While many diabetics practice restraint for the most part of the year, the holiday season can prove the downfall of many. In the run-up to Christmas, festive work parties, friends wanting to meet for drinks and an onslaught of Christmas pudding, truffles, and selection boxes can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Here are 6 tips to help successfully manage diabetes during the holidays.
1) Budget your sweets and treats
This can be a difficult period for diabetics, but it is still important to be conscious of what you’re consuming, and in what way it will affect your blood sugar levels. That being said, there is no reason you cannot enjoy the holidays by indulging a little.
Budget the treats that you know will cause your blood sugars to rise and pay close attention to what you have eaten that day.
For example, if your heart is set on having Christmas pudding, substitute some of the carbohydrates from your meal for your dessert.
If you are a dessert person, you could also steer away from store-bought pies and cakes and make your own healthy alternatives. Many diabetes sites offer low carb and low sugar dessert options that you can make at home.
However, if you do enjoy a few more treats than normal during the Christmas holidays, don’t beat yourself up about it. Enjoy the small indulges that you do have. Feeling guilty could increase your stress levels, which in itself could affect your blood sugar. Practice mindful moderation but take the time to savor the small treats you indulge in.
2) Plan Meals Ahead
Meal planning is a vital aspect of managing diabetes and while it can be easy to let loose during the holidays, there are a few things to bear in mind. If you have diabetes, healthy eating is an essential part of your treatment plan. Failure to plan ahead and stick to meal plans could have a serious effect on your blood sugar levels, resulting in dangerous health complications.
This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the good stuff. You can still enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner, just with a few tweaks to make it healthier.
For example, opt for sweet potato over starchy white potato. Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber, vitamins A, C, and B6, and is also rich in beta-carotene – a nutrient that helps to keep your immune system and skin healthy. Swap traditional stuffing for vegetarian stuffing and instead of a buttery turkey covered in fat, go for skinless turkey.
Keep your portions small and you may have enough room for a piece of Christmas pudding too but check your blood sugar levels beforehand and lay off the custard and double cream.
3) Limit Alcohol Consumption
‘Let’s drink and be merry’, is a popular phrase around the festive period and you may find yourself bombarded with invitations to parties, meet up and meals where drink is likely to be involved.
However, many alcoholic beverages are high in sugar and carbohydrates, which will have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels.
This doesn’t mean you have to abstain completely, but it is important to bear in mind the effect drinking can have if you are diabetic.
If you do choose to drink there are certain steps you should take to help manage your blood sugar levels.
For example, if you are heading out for drinks after work or an evening party ensure you have eaten beforehand.
Drinking on an empty stomach can send your blood glucose levels low and also mean you’re likely to gorge on nibbles if you haven’t eaten properly.
Some medications being used to treat diabetes can actually interact with alcohol. Meglitinides and Sulfonylureas, for example, are designed to stimulate the pancreas into creating more insulin. When we consume alcohol, this can result in what is known as ‘insulin shock’ which is potentially life-threatening.
4) Keep Active
During the holidays it can be easy to let your exercise regime go out the window. However, ditching your morning job to watch ‘Home Alone’, whilst tempting, could have a nasty effect on your blood sugar.
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If you find your motivation waning during the holidays, try incorporating fun family activities or enjoy long walks after meals.
5) Stock up
Around this time of year, many surgeries and pharmacies are often closed or have limited hours.
Therefore, getting medical supplies could prove difficult.
Make sure to stock up on insulin, medications and any other supplies you may need.
If you live in a rural area it could be necessary to stock up on food supplies, especially foods suited to a diabetic diet.
Prior to the holidays make sure you have everything you need. You don’t want to be stuck in a house full of holiday treats and carb fuelled meals, without a healthy alternative to choose from.
6) Test blood sugar more frequently
For most diabetics, this is an everyday routine of managing their diabetes. However, during the holidays you should be testing your blood sugar even more frequently.
While you might stick to your usual diet, it is likely that you may consume more food and drink than usual, as family meals become more frequent and many people find themselves socializing more often.
Checking your blood sugar levels more frequently will help to ensure that they are at a healthy level and help to give you some peace and mind during the holidays.
The holidays are a time for family, food, and fun and having diabetes should not prevent you from enjoying it. Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy diet and exercise regime. Enjoy that small slice of dessert but bear in mind portion size and carb consumption.