Christmas is a time of great excitement. It is a time for family and for children, for lights, for decorations, Santa presents and of course for food. Rich delicious foods are a huge part of the traditional Irish Christmas. Piles of roast potatoes, the turkey and ham, the Christmas pudding soaked in brandy and a Christmas cake to top it off… So how do you get through the festive season without completely over-indulging?
Healthy eating for people with diabetes is the same as for everyone else.
You can still join in the festive fun if you have diabetes. There are no ‘forbidden’ foods but remember that traditional Christmas foods do tend to be higher in fat and calories than everyday foods. As they are foods that you eat only occasionally over Christmas, they can be included as part of your usual meals without having to be adapted, but do go easy on the mince pies and those moreish selection boxes.
All of the traditional Christmas foods such as mince pies, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake can still be enjoyed but just don’t eat too many or too much in one go. The trick is to spread them out over the Christmas period and keep your portions as small as you can.
The following are some top tips to remember over Christmas
‘Diabetic’ sweets and chocolates are best avoided. They are expensive, don’t taste as good as ordinary ones and if eaten in excess, can give you tummy ache or diarrhoea. It is better to have a small amount of ordinary chocolate occasionally.
Stick with sugar free or diet drinks as much as possible.
Keep fresh fruit juice to a small glass taken with a meal as it contains lots of natural sugars.
Save your selection boxes – they will last into January and don’t need to be eaten all at once.
Love the Christmas fruit and veg! Fruit salad, melon, satsumas, fruit juice, parsnips, carrots, peas, brussel sprouts, broccoli and dried fruit (only a small handful)… Make sure you have your share of these too over Christmas not just crisps, chocolate and cake!
Take some exercise to walk off the large meals and puddings. Save the DVD’s and computer games until its dark and get outside when you can.
Take your time when eating; slowdown especially at this time of year. You usually eat more when you eat quickly and slowing down will help you to reduce the amount you take in. A good tip to remember is to slow down more when you eat and try to speed up when you exercise!
Fried food can be easily avoided by roasting or grilling. Avoid adding butter to vegetables, and keep an eye on how many sauces you eat. When eating out ask for sauce on the side so you can control the amount you take in.
If you are on insulin or on a pump and will be snacking more or having a larger dinner discuss altering boluses or injections with your diabetes team.
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If you want to you could try adapting some of your traditional recipes to be healthier options. Adjusting recipes to be higher in fibre and lower in fat, sugar and salt does involve a bit of trial and error. However, the following tips will be helpful:
• Try to reduce the amount of fat you use by swapping high fat ingredients for lower fat alternatives.
• Grill, bake, poach, steam, microwave or boil foods rather than frying them or cooking with added fat.
• Use low fat dairy products where possible such as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, reduced fat cheeses and low fat yogurts.
• Light crème fraîche is very similar to traditional soured cream. It is heat stable and is therefore ideal for use in savoury sauces. It is also delicious served on hot or cold puddings instead of double cream.
• Fromage frais is fresh skimmed cow’s milk cheese, but is more like a natural yogurt. It is not heat stable and is therefore best used in desserts and dips in place of cream or Greek yogurt.
• when you feel nothing but cream will do, spoon extra thick single cream onto fruit or puddings instead of double cream. Whip up whipping cream rather than double cream for filling cream buns or cakes.
• Use fats and oils that are high in monounsaturates.
• Reduce the amount of cheese you use by using stronger cheese for cooking. You’ll find that you won’t have to use so much to give it a cheesy flavour. Grated cheese tends to go further too.
• Try and reduce the amount of salt used in cooking and at the table as we eat more salt than we need. Flavour your food with lemon juice, herbs, spices or mustard instead for healthier, tastier food.
• Recipes using a reduced amount of sugar will not keep as long as a traditional recipes as sugar is a natural preservative. To avoid any wastage, freeze in portions that can be defrosted as needed – but check that the recipe is suitable for freezing first.
• If liked, you can experiment by reducing the added sugar in your baking recipes. Most cakes, for example sponge cake, will work even if the sugar in the recipe is cut by a half. Remember that they will not keep as long as a traditional recipe. Recipes such as fruit cakes, fruit scones or tea breads can be made without added sugar. They do not require sugar for bulk and the dried fruit will provide sweetness.
• Jams and marmalades – ordinary are fine or instead of using the traditional ratio of 1lb fruit to 1lb sugar you can reduce this to 1lb fruit to 3/4 lb sugar.
• Cold desserts and hot puddings can be sweetened with reduced sugar or intense sweeteners if necessary, y but some fruit based puddings or puddings with added dried fruit will not require any sweetening at all.
• Intense sweeteners can be used, if liked, in cooking and baking – follow the manufacturers instructions.
10 festive breakfast ideas
Here are a few easy suggestions as to what foods you can eat for breakfast when you have Diabetes:
Porridge with flaked almonds and strawberries and 1 teaspoon of cream
Wholemeal pancakes topped with yoghurt and chopped fresh fruit
Brown soda bread and 2 slices of lean bacon or salmon and slices of grilled tomato
Wholemeal pancakes drizzled with a small amount of honey and chopped fresh fruit
Yoghurt topped with fresh fruit compote and wholegrain cereal
2 slices of wholegrain toast with jam (you only need a little) and freshly squeezed orange juice
Poached or scrambled egg and smoked salmon with a small wholegrain bagel and fresh fruit juice
Scrambled eggs, grilled tomato and mushrooms with half a bagel
Fresh fruit smoothie with 1 slice of rye bread and a small amount of chunky marmalade
No added sugar muesli with natural yoghurt and a small glass of fresh orange juice
For starters try melon and other fresh fruits with Parma ham or smoked salmon or have avocado and prawns with a lightly dressed salad.
A delicious homemade soup can be a warming low calorie starter.
Try adding some seasonal butternut squash and top with low fat crème fraîche and some fresh parsley rather than cream.
Turkey meat is naturally low in fat; however avoid the skin as this is high in fat.
When roasting potatoes leave them whole rather than cutting them small as the smaller they are the more fat they will absorb. Roast separately from the turkey to cut down on the animal fat.
Fill up on plenty of vegetables but avoid adding butter or rich sauces. Steam your vegetables rather than boil to hold onto those valuable vitamins and minerals.
Gravy is a must for turkey but allow the juices to settle so you can skim off all fat before making.
Use low fat custard or crème fraîche instead of cream or brandy butter with the pudding.
Try fruit compote by stewing your favourite berries with plums and apples with a pinch of cinnamon.
Most importantly keep the ‘goodies’ to small portions and when you feel full stop eating!