As a nation, once the Christmas trees are up, the fridge is full and the Christmas shopping is complete, we like to let our hair down and use Christmas as a time to eat treats we wouldn’t normally eat, and drink more alcohol than usual.
However, many of the traditional Christmas treats tend to be laden with extra salt, sugar and saturated fats.
If you or someone close to you has diabetes, it can be a difficult time of the year to manage your condition. Lots of pre-existing conditions can be dealt with pretty well, once you learn how your body reacts to certain things and you know how to manage your symptoms.
At Christmas time though, when we’re out socialising a lot more and eating or drinking things we’re not quite as familiar with, it can be difficult to track. We’ve pulled together a few tips and tricks to help you enjoy yourself throughout the festive season without having to compromise on your normal eating habits or diabetes self-management.
Look after yourself during the festive seasonPlanning ahead is the most important thing to do, whether that is with your plans and food choices or making sure you have everything you need at all times. Make sure you’re stocked up on any medication you need ahead of Christmas, as GPs and pharmacists can change their opening hours and close on key dates, leaving you with nowhere to turn if you run out.
If you test for ketones or do hba1c readings, it is worth checking you have enough test strips to last well into the new year.
If you do become unwell over Christmas and New Year and need medical advice whilst your GP is closed, remember you can contact the NHS on 111 or 999 if it is serious.
Eating out over ChristmasOver Christmas, many restaurants and bars change up their menus to a more festive offering, which is great for variety but not so great if you have a failsafe go to.
Most restaurants list their menus online, and always feel free to call beforehand if you have concerns about the ingredients in the menu or want to track your intake.
When you are at the restaurant, research shows that if you order your meal first, you’re much less likely to be influenced by other people and what they are eating. You also don’t have to eat a starter or dessert, even if everyone else is. Only order a pudding after you’ve finished your main meal – you may not even fancy one if you’re too full!
If you’re unsure what your main meal comprises of, order a side of vegetables or salad to fill your plate and help you feel fuller for longer with helpful nutrients that you need. Proteins are also filling, so look for lean meat, egg, fish and beans.
Christmas can be incredibly busy when you’re out and about, which often leads to longer waits for food. After you order, if your meal is delayed and your blood glucose levels are dropping too low, you can always ask for a bread roll to tide you over.
Be aware of higher blood sugar levelsSo many things can trigger your blood sugar levels rising, it’s important to be aware and recognise signs to avoid a hypo or hyper.
During the festive period, you can find yourself with higher blood glucose levels than normal due to maybe being less active, enjoying a few tasty treats and having a more relaxed routine.
While one or two high readings shouldn’t affect your long-term diabetes control, take care not to let your glucose stay high for long as you could start to feel unwell. Remember to test your blood sugar levels often over Christmas.
Try to Stay activeIt’s always nice to put your feet up and relax over the festive period, especially if you’re lucky enough to have some time off work to spend with your friends and family. However it is important to stay as active as possible to help manage your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and blood fats, as well as manage your weight.
There are lots of ways to keep fit and healthy without going to the gym over Christmas. You can even get the whole family involved. Go for a brisk family walk in the cold, or take the bikes out if it’s not too icy. It’s also easy to dance the night away at your Christmas party.
Other festive activities could be ice skating or making up your own active party games.
Coronavirus and DiabetesIt’s important to look after your health if you are planning on seeing more people than usual over Christmas.
Remember to take a lateral flow test before visiting busy places or seeing people, especially if they are at high risk if they were to contract coronavirus. It’s also wise to ask your own family and friends to take one too if they are visiting you – people certainly won’t mind if it means keeping you safe.
It is recommended that you take up your booster vaccine when you are offered it, and also take advantage of your free annual flu jab to help you stay as healthy as possible over Christmas.
Watch your alcohol intakeAlcohol is usually involved when celebrating special occasions and when you’re enjoying yourself, it’s easy to drink a little more mulled wine than you may have planned.
Regardless of whether you have diabetes or not, guidelines recommend that men and women should not regularly consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week. If you do drink as much as 14 units, it is recommended that this is spread over 3 or more days.
If you’re trying to manage your weight, it is so easy to go over your daily calories if you are drinking alcohol. A bottle of wine has over 600 calories in, which over the course of an evening can easily be consumed.
Try and stick to spirits with diet mixers to keep each drink at around the 100 calorie mark, and beware of Christmassy cocktails, as these will be laden with sugar and hidden calories.
Remember if you treat your diabetes with insulin or type 2 diabetes medications, be aware that drinking alcohol can make hypos more likely.
Small Tweaks to Make Christmas Dinner HealthierEating at Christmas is all part of the fun, and there’s no need to completely miss out on certain foods. However, a healthy diet is incredibly important for managing diabetes, so if you do have the condition it might be worth looking at ways to make Christmas dinner that little bit healthier.
You can still enjoy treats and enjoy a healthy balanced diet by making tweaks and adapting recipes to lower the fat and calorie intake, without having to give up the best meal of the year.
To help manage diabetes when eating your Christmas Dinner, why not try these tips to help reduce the calories whilst still enjoying a treat?
Portion SizeKeeping an eye on your portion size is the best way to reduce your calorie intake, without having to give up anything that you love. If it’s possible to serve your own food, it can help. If you are given a plate that has been piled high with delicious food, it’s difficult to not clear every mouthful.
If you can serve yourself, fill your plate with vegetables first and from there you can choose what to avoid and keep track of your carbs, sugars and salt intake to help keep your blood sugars on track.
TurkeyTry to limit the amount of processed meat you eat per day to less than 70g, as eating these foods frequently can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s easy to eat more than that at Christmas with turkey, gammon, ham, pate, cured meats and pigs in blankets on offer.
On Christmas Day, avoid the Turkey skin and opt for the light-coloured meat of the breast rather than the darker thigh or leg meat to help reduce your fat intake.
Pigs in BlanketsOffer to make the pigs in blankets from scratch this year, rather than use shop bought ready made packs. It might actually be easier than trawling the shops for some given the shortages of our favourite treats this Christmas.
Use low fat cocktail sausages rather than large, fatty sausages and wrap them with lean bacon medallions with any excess fat trimmed off. Avoiding streaky, fatty bacon can help you save lots of calories.
Gravy & SaucesTry using reduced-salt stock cubes to make your gravy, as this helps to manage your blood pressure. You struggle to taste the difference!
It’s also worth looking at the sugar content of the Christmas condiments and trying not to have too much of each. There is lots of hidden calories in cranberry sauce, mint sauce and prawn cocktail sauce.
PotatoesEveryone has their own techniques to get the fluffiest, crispiest roast potatoes, and a lot of the time it means using a lot of oil, goose fat and butter. Try reducing that calorie intake by dry roasting or using spray oil to minimise the greasiness.
If you are also partial to mash potato on your Christmas roast, try carrot and swede mash instead of the traditional potatoes to lower your carb intake.
StuffingOpt for vegetarian stuffing such as sage & onion or chestnut rather than sausage meat and cook it in a separate tray to the turkey. That way you avoid the extra fat and calories that come from the meats.
VegetablesGo for boiled or steamed carrots and broccoli rather than roasted to save on the calories and make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals from them that your body needs. It’s also worth avoiding those festive extras of honey roasted veg and cauliflower cheese!
Try to fill a third of your plate with vegetables as it will help you feel fuller for longer and leave less room for unhealthy foods.
PuddingWhether it’s a traditional Christmas pudding, a homemade cake or chocolates and mince pies, Christmas Dinner isn’t complete without the dessert. Opt for single cream over double, custard with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk instead of whole and ditch the extra dollops of brandy butter to help cut a few calories.
If you are having a sweet treat, stick to one small portion rather than a bit of everything.
Boxing Day Party foodBoxing Day will no doubt revolve around food once again, with party platters, cheese boards and leftovers to nibble on. Contribute cooked meats and vegetable crudites to the buffet so there is something healthy to fill up on. If you have leftover veg from Christmas dinner, try and make bubble & squeak or veggie fritters, or a crustless quiche made with eggs.
Don’t Feel GuiltyRemember that no food is ‘forbidden’ and you can still enjoy every aspect of Christmas Day whilst managing your diabetes effectively. Just be mindful of what you’re eating and try not to beat yourself up if you do eat a little more than usual or choose foods that are not necessarily the best option. Just keep an eye on your blood sugars and keep tabs on your health overall.
Everyone needs a break from the norm, especially after another difficult year, so let your hair down and get straight back on track. Go for a nice long walk the next day (and avoid another argument over the remote control or who won Monopoly!)
You also should never feel guilty about turning down plans. If you want to turn down another meal out, or drink with friends, do so. Especially if you’ve already over indulged!
Make Life Insurance your priority in the New YearAfter a couple of weeks of food, drink and socialising, a lot of us like to sit down and set goals for the upcoming year.
If you do not have life insurance in place, it might be time to do so. We specialise in life insurance for all forms of diabetes, including type 1 and type 2. Some people with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes do get declined elsewhere if they try to take out a life insurance policy. The Insurance Surgery is different.
70% of our customers that have been refused life insurance elsewhere get accepted for a life insurance policy through us.
We are specialists in finding life insurance for people with medical conditions or dangerous occupations, so if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, we can help find you the life cover you and your family deserve.
We know exactly which provider can help your specific circumstances and work with only the best providers to find a policy that has adequate cover for you at a price that you are happy with.
You can read more about what to do if you are declined elsewhere here.
Fill in our online quote form today and we can get everything in place for you to see in 2022.