Yes, it can certainly be a struggle for people with diabetes. Luckily, Pav Kalsi, who is a clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, has some tips for you to enjoy Christmas if you have the condition.
Eating at Christmas is part of the fun, and according to Kalsi, there’s no need to completely miss out on certain foods. However, a healthy diet is crucial in managing diabetes. This might mean adapting recipes so that they are more balanced, lower in fat and include plenty of vegetables and fruit. If you are planning a party it’s also a good idea to keep healthy snacks such as vegetable crudités or dried fruit around so that you’ve got an alternative, Kalsi told GoodFood.
At some point during the festive period, you may find that you have higher blood glucose levels than normal. That’s because you are less active than usual, overindulging or changing your routine. But 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.
What to eat at Christmas if you have diabetes
Here are some ways you can make sensible choices but still enjoy yourself! There are easy ways you can cut calories and fat 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.
Dessert: 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.
What to drink at Christmas if you have diabetes
Alcohol and soft drinks: 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: Fruit juices tend to be high in sugar, so go for sugar-free or diet drinks instead and use these for mixers as well.
Wine: 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.
Controlling your blood glucose levels
Besides making sensible food choices and keeping physically active to control blood glucose levels, blood pressure and blood fats and to manage weight, there are lots of easy and fun ways to fit. Try a brisk walk – it is a great way to stay active – and it still counts if it’s in a shopping centre checking out the sales. Jumping about with the grandchildren or dancing at a party all help towards keeping healthy during a typically overindulgent period.
What you should remember
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.