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Christmas and diabetes

Christmas is a time to enjoy yourself and have treats that you wouldn’t regularly eat at other times of the year. 

But being a time of indulgence and celebration, much traditional Christmas fare tends to be higher in saturated fat, free sugars and salt than our usual diets.

If you have diabetes, or are close to someone who does, you may find that this time of year can make managing your diabetes more difficult, with so much tempting Christmas food and drink to choose from.

Luckily, we’ve got loads of helpful info to help you enjoy yourself throughout the festive season without compromising your diet or diabetes self-management.

Take a look at some of our favourite recipes, tips and handy advice:

Quick tips for managing Christmas dinner

To help manage diabetes at this time, try these tips to make your Christmas meal a little healthier:

  • Fill up on the array of vegetables available, but watch out for added festive extras like honey.
  • Keep an eye on your portion sizes, there’s likely to be an array of extra dishes so keep in mind how much you’re eating.
  • If you’re having a dessert, try to stick to one portion of your sweet treat and think about what it’s served with, could you have natural yogurt instead of double cream for example?
  • Remember there are no ‘forbidden’ foods, but go easy on the treats. Be mindful about what food you’re eating, but don’t beat yourself up if you do eat more than you usually would, or choose foods that aren’t as good for you.
  • A slight break from the norm is to be expected - enjoy it, then get back on track the next day. Why not escape the hustle and bustle, or dodge the family row over the remote control on Boxing Day, and go for an exhilarating walk in the countryside?

Christmas recipes 

Nut roast

We're putting all of these on our foodie wishlist. These recipes will help you make healthier versions of your favourite Christmas dishes because they have less saturated fat, free sugar or salt than the traditional versions. But remember if you’re trying to manage your weight, portion sizes are important too.

Everyone should be making healthier food choices year round, and it’s important that Christmas indulgence doesn’t last for weeks, but occasional treats shouldn’t affect your long term diabetes management as long as you get back on track in the New Year.

Wholesome nut roast 

Christmas dinner isn’t just about turkey. There’s plenty of delicious meat-free food, which is great for all the family.

A veggie centrepiece which tastes great alongside traditional roast dinner trimmings, like sprouts, carrots and parsnips. The fat comes primarily from the nut content.

Roast turkey

If turkey is the only way for you, have a go at this recipe to cut back on saturated fat. 

Spiced paprika roast roots

These delicately-spiced roots are a warming and flavoursome veg side dish.

Or for a more middle eastern flavour, try this alternative.

Tasty layered potatoes

This classic bake will brighten up your potatoes, providing a tasty side dish. You could do this with other root veg like swede.

Carrot and swede mash

A tasty vegetable dish which is a good alternative to mashed potato.

Flavoursome sage, onion and sweet potato stuffing

No roast is complete without stuffing - this classic comes with a twist.

Or keep the traditional flavour of chestnuts with this alternative.

And don't forget the sweet treats… 

Mince pies

When it comes to dessert, luckily the majority of Christmas puddings and cakes are vegetarian friendly. But why not try something different, such as with caramelised clementines, or roasted figs drizzled with honey and served with a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt? These delicious treats will help you eat more fruit.

Higher-fibre Christmas pudding

This tasty pudding has extra fruit and keeps for up to a week if stored in the fridge.

Mini Christmas puds

Bite-sized, healthier versions of the traditional Christmas pudding, with fruit and spices.

Crumbly, fruity mince pies

A Christmas classic gets a healthier twist. Perfect for tucking into in front of the fire with the family.

Alcohol and diabetes

Alcohol is often part and parcel of celebrating, but, when you’re enjoying yourself, drinking a little more mulled wine than you intended is a common pitfall.

Regardless of whether you have diabetes or not, guidelines recommend that men and women should not regularly consume more than 14 units a week and if you do have as much as 14 units, spread this over three days or more.

If you’re trying to manage your weight, remember alcoholic drinks can contain a lot of calories. For a festive alternative to alcoholic Christmas tipples, shake up a virgin mojito when friends come to call.

If you are drinking, limit drinks with a high sugar content such as liquors, cocktails made with fruit juice and sweet wines. Some festive drinks are higher in saturated fat too, like cream liquors.

And, remember if you treat your diabetes with insulin and certain type 2 diabetes medications that can cause hypos, be aware that drinking alcohol can make hypos more likely.

See our tips to prevent hypos whilst drinking alcohol.

Eating out at Christmas when you have diabetes

Many restaurants offer set menus over the Christmas period. If you’re eating out, see if the nutritional information is available online, so you can plan ahead and pick a healthier option. Here are some more tips:

  • Make sure you're the first to order, research shows you're more likely to be swayed by other people’s choices if you wait.
  • If you have a smaller appetite, there's no reason why you can’t order a starter as a main meal especially if you know the restaurant serves large portions.
  • Only order pudding after you’ve eaten your main meal, as you may find you're too full for one, or that now that you’ve eaten you feel less tempted to order one.
  • Also, it’s always useful to follow the golden rule of filling most of your plate with tasty vegetables or salad – this can help you to feel full and provide helpful nutrients.
  • Eat slowly and put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. Research shows it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register you are full and consequently people who hurry their meals are more likely to overeat.
  • If your meal is delayed, and your blood glucose levels are in danger of going too low, ask if there is a bread roll to tide you over.
  • Add extra vegetables to your plate. Research shows that the volume of food is important in helping us feel full and vegetables provide the bulk.
  • Protein foods are filling – try to include a serving of lean meat, egg, fish or beans.

Buffets

At some point in December, you’ll probably find yourself close to a buffet, with loads of tasty temptations. Don’t be deceived by the tiny portions – it's really easy to overeat in a short space of time. A little planning will help you to enjoy the food without going overboard.

  • Rather than taking one of everything, take time to browse what’s there and pick up your favourites so you really enjoy the taste of the food rather than just eating it because it’s there.
  • Select a small plate to help you manage how much you’re eating. Choose veg and salads first, and use the space leftover other offerings like meat, fish or veggie options. Don’t pile the different foods on each other.
  • Resist the temptation to keep going up and grazing, as you are likely overeat and lose track of what you’ve eaten.
  • Try not to sit facing the buffet and don’t stand next to it, as you’ll probably end up eating more than you planned to if you do.
  • If someone else serves you, and you end up with something you don’t want on your plate, don’t feel obliged to eat it – it’s fine to leave it on your plate.

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