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Embracing the festive spirit of Christmas is all about enjoying the company of loved ones, but it often involves indulging in foods and treats that are higher in fats, sugars, and salts than our regular diets. For individuals living with diabetes or those with loved ones managing the condition, this season can pose challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet and self-management.
To help you navigate the holiday season without compromising your health or diabetes management, we've compiled a comprehensive list of tips to keep in mind. Additionally, it's essential to ensure you have an ample supply of your medications on hand, especially when medical facilities may be less accessible due to the holidays.
1. Be Mindful of Elevated Blood Sugar Levels: During the festive period, it's common to experience higher blood glucose levels than usual. This can result from reduced physical activity, changes in dietary habits, or disruptions to your routine. While short-term spikes in blood sugar levels are generally manageable, it's crucial to monitor them closely and take necessary actions to bring them back into a healthy range if they become elevated.
2. Test More Frequently: If you regularly monitor your blood sugar levels, consider increasing the frequency of your tests during the Christmas season. Frequent monitoring helps you detect any fluctuations early, reducing the risk of hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. Keep in mind that stress and illness can also affect blood sugar levels, so maintaining a consistent testing schedule is essential, even if you're traveling or amid holiday chaos.
3. Stay Physically Active: While the holidays offer a chance to relax, it's important to remain physically active. Exercise can play a significant role in managing blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and weight. Engage in enjoyable physical activities with your family, whether it's taking a leisurely family walk, playing active games with children, dancing at a holiday party, or even ice skating if the weather permits.
4. Embrace Healthy Eating Habits: Savour the holiday season's special foods and events, but remember that Christmas is an annual occurrence—there's no need to overindulge to the point of discomfort. With plentiful options available, you can explore different dishes next year or later on the same day. Focus on mindfully enjoying your meals by chewing slowly, relishing each mouthful, and stopping when you feel content. Remember, Christmas is about more than just food—make time for socialising with loved ones, too.
5. Choose Smart Holiday Snacking: Don't feel guilty about enjoying some Christmas snacks, but do so mindfully. While there are no "forbidden foods," aim to make healthier choices when possible. Remember that a break from your usual routine is expected during the holidays, so savour the festive treats, and when the occasion is over, focus on getting back on track with your regular diabetes management plan.Keep in mind that the post-Christmas days of ongoing indulgence are often the ones responsible for weight gain during the holidays.
6. Communicate Your Dietary Needs: If you're attending holiday gatherings hosted by friends or family, don't hesitate to communicate your dietary requirements. Inform your hosts about your diabetes and any specific dietary restrictions you have. This will help ensure there are suitable options available for you, making the celebration more enjoyable for everyone.
7. Educate Loved Ones: Take the opportunity to educate your loved ones about diabetes and how they can support you during the holidays. Share information about the condition, its management, and the signs of hypoglycaemia in case they need to assist you in an emergency.
8. Avoid Skipping Meals: To keep blood sugar levels stable, avoid skipping meals, even if a big holiday meal is planned for later. Missing meals can result in overeating and blood sugar surges at mealtime. (Note: This advice may not apply to well-managed type 1 diabetics on insulin pumps or injections.)
9. Plan for Alcohol Consumption: If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation and be aware of its impact on your blood sugar levels. Alcohol can lead to hypoglycaemia, so always consume it with food and monitor your blood sugar levels more closely when drinking.
10. Celebrate Non-Food Traditions: Shift the focus of your holiday celebrations towards non-food traditions. Engage in activities like caroling, decorating, watching festive movies, or playing games that don't revolve around food. This can help reduce the temptation to overindulge in sweets and treats.
By following these tips and maintaining a balance between festive indulgence and mindful choices, you can fully embrace the joy of Christmas while successfully managing your diabetes and maintaining your overall health.