Sarah Christie is a blogger and mum to Jack (pictured in the snow), who’s 14 and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 10, and Joe, who’s nine, and doesn’t have diabetes.
She tells us how she and her family have learned to negotiate their way through the festive season and come to enjoy, rather than dread, it.
I remember silently dreading our first Christmas after Jack was diagnosed. What would we do about all the food? The sweets, snacks, treats and also the cold weather? How would we deal with it all and survive the festive season without a skyrocketing HbA1C.
After several years, we now know it’s possible – it just takes a little preparation and planning. Here are my top tips for surviving the festive season...
Tip 1: Ration, don't ban
I’ve found the worse thing to do is ban chocolates or treats, especially when they’re everywhere at this time of year.
I still allow Jack a chocolate advent calendar with small chocolates. Everything in moderation is fine, but I avoid having tins of sweets lying around. It’s too much temptation!
A great alternative to a chocolate calendar is a calendar with toys in, such as Playmobil or Lego figures. They’re more expensive, but they feel like more of a treat that chocolate ever would. Or make a homemade calendar. Buy a gift that needs building and place a new component in the calendar every day in the run up to Christmas Eve.
Tip 2: Keep it healthy
I don’t like to restrict or make food a taboo subject. I keep the cupboards and fridge stocked with healthy snacks, plenty of fruit, nuts and healthy yogurts. Popcorn is great for a festive treat and feels so much more of a treat if you make it yourself.
It’s hard to avoid hot chocolate at Christmas, but try the low-calorie version with cinnamon sprinkled on top to keep it festive and incorporate it into mealtimes.
Have plenty of bottled water in the fridge. I find that if I stock the fridge with mini bottles the boys see them as a treat and drink more than if I expected them to drink tap water.
Rather than buying chocolate and sweets as stocking fillers, there are some great pocket money items on the market to suit all ages, such as magic tricks, card games, colouring pens and mini figures.
Tip 3: Be prepared
Two years ago we got stranded in our car in the snow. Luckily, a neighbouring farmer was able to rescue us in his tractor.
From that day onwards, I always keep an emergency kit in the car. It includes:
- a bottle of lucozade
- carb-containing healthy snacks
Being stranded is scary, but getting stranded and worrying about your child having a hypo is really frightening.
Tip 4: Expect a change
There are so many things that can cause changes in blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels. Be prepared and have a plan. The changes in routine we have experienced at this time of year with Jack in the past include:
This affects Jack readings, making him a little resistant to insulin. So it’s important to keep him active to burn up all that energy and I need to keep testing his levels at regular intervals.
When he’s not active, Jack’s blood sugar can go high. He is so active and all of his ratios are set to combat that, so lazy days are a real enemy for us. When he’s having a chill out day, I keep checking his sugar levels. And, where possible, keep him busy, I try to get us all out for family walks or ask him to walk the dog.
Excitement and adrenalin
This sends Jack's blood sugar levels sky high. I feel I need to constantly check when he’s feeling excited as I know it wreaks havoc with his levels. I also feel I need to be extra vigilant on days like this and keep snacking to meal times only.
Finally... enjoy family time
Christmas is all about family time, so enjoy it. Creating diversions, providing alternative and being prepared has made Christmas much better for us. And that’s what Christmas is all about fun, relaxation and family.
Sarah's blog is called Extraordinary Chaos.