Christmas is a time when tempting food seems to be permanently available. You might find it daunting to be offered food – and more food – particularly if you are new to balancing your diet to help manage diabetes.
But, a few simple strategies at the supermarket, and at meal times, can help you to relax and enjoy your favourite Christmas food. The best approach is to stick to the principles of your usualhealthy, balanced diet, and to eat regularly throughout the day, having breakfast, lunch and dinner, as you would during the rest of the year.
Keeping to your regular meal times will help you to avoid grazing between meals, and will help you to balance your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels.
Start the day with your usual breakfast,whether that's eggs or porridge, muesli or wholegrain cereal with no added sugar and some fruit, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk or yogurt. Including a portion of fruit at breakfast will help you to get your five a day through the festive season.
* Search ourrecipe finderfor more breakfast ideas.
Mince pies start appearing in cafes and shops almost as soon as bonfire night is over, and your first one of the year might mark the start of the festive season. If you’re taking some to a school Christmas party or for a workplace treat, try these simple swaps:
- Buy mini mince pies which are fun – the same great taste, but small portions, helping you to cut back on fat and calories.
- Buy ready-made shortcrust or filo pastry and fill with minemeat. Make your pies without a lid to reduce the amount of pastry. Two or three layers of filo will make a good pastry base.
- Make your ownmince piesfrom scratch. You could try using wholemeal flour, or 50/50 white and wholemeal flour for the pastry. Stir grated cooking apple into the mincemeat.
If you’re planning a winter party at home, you can take charge of the menu. If you plan healthy and delicious food, you can relax and enjoy the party without worrying too much about what you’re eating – and you’ll know that your guests are enjoying healthy food, too.
- Try a Scandi-style smorgasbord or cold table which can bemade aheadand is usually a mix of wholegrain crispbreads and rye breads topped with smoked salmon, prawns, smoked mackerel, sea trout or salmon, sardines, sild (herring in a variety of sauces e.g. mustard, tomato or plain) and roll mop herring. It is served with salads and with hot or cold potato dishes.
- Buy green salads and bite-sized cherry or plum tomatoes to serve to your guests, alongside a chargrilled vegetable selection, a mixed bean salad using edamame, kidney, borlotti and cannellini beans, lentil salads with Indian or Mediterranean spicing, grated carrot and beetroot salad. If you’re buying them ready-made, check thefood labels.
- Serve thin slices of roast chicken or turkey, gammon and lean roast beef.
It’s worth cutting back on pastry where you can, to cut back on carbs, fat and calories.So choose cocktail sausages instead of sausage rolls, and replace vol-au-vents and tartlets, quiches and samosa with mini fishcakes, oven-baked falafels and small slices of pizza. Try oursoda bread pizzetta.
- Opt for salsa, yogurt-basedtzatzikiand reduced-fathummusrather than cream cheese or sour cream and full-fat dips. Serve with wholegrain breadsticks, tortilla chips, melba toast, pretzels,savoury popcornand crudités (chopped raw vegetables) rather than, or alongside, crisps, unsalted nuts and vegetable crisps.
- Put out small ramekins of savoury snacks like crisps and unsalted nuts, rather than large bowls. A bowl of nuts in their shells is a great addition to a Christmas spread: walnuts, brazils, almonds and hazelnuts on a seasonal table, along with a bowl of satsumas or clementines.
- Serve plenty of fresh fruit. Grapes and satsuma segments are easy to pick at during a party. Or buy a selection of fruit and stick a selection onto skewers – easyfruit kebabs. For something a little bit special, dip half of each piece of fruit in some melted dark chocolate and allow to set.
- If you’re making or buying minimince piesto take to school or work, get some extras to
serve at your party.
- Offer plenty of still and sparkling water, and low-caloriesoft drinks, to your guests and don’t forget to have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks yourself. Try ourvirgin mojitoormulled apple juice.
- If you are carb counting and adjusting your insulin, the carb content ofalcoholic drinksdisplayed should be used as a reference guide only, as it is not generally recommended to take additional insulin for the carbohydrate found in most alcoholic drinks as alcohol is associated with an increased risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels). Speak to your healthcare team for specific advice.
With all those veggies, the traditional roast turkey meal can be very well balanced. Turkey is lean – get the best from it by roasting it on a trivet so fat drains away. Pour off the fat before making gravy from the juices in the pan, and serve the gravy from a gravy boat or jug with a fat separator spout.
You don’t need to buy a ready-basted turkey or to add any fat during roasting if you start by roasting the turkey upside down (breast down) for the first third of the cooking time. This keeps moistness in the breast. Cover with foil once the skin is golden to prevent drying out.
- Swap pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in streaky bacon) for low-fat cocktail sausages or chipolatas wrapped in lean Serrano or parma ham.
- Swap sausage meat stuffing recipes for a lower-fatapricot and chestnut stuffing.
- Cook roast potatoes and parsnips in olive or rapeseed oil. Alternatively, boiled new potatoes are just as nice and they are fat free.
- Love them or hate them, it’s not Christmas dinner withoutBrussels sprouts. But, if you’re not keen, try kale, broccoli, calvolo nero, chard or any of the other delicious cabbage varieties. Use the cooking water to make the gravy.
- Christmas puddding contains a lot of calories. Serve small portions or individual puddings. Buy low-fat vanilla yogurt or custard to replace brandy butter – add a teaspoon of brandy to the custard, if you like. Crème fraiche is better than cream, and you could have a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt instead of ice cream, too.
- Try buying the ingredients to make our healthierChristmas puddings,mince piesormini Christmas puddings.