As a diabetic you should be! Yuletide food is far removed from what you should be eating. Here are a few tips to help you to survive.
Christmas fare consists of cocktail sausages, roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, glazed ham, plum pudding, brandy butter, mince pies, Christmas cake, cookies, wine, beer and cocktails, etc etc … all chock full of sugar and fat.
No wonder diabetics experience their worst blood glucose levels at this time of the year.
Everywhere you go at yuletide you are offered tasty lashings of sugar, white floor and fat as snacks. And if you are the cook, it seems that everything in the traditional recipe books is full of those sugars and fats.
But not all the traditional fare is wholly bad for diabetics … there is plenty of protein, fibre and other high-quality nutrients in ye olde Christmas dinner.
Cooking for Christmas
As a cook, you can create healthier versions of classic Christmas dishes … by adapting traditional recipes so that they contain less fat and sugar.
You can also include plenty of vegetables and fruit to give a more balanced meal. Tips:
Cocktail sausages … use low-fat sausages. Pierce the skins and grill them (rather than frying or baking) to allow excess fat to drain away. If you want to wrap the tiny sausages in bacon, use lean back-bacon after trimming off any fat.
Stuffing … use vegetarian stuffing such as sage and onion or chestnut, instead of, high-calorie, high-fat sausage meat. Cook the stuffing in a separate dish to the turkey and serve it side-by-side.
Roast potatoes … to minimise added fat, dry-roast the potatoes. If you must baste them, use a few drops of spray oil.
There are many more ways you can healthify your Christmas dinner using nothing more than common sense.
Eating for Christmas
As an eater, you can easily cut calories, sugar and fat from your Christmas meal without any loss of taste. Here are some useful tactics:
Turkey … to reduce the fat and calories you consume, remove the skin and eat only the white-meat from the breast rather than the darker meat from the legs.
Focus on vegetables … you do this by making sure that vegetables (boiled or steamed rather than fried) make up at least 50% of the food on your plate, while at the same time limiting the amount of roast potatoes and parsnips you eat. Next in volume should be protein, ie meat, and last as well as least come carbohydrates in the form of potatoes.
Don’t wait around to eat … Christmas dinner starts late in most households. But if you are very hungry before you begin eating, you are very likely to overeat. To prevent this happening, you should break your fast with a snack such as carrot or celery sticks which are filling and digested slowly but are unlikely to dull your appetite for the main action.
Skip the traditional puddings? … plum pudding or mince pies served with brandy butter, egg custard or double cream are diet killers and need to be treated with extreme caution, ie you shouldn’t eat them at all but after all it is Christmas!
There does not seem to be a diabetic-friendly substitute for brandy butter, but single cream can be used instead of double cream (a marginal improvement) and the custard could be made with skimmed milk or low-fat soya milk (a significant improvement).
The best bet might be to skip the traditional plum pudding and instead opt for a bowl of fresh fruit salad with custard or ice cream. But that won’t feel like Christmas!
What would Christmas be without wine, beer, spirits and cocktails?
The answer … probably a lot healthier but not quite as happy.
But there is no need to turn Christmas into a dry festival. Just consume alcohol, no matter what form it takes, wine, beer or something harder, in moderation.
Easier said than done? No … here are a few tips:
- Prevent drinking to excess by following recommended guidelines … a maximum of 3 or 4 units of alcohol a day for men and 2 to 3 units for women.
- Alcohol can lower blood glucose, so you must be especially careful if you are taking insulin or other medication for your diabetes lest you suffer a hypo (in which your blood sugar falls dangerously low).
- Drinking on an empty stomach should also be avoided lest it induces a hypo.
- If you have been at a drinking session, eat a starchy snack (eg, toast or cereal) before bed to reduce your risk of a hypo overnight.
- Drinking a lower strength wine can cut down on the number of calories you ingest.
- Substitute sugar-free or diet soft drinks for alcohol if you can to limit your consumption of alcohol.
- Beware of fruit juices as these tend to be high in sugar.
Provided you eat and drink sensibly you can survive the Christmas period easily. Add in a little bit of exercise and you should be able to keep your blood glucose levels under good enough control.
Frequent exercise over the Christmas period will also keep your weight, blood pressure and blood fats at reasonable levels. There are plenty of things you can do.
Walking briskly or going for long hikes in the cold of December is great for keeping active. Exercises such as going to the sales, playing with the children, and dancing, can also contribute to keeping your body healthy during what is typically a brief season of over-indulgence.
There will be times over the Christmas period when you will find that your blood glucose levels are higher than norm … because you are over-indulging or being less physically active than usual.
One or two high readings are unlikely to affect your long-term control of your diabetes, so there is no need to worry about them.
But if you get persistently high blood glucose readings over several days, you need to rein yourself in lest you compromise your long-term health.