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Tips for a diabetes-friendly Christmas week

Tips for a diabetes-friendly Christmas week

Diabetes need not be a spoilsport when it comes to festivities, say experts

How to celebrate diabetes-friendly Christmas

Sixty-five-year-old Molly Austin and 28-year-old Hepzibah Saravanan have been eagerly waiting to celebrate diabetes-friendly Christmas with their loved ones.

Austin is a retired teacher from the Alappuzha district in Kerala and Saravanan is a private hospital counsellor from Chennai.

Neither — the former has type 2 diabetes and the latter, type 1 — lets their high blood glucose levels play a spoilsport when it comes to having their share of Christmas goodies and fun during the December festivities. But they don’t forget to take a sensible and smart approach.

“I will make up for the Christmas feast by being more careful with my diabetes medication and regularly monitoring my blood glucose levels,” says Saravanan. “Also, I wouldn’t skip my daily walk for 30 minutes in the morning and evening if I have eaten cake or other goodies.”

Austin also goes a bit easy on her diabetes diet at Christmas time. But she makes it a point to include more fibre-rich vegetables in her diet too. She also adds spices like cinnamon water and fenugreek powder that help in preventing sudden blood sugar spikes.

Experts agree that people with diabetes can also indulge in Christmas revelry but with a bit of caution, self-control and healthy dietary choices.

How to have your Christmas cake and eat it too

Dr RM Anjana, managing director and consultant, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai, tells Happiest Health that it isn’t as if people with diabetes can’t enjoy the holiday week. She says as far as the Christmas diet is concerned, it mostly depends on how the individual has been managing their blood sugar levels. People with fairly good control over their blood sugar can take it a bit easy for a day — compared with those who have a poor diabetes-management history.

“If someone’s blood sugar control is fairly all right with A1C (hemoglobin A1C) within 7.5 or 7, they don’t have to worry too much on Christmas Day,” Dr Anjana says. But such portion-controlled Christmas meals and goodies should be had once or twice only.

She says people with poor blood-glucose management need to be a bit more cautious with their portion size and food choices during the holiday week. They should take care to choose, say, sugar-free plum cakes.

“This will help to decrease the glycemic excursions, that is, the peaking of sugar level after consumption,” she says. “But even if the glycemic level doesn’t go up, these sugar-free products are loaded with calories. So, portion control by default becomes very important.”

Dr Anjana says the healthiest way for people with diabetes to celebrate Christmas is to be as active as possible with friends and family. She recommends an activity-based Christmas — like going on a trip or for a walk on the beach.

“Going to places together and spending family time together with activities and games like a treasure hunt — instead of opting to sit and watch a movie — would help to burn those extra calories that we are definitely going to gain,” she says. “Regular monitoring of blood sugar should also be done on these days.”

Mareena Mathew, dietician, Muthoot Hospital, Pathanamthitta, Kerala, also suggests portion control when it comes to Christmas goodies and adds that consumption of other forms of refined carbohydrates and processed food items should be strictly restricted.

Dr Archana SP, a medical officer dealing with non-communicable diseases at a government health centre in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, says that people with diabetes should opt for a controlled indulgence in festival meals as a reward for maintaining diet control and lifestyle during the rest of the year. Though alcohol is best avoided during these occasions, a glass of wine should be okay, she says.

Tips for a diabetes-friendly holiday week

  • It is okay to have one or two pieces of cake or cookies on Christmas Day. But always opt for strict portion control — this is especially important for those with a poor history of blood sugar management.
  • People with poor blood-sugar management should strictly opt for sugar-free goodies or those made with healthier, diabetes-friendly alternatives like wheat flour and oat flour — instead of refined flour (maida).
  • Try to satisfy sweet cravings by opting for more of fruits and nuts (including apple, guava, papaya, underripe banana, almonds and walnuts).
  • Restrict food items with refined carbohydrates and sugars, and include fibre-rich food like green leafy vegetables to balance the sugar peaks on the Christmas platter
  • Do not skip exercise and workout sessions to burn the extra calories gained during the holiday week.
  • Have activity-based holiday celebrations — say, a trip to the beach or a session of treasure hunt with the family — instead of watching a film together.
  • Go easy on yourself and do not get stressed out. It is also okay to go a bit easy on the diet (as long as some self-control is maintained)
  • Monitor sugar levels and adhere to prescribed diabetes medication during the holiday week. Continuous blood glucose monitoring is recommended.

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