The Christmas festivities are usually a marvellous occasion to share days of celebration with many friends and relatives. Excessive meals have a special leading role, which normally take centre stage of all events and gatherings.
Being able to make the most of the Christmas holidays while keeping blood sugar levels under control becomes a whole new challenge for people with diabetes. In many cases, some choose to give up many of the typical Christmas food such as nougats, chocolates or other types of desserts.
The impact that these types of celebrations have depends of course on the type of diabetes and the treatment used. For example, if you are a person with type 1 diabetes using a pump or injecting multiple doses of insulin daily, you will be able to eat pretty much any type of food which is normally found in a typical Christmas menu as long as you know the exact amount of carbohydrates for each food and dish. Based on the amount of carbs, you will adjust your rapid-acting insulin dose before each meal.
However, if you are a person with type 2 diabetes and you take no insulin for example, your purpose will likely be a different one. Keeping a close eye on the quantity of carbohydrates becomes in this case extremely important, especially those carbs that are found in sugar-rich food or refined flours. Ideally, one should stick to a diet based on unprocessed food, opting for healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts or fish.
This may sound difficult, but it not impossible!
Let’s have a look at some options to help us to reach this goal:
- Starters can include some vegetables – grilled, or as part of a mixed salad with different types of salad greens – combined with fruits and nuts. A light sauce dressing or different types of vinaigrettes can be used as well.
- For colder days we could go for a fish or shellfish soup, or a broth which can help cut the appetite for the following dish.
- Aperitifs don’t always have to be loaded with carbs or unhealthy fats. Seafood and cold cuts like cured ham or smoked salmon can be good options.
- The main course could be based on the concept of enjoying the main ingredient itself, with no added flavor. A portion of baked chicken, turkey or fish, always with simple sauces. Let’s taste the food in its most natural form! Be careful of the quantities, they are usually much bigger than that of any other normal day.
- If one chooses to have the typical Christmassy delights like shortbreads (Polvoron) and nougat, etc. make sure you choose the portion beforehand. As a reference, remember that the equivalent of a piece of fruit is that to 1-2 portions of nougat or 2 small shortbreads.
- Be vigilant of the consumption of alcoholic beverages. All these drinks contain calories while some beers, sweet wines or even cava or Champagne, also contain carbs. High alcohol intake leads to an increased risk of hypoglycemia hours later consumption.
- ‘Sugar free’ foods and ‘no added sugar’ foods also can contain other carbohydrates that increase blood sugar levels. That’s why, they should still be eaten with moderation.
Also, it would be good to remember …
- To stay active during these days: going for long walks can help to keep your glucose levels in a normal range.
- To follow the doctor’s advice. Increasing the doses of medicine or insulin on your own, before a Christmas blow out, could create problems.
- To choose the right moment to bolus. Often, in many Christmas meals the major carbs amount is placed at the end of the meal, in the desserts. Injecting the rapid-acting insulin right before the meal can cause an unexpected hypoglycemia.
Happy Holidays and Bon Appétit!