Christmas and Diabetes – Tips to help you!

The thought of Christmas and managing diabetes could be a time of year that fills you with dread. However, it doesn’t need to. With a bit of preparation and additional thought, your diabetes management does not have to be the focal point of your holiday season. So read on to discover my top tips for a happy Christmas managing diabetes.

Pin for Christmas and managing type 1 diabetes with iced biscuits and pine in the background

Managing type 1 diabetes every day takes a lot of work and the holiday season is no different.

The holiday season is a time of joy, laughter, and, of course, indulgence. For individuals living with Type 1 Diabetes, navigating through the Christmas festivities might seem like a daunting task. Sweets, baked goods, pastry and alcohol to name a few, are all readily available everywhere you turn. On top of that, there may be travel plans and routine tends to go out of the window. All of these factors can add an extra layer of pressure and strain on people living with or caring for a person with type 1 diabetes.

But Fear not! If like me you don’t want to let this get in the way of having a great time at Christmas and still want to ensure that you are doing the best you can in managing diabetes, then this is the article for you.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore a variety of practical tips and strategies to ensure a happy and healthy holiday season for those managing diabetes, along with a few inspirational Christmas recipes to get you in that festive mood!

Christmas and Diabetes – Top Tips to help you

1. Plan Ahead!

notebook and pencils with post it note saying plan ahead for christmas and diabetes managemnt

This is probably my most important tip, for a more controlled and stress-free approach to your diabetes management over Christmas.

By anticipating potential challenges and taking proactive measures, you can massively reduce stress and enjoy the festivities with a more relaxed approach. Therefore doing as much planning and organising as possible, and well in advance could make your Christmas a lot more enjoyable.

This could range from anything to preparing medical supplies, travel snacks or having (sometimes difficult) conversations early with family and friends to help set expectations. The more eventualities you can be prepared for and anticipate, the less stress it will put on you and or your child when it comes to enjoying the holidays.

Below are more specific tips that will help you to be more prepared:

2. Stocking up on Medical Supplies

Collection of diabetes supplies to help with christmas and diabetes management

There are so many jobs to do before and during Christmas, but at the top of that list is definitely organising your medical supplies.

Doctors surgeries and chemists will be closed on the bank holidays, as will any third-party medical suppliers. It is also a particularly busy time for the Royal Mail and other delivery services. So the best thing you can do is get all of your medical supplies in early December so you are prepared well ahead of time.

As the holiday season approaches, make a checklist of all your diabetes essentials. Compare that to your current inventory of supplies. Any items you are running low on then contact your surgery, chemists and third-party suppliers and get them ordered. Most third-party suppliers like Dexcom for instance are happy to bring your shipment dates forward a week or two so that you can have a good supply to hand.

If you’re travelling, pack these items in a dedicated diabetes care kit, making it easily accessible during the journey.

To help ensure you have an ample supply of insulin, test strips, and any other medications you may need. My handy holiday diabetes supply checklist below will also help you with this task:

3. Have diabetes management conversations ahead of time

For many of us, Christmas can be a time of visiting friends and family which also means uncertainty and some control being taken away. So the best thing you can do is to have conversations about managing your or your child’s diabetes and what would help make it easier, ahead of time.

Communicate your diabetes needs with the hosts or travel companions. Explain clearly about your dietary needs and the importance of sticking to some form of routine. Discussing your plans in advance fosters understanding and support, ensuring a smoother experience during the festivities.

I know sometimes these conversations can feel awkward. No one wants to feel like they are being a burden or creating extra work for their hosts. But rest assured I think most of these feelings sit with us rather than others. In my experience, most people want to do whatever they can to help. So don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or what would make things more manageable for you and or your child.

Some points you may like to discuss are:

  • Figuring out the time of day that works better to eat a big meal vs. a lighter meal
  • Asking them to save the packets of foods for easy barcode scanning and ingredient checking
  • Agreeing on the best time for sweet treats or puddings to help manage your bolusing regime and avoid insulin stacking
  • Including certain foods like maybe some carb count free options that you enjoy and are easier for blood glucose management.
  • Do they have electronic scales? (something you would expect but you’d be surprised!)

4. Create a Diabetes-Friendly Menu

Start by planning your holiday menu well in advance. Research and experiment with some diabetes-friendly recipes (like all of the recipes carefully crafted on WHK) that are not only delicious but also align with your nutritional needs.

This foresight enables you to tailor festive dishes to suit your dietary requirements, ensuring a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats.

If you are at other people’s houses, another option is to also offer to take a dish or particular sweet treat with you so you always know that there are some more blood sugar-friendly options available. Also, it makes a thoughtful gift and means that everyone gets to enjoy your tasty offerings!

Some of my favourites to enjoy at Christmas are:

5. Ensuring Emergency Readiness for Diabetes Management

So not really a topic any of us want to think about, but sadly when you’re managing a chronic condition like DIabetes it has to become part of your planning process.

Being prepared for unforeseen circumstances can help in the eventuality that you may need emergency diabetes management. Have a plan in place for handling unexpected fluctuations in blood sugar levels. And if you are travelling do you know where the nearest hospitals are, make sure you have your glucogen pen safely packed and stored.

6. Use technology to help you keep track

checking a mobile phone

The holiday season can be such a busy time and it is easy to lose track of carbohydrate intake and insulin dosing. So the best way is to use technology to help you keep on track.

Technology offers a helping hand in managing diabetes. Here are some apps and devices that have helped us.

Carb counting apps

The best app we have found for reliable carb counting is Nutra Check. It has an extensive list of UK foods and restaurants, which are regularly updated and quality checked by them. You can also scan barcodes along with searching for a particular food and the results are shown in a photo or logo form. This helps you to visually find the product you are looking for!

Another great app is Carbs and Cals. This is a very visual app, which again has a great food database. The difference with this app is that it helpfully shows you up to 6 portion sizes of a particular food which is incredibly useful when you don’t have scales to hand..

Smart Phone Apps for Diabetes Tracking

You may also want to consider using an app that helps monitor blood sugar levels, track food intake, and provide valuable insights and trends. In particular, we find that keeping track of your insulin given and any extending you may do is invaluable. It can be very easy when having a good time, eating and drinking more than normal and you lose track of your insulin on board.

There are lots of brilliant diabetes apps out there to support keeping track of your insulin dosing. If you are a CGM wearer, all the proprietary apps allow you to add this information manually. However, if an app isn’t for you there are loads of tools on our smartphones like calendars, notes and alarms that can also help remind us.

Another thought is to ask others to help you. Parents may want to take turns so that you get a little time to switch off from the responsibilities. Or perhaps ask a friend or family member to help, as I know what a big task it can be if you’re doing this on your own all of the time.

I appreciate we all have our methods of insulin tracking so do whatever is right for you. But we have certainly found by agreeing on responsibilities, managing information electronically allows for more clarity and makes it easier for others to help.

7. Stay active

The Christmas holidays can also be quite a sedentary time of the year as who doesn’t want to just curl up in front of the fire and watch lots of great Christmas films? Then add to that being a parent to two teenagers, who would quite happily stay vertical for the whole day. Being active can become quite a low priority.

However, we always notice in the holidays when life slows down this can impact blood sugar levels. Therefore another tip is to find ways to continue to stay active throughout the holidays. Now I don’t mean you have to be down at the gym sweating it out every day, but some form of movement really can help.

Walking and getting outdoors whatever the weather, is fantastic. It doesn’t cost anything unless, like us, there is normally a little coercion involved with the bribe of a hot chocolate. It’s also an activity that can normally be easily slotted into the day. And you can choose to go on your own if you need some peace away from the festivities or together as a group.

Alternatively, involve your loved ones in your quest for an active holiday season. Suggest family-friendly activities like post-dinner walks or engaging in interactive games that get everyone moving.

If you find that you aren’t finding the time to keep as active as usual remember to keep an eye on your insulin ratios and background insulin levels as you may find these will need to increase over the holiday period.

8. Get enough sleep

hand holding a clock in bed

Getting enough sleep is important for all of us especially when it comes to managing glucose levels. Christmas is a busy time with parties, staying up late and travelling commitments. This can all impact the amount of sleep we get leaving us tired and more likely to reach for a cup of coffee and foods higher in fat and sugar. All of this will impact our ability to manage our blood glucose levels effectively.

Therefore it’s important to try and get enough sleep every night over the holiday period. The NHS recommend on average:

Adults need 7 to 9 hours
Children need 9 to 13 hours
Toddlers and babies need 12 to 17 hours

So again plan to ensure that late nights don’t follow early rises for travel commitments etc. Plan plenty of days of rest in between parties and festivities. Trying to do too much on consecutive days will just leave you feeling even more exhausted. And remember that children tire a lot quicker than us as well!

9. Manage your snacks

Snacks are everywhere during Christmas but invariably they are not the healthiest of choices. Whilst all these snacks and extras absolutely should be enjoyed. But when you are living with or caring for a person with diabetes we know that these can have a long-lasting impact on blood glucose management. So try and incorporate some Smart Carbohydrate choices too.

Making some smart Carbohydrate choices, with a little extra planning, will allow you to enjoy your favourite festive treats without wreaking havoc on your blood sugar levels.

Consider incorporating some low-glycemic index foods or another option for helping to lighten the snack load is to provide some tasty alternatives. These could be lower or no carb snack options which will certainly help when glucose levels are higher than you would like.

There are plenty of great ideas in my free handy low and no carb snack guide below. And if you would like to learn more about healthy snacking then make sure to read my post on SNACKING TIPS – 10 TIPS TO HELP YOU SNACK BETTER

10. But most importantly of all have lots of fun!

Diabetes management and blood glucose levels are certainly going to be harder to manage over Christmas. But if they aren’t perfect that’s OK! Try not to beat yourself up too much. Tomorrow is always another day and another opportunity to manage them differently. There are so many factors that can affect our blood glucose levels we can only do the best that we can at that given point in time.

Christmas and diabetes in a nutshell!

Planning and being organised is the absolute key to a happy, relaxed Christmas and managing diabetes.

Spending the time before the festivities begin; arranging medical supplies, researching and buying foods, figuring out the best apps to help you carb count and track insulin dosing, along with preempting conversations with family and friends, will all go such a long way in making Christmas and managing diabetes a little easier.

But also remember whilst having lots of fun, make sure to carve out some time to relax, catch up with sleep, maybe go on a lovely long walk and watch plenty of Christmas films of course. You, your body and or your family also need plenty of rest and time to recharge.

Additional Resources

  1. Diabetes UK – This website offers a wealth of information on diabetes management, lifestyle tips, and support networks.
  2. NHS – Diabetes – The National Health Service provides comprehensive information on diabetes, including guidance on diet, exercise, and overall well-being.
  3. NutraCheck– This app can assist in tracking food intake and monitoring nutritional content, making it a handy tool for those managing diabetes.
  4. FreeStyle Libre & Dexcom – Learn more about continuous glucose monitoring and how devices can aid in real-time blood sugar level tracking.

Remember, individual responses to diabetes management strategies may vary, and it’s always advisable to consult with healthcare professionals for personalised advice.

Wishing you a festive and healthy Christmas season! If you have any specific questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to your healthcare team for guidance tailored to your unique needs.

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