Christmas can be challenging for people with diabetes, especially when a rich selection of food and drink is available.

However, while Christmas meals can feel a bit like navigating an obstacle course, there are many ways that you can enjoy a healthy festive season that does not adversely affect your blood sugars.

Here are some tips for enjoying sensible eating at Christmas that will also keep your diabetes under control.

Have a food plan

Making a food plan prior to Christmas celebrations beginning with family and friends is important as your judgement will not be influenced by hunger.

If you are being cooked for, it is wise to clarify beforehand with the chef – and other members of your dinner party – the size of your portion so that you are not offered anything that you have not planned to have.

Consider the number of courses, carbohydrates and sugar content you will consume before Christmas Day so you can adjust your insulin levels.

Also, do not forget to factor alcohol in your food plan, as it can contain a high level of calories and also cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate.

Test your blood more

The chances of receiving high or low blood sugar level readings are higher during the Christmas festivities, so additional blood testing will help catch blood sugar fluctuations early.

Reduce hunger

If you are completely starving by the time you eat a Christmas meal, you may be tempted to break your food plan and subsequently eat more than you should.

Christmas dinners can quite easily be delayed, and in the anticipation you may feel like your body is telling you to overeat to compensate for your increased hunger.

Two ways of preventing hunger rapidly increasing your appetite are:

  • Have a glass of water before you start your meal
  • Eat pre-meal snacks of protein or raw vegetables – these will break down in your body slowly and keep your appetite down

Eating slowly will also help with any increased hunger, allowing you to savour and better enjoy the food you’re eating, as well as avoiding the temptation of second helpings.

Fill up on vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables, such as carrots, are low in calories and will make your Christmas dinner much healthier, as well as filling you up more.

If travelling to somebody else’s house for a meal, bring along a portion of vegetables to prevent you from filling up on excess carbohydrates than can increase your blood sugar levels.

Eat dessert sensibly

Certain “diabetic” desserts may give the impression that they contain little sugar, but your blood glucose levels will be still be affected, and the products will cost more.

Eating some Christmas pudding, or another sweet dessert is perfectly manageable, but make sure you only have one serving and that it is a sensible portion.

Sweet dishes are absorbed very quickly, so the previous note on eating slowly is again applicable to savour your choice of dessert.

Avoid temptation

When dinner is not being eaten, it can be quite tempting to pick at if it is left exposed in quite an open place in the kitchen.

Small indulgences can still affect your blood sugar levels, so if your food is being cooked at your house, hide it away from sight.

Hunger following meals may be a sign of too high blood sugar levels and so going for a walk can help to both reduce your sugar levels as well as help you to walk away from the cravings.

Note that hunger can be a sign of hypos too (in people on insulin, sulfonylureas or glinides), so if any doubt, do a blood test to be sure.