SHEELA PAUL AND AMUDHAVALLI – Dietitians
- MV Nutrition Education Service
Celebrations can be difficult for anyone with a chronic illness. For many people with diabetes, Christmas and New Year, which are associated with large meals and sweet treats, can be a tough time of the year - how do you resist temptation when it’s lurking at every corner? The good news is that, with a bit of planning, you can make your Christmas celebration diabetic-friendly and enjoyable for everyone while keeping your blood sugar levels under control and your waistline in check.
If you have diabetes, you don’t have to eat anything different from the rest of your family. By making a few changes, opting for healthier foods and keeping the “naughty treats” at a minimum, you can also join in the fun.
Include low- fat and reduced-sugar options in your meal plans. Avoid heavy starch dishes, like all-bread stuffing. Have fewer desserts on the menu. Add more vegetables and fruits to meals. Plan to eat healthy snacks like raw vegetables and roasted nuts or air-popped popcorn. Whole fruits also make excellent snacks. Keep alcoholic beverages at a minimum and never have alcohol without food. Have food and snacks on a regular schedule to keep blood sugar stable.
Do not eat a huge breakfast on Christmas morning. Have a low- calorie breakfast or a salad or one fruit with two or three heaped tablespoons of low-fat yoghurt or curd as the rest of the day a lot of food is probably going to be consumed.
Try to eat a normal plate of food for lunch on Christmas day. Your plate should have two cups of vegetable, two cups of cereal such as rice or a couple of chappathis, one cup of curd and one cup of dhal or meat and some salad. Don't feel tempted to have another lunch-time helping. The Christmas day lunch foods are probably going to be on the menu for the next two to three days, so you won't miss out!
Christmas dinner should be very small, if you have anything at all.
Try to postpone the dessert until coffee time or after your Christmas afternoon nap or, even better, after a brisk walk, as blood glucose levels soar higher when too much is eaten in one sitting. Strawberries and low-fat ice cream are the best choice for dessert, but if you want to have Christmas pudding, have a piece of low-fat fruit cake with a little bit of low-fat ice cream or low-fat custard.
Sugar-free sweets, like sugar-free chocolates and candies, are usually sweetened with sugar alcohols. While these can be a nice treat, excessive consumption can cause painful gas and have a laxative effect. Avoid eating too many of these treats.
MAKE WISE FOOD CHOICES:
Choose dishes with minimal sauces and dressings. Cut back on salt, remove visible fat from food, including chicken skin, and give up deep-fried foods and pastries. The traditional turkey/chicken that is served for Christmas is actually a good choice of white meat, as it is low in fat (if served without the skin and if it’s roasted, not fried) and high in protein. The real culprits are the high calorie gravy and stuffing that are usually served with the turkey/chicken - so, stay way from these.
EAT YOUR VEGGIES:
Vegetables are an important source of nutrients for everyone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always feature very high on the Christmas menu. Why not add some colour to the table with a choice of veggies? A fresh salad or non-starchy veggies are not only low in carbs and calorie, they will also help you to stop from overeating on foods high in fat and calories. See to it that there are enough salads and/or vegetables at lunch and when you get hungry, have a helping of salad so that you avoid nibbling on nuts and chocolates that might be lying around.
THINK ABOUT THE TIMING OF YOUR MEAL
Your Christmas lunch may only be ready by the middle of the afternoon. It’s therefore good to have a healthy snack handy, to ensure that your blood glucose levels don’t fall too low. If you are visiting friends or family, don’t be shy to ask for a healthy snack to keep your blood glucose levels steady.
If you take insulin injections or a pill that lowers blood glucose, you may need to have a snack at your normal meal time to prevent a low blood glucose level. You can also delay your injection until you are about to eat, however, if you are uncertain about adjusting the timing of your injections, consult with your diabetologist.
DRINK IN MODERATION
Remember that alcohol is high in calories. Stay away from sugary, non-alcoholic drinks. Choose artificially sweetened cold drinks or water. Keep a jug of ice water flavored with lemon slices and mint leaves around.
DON’T FORGET TO EXERCISE
Physical activity is a good way to manage both, your weight and blood glucose levels. If you manage diabetes without medication or insulin, a brisk walk after a meal will help reduce your blood sugar levels. Even if you manage diabetes with medication, exercise can help to reduce your blood sugar, as long as you find the fine balance between high and low blood sugar. Check your blood sugar before and after exercise.
FOCUS ON FRIENDS AND FAMILY INSTEAD OF FOOD
Enjoy quality time with family and friends, and do the things that you love best during the festive season.
Don’t crowd your day with activities. Allow time for rest and regular exercise, which is important for everyone, and especially for people with diabetes.
Choose gifts carefully for everyone. While choosing gifts for people with diabetes, keep the following in mind. Food gifts should be reduced sugar or sugar-free; products such as nuts and fruits are good choices. Diabetic feet require special care: choose white, non-binding socks, and a pedicure kit. Diabetic skin is sensitive; choose skin products that are gentle and moisturizing, and clothing that is comfortable and non-binding. Avoid heated products, such as heating pads and electrical equipment, people with diabetes who have poor circulation can be burned by these products. Some people with diabetes may enjoy gifts specifically relating to their condition, such as a subscription to a diabetic lifestyle magazine or diabetic cookbook, while others may prefer gifts that focus on other aspects of their lives, such as their favorite interests and hobbies.
FOR THE PERSON WITH DIABETES . . .
Monitor your blood sugar closely and do not skip your medication. Eat regularly and avoid low blood sugar. Control your portion sizes, especially where starches and sweets are concerned. Include some protein with every meal or snack to help keep your blood sugar stable. Do not drink excessive alcohol. Don’t drink at all on an empty stomach. Have a light snack before you go to a party. Keep healthy food and glucose supplements with you at all times. Get plenty of rest and exercise. If you are travelling, take regular breaks to stretch and move around.
A good way for a holiday without any complications with your diabetes is to plan ahead. Think about what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be going to eat and drink, and check out the options beforehand. If you are eating out, choose a restaurant or café that serves a good variety of healthy options. You can also take more salad with dressing served on the side, so that you can control the amount and eat slowly - allow time to enjoy the taste of your food.
Remember to stay active. Balance your eating, reading and relaxing time with a good walk or other activity each day to get the blood pumping.
At the best of times it can be hard to resist the tasty treats in life, but at Christmas it is even tougher. Christmas pudding and other sweet temptations can test those with the strongest of resolve!