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What diabetics can do at Christmas

Published:Wednesday | November 15, 2023 | 12:05 AM

CHRISTMAS IS a time to enjoy yourself and have foods that you would not regularly eat at other times of the year. However, being a time of celebration, many traditional Christmas foods tend to be high in saturated fat, free (added) sugars and salt than our usual diets.

If you have diabetes, or are close to someone who does, you may find that this time of year can make managing your diabetes more difficult, with so much tempting Christmas food and drink to choose from.

Dr Rivane Chybar Virgo, medical doctor and health and wellness coach, says that before the Christmas celebrations, diabetic patients can plan ahead to include what method of cooking they will use, and what meals and snacks they can eat, that will ensure that they keep a regular eating schedule.

“At some point during the festive period, you may find that you have higher blood sugar levels than normal due to being less active than usual, overindulging, or changing your routine. While one or two high readings should not affect your long-term health or diabetes management, take care not to let your blood sugar levels stay high for long, as you could start to feel unwell,” Dr Chybar Virgo said.

She said if you self-test your sugar levels, it is a good idea to do this more often over the Christmas period, so you can catch changes in your blood sugar sooner and avoid a hypo or hyper. “Stress and illness can raise your blood sugar levels,” she said.

Although we all love putting our feet up and relaxing over the festive period, it is important to keep active. Being physically active can help lower your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and blood fats over the Christmas period and help you manage your weight.

“There are many easy and fun ways to fit in some physical activity. A brisk walk is a great way to stay active. Playing with the children or dancing the night away at a party can help towards keeping healthy as well. You could also try some active party games,” Dr Chybar Virgo said.

Eating and drinking at Christmas time is part of the fun, and there is no need to completely miss out on certain foods and drinks. However, be mindful about what you are choosing, and do not beat yourself up if you do eat more than you usually would, or have foods that are not as healthy for you.

“Everyone should be making healthy food choices year round, but the festive period should not affect your long-term health and diabetes management, as long as you plan for it and get back on track right away,” Dr Chybar Virgo said.


A healthy diet is important for managing diabetes. Try these tips to make your festive occasions a little healthier:

• Fill up on the array of vegetables available.

• Keep an eye on your portion sizes. Fill your plate up with vegetables first, as we tend not to get enough of these.

• Serve yourself, if possible. Someone else might pile certain foods high, so choosing your own options for starchy carbs, protein and healthy fats will help you keep your blood sugar levels on track.

• If you are having a dessert, try to stick to one portion of your sweet treat, and think about what it is served with.

• Do not drink on an empty stomach, as this increases your risk of hypos if you manage your diabetes with insulin or some medications.

• Steam your vegetables rather than fry or boil – this does not use oil and keeps more vitamins and minerals. Including vegetables at each meal can help prevent your blood pressure and blood cholesterol going up over the holidays.

• We should all try to eat less salt to help manage our blood pressure.