A diabetic-friendly guide to enjoying Christmas

If you’re struggling with high blood sugar, Christmas can be a time of concern. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it – just follow these top festive tips!

December is the start of the wintertime – but it’s also that time of the year where we reunite with family and friends to celebrate Christmas together. Dinners, Christmas parties, after-work Christmas drinks: all of those fun and entertaining moments are full of joy and, more often than not, also full of delicious foods and drinks. No Christmas lunch or dinner would be complete without dishes like mince pies, pigs in blankets, stuffed turkey, roasted potatoes, and Christmas pudding, to name but a few.

For most people, the number of calories consumed or the saturated fat and sugar content in all of these dishes is not something they worry about. However, if you are type-2 diabetic or are at risk of developing diabetes (pre-diabetic), the nutritional content of these festive dishes can be a worry and can really impact your health.

Type 2 diabetes has been on the rise for the last decade. According to Diabetes UK, approximately 5 million people are living with diabetes in the UK. Previous registration figures showed an increase in 2021-22 of almost 150,000 compared with the year before.

90% of all people living with diabetes are type 2 diabetics. Furthermore, around 2.4 million people are prediabetic – at an increased risk of developing T2D based on blood glucose levels – and 850,000 people are currently living with type 2 diabetes but have not been diagnosed yet.

These alarming numbers and the fact that many people are at risk or have not been diagnosed yet are good enough reasons to take care of yourself during this Christmas period and avoid an unpleasant surprise next January when you visit your GP for a routine checkup.

“The Christmas effect”

The holiday season often brings with it small increases in blood sugar and cholesterol levels. GPs usually detect these changes when checking up on their patients in January. 

But the good news is that studies suggest that this effect subsides quickly in most people, bringing blood glucose and cholesterol levels back to pre-Christmas levels by February or March.

Avoiding the "Christmas effect"

But despite these changes being temporary, they still last a few months – and diabetes experts recommend keeping glucose and cholesterol levels as low and stable as possible. Therefore, it would be better to avoid the ‘Christmas effect’ completely – but can we do that without having to miss out on all the festive joy that Christmas has to offer?

Fear not – there are ways to still enjoy your traditional Christmas treats while still taking care of your blood sugar levels! The key is in learning what exactly is to blame for the ‘Christmas effect’ – is it one dish in particular or the whole array of Christmas preparations? 

Join us as we strive to answer this question by exploring the nutritional composition of the Christmas dinner – and suggest some healthier alternatives for those of us keeping a close eye on our blood sugar.

Top tips for a diabetic-friendly (but still delicious) Christmas dinner

Diabetics can still have a delicious, healthy, and fun Christmas dinner too by following some simple recommendations, alternative recipes and ingredient swaps.

1. Roast turkey - with or without stuffing?

If you usually tend to go for a serving of stuffing, you should reconsider that this Christmas. While it can be hard to spot at first glance, comparing the nutritional values of roast turkey recipes with and without chestnut stuffing makes it clear that the stuffing is actually the devil hidden in the detail. Skipping the stuffing in your turkey cuts out 70% of the calories, almost all of the carbohydrates and sugars and most of fat and saturated fat. We like this recipe!

2. Skip the roasties, swap in the nuts​

Roast potatoes are delicious, but they’re packed full of carbohydrates that will spike your blood sugar and put you on a sure-fire path to the ‘Christmas effect’. Instead of roast potatoes, consider a nut roast instead – they’re lower in carbohydrates and rich in unsaturated fats (‘good’ fats), protein and fibre, which makes this swap a great option for diabetics. Try this diabetic-friendly recipe!

3. Time to upgrade pudding​

Diabetic-friendly recipes are a great alternative to still be able to enjoy your favorite holiday treats without feeling the effects afterwards. Mince pies are usually full of sugar and butter, which results in an unfavorable combination for diabetics, and while Christmas pudding is a classic, it’s far from ideal if you need to control your glycemia.

Compared with using traditional recipes, opting for a diabetic-friendly version (like this one for mince pies or this one for Christmas pudding) more than halves the calories, carbohydrates and sugar content of your dessert.

4. Keep a clear head​

Cutting down on alcohol is often a really important part of our journey to lower high blood sugar. Christmas is a tempting time to have a drink (or several) – but luckily there are more non-alcoholic options than ever before available to keep you feeling merry yet clear headed. Depending on what you like, try non-alcoholic wine, beer, prosecco, or perhaps even a special Christmas mocktail.

5. Give yourself a Boxing-Day Boost

With the best will in the world, Christmas is a time of indulgence – and even following all these tips, you might still find yourself being a bit naughty with what you’re eating and drinking over the festive period. So, get ahead of the ‘Christmas effect’ by giving your diabetic health a bit of a boost on Boxing Day with our Boxing Day SuperSoup recipe.

Made with our unique super-broccoli ‘GRextra’, which is patented for supporting the treatment and prevention of diabetes, and designed for diabetics, our SuperSoup could be just the boost you need to get your diabetic health back on track and start the new year healthier than ever!

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