It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And it comes with fabulous moments, gifts and food! But this is also a time of distress for a lot of people who have to deal with disease.
One that I continuously see in my practice is Type 2 diabetes and the same question has been popping up all month: what do I eat at Christmas?
Firstly, what is Type 2 diabetes? T2D is a lifestyle related disease that appears when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, or the body does not utilize insulin produced efficiently, to manage sugar levels into our body (insulin resistance)
It is called a “lifestyle” disease because it is preventable and curable through nutrition and lifestyle.
Unfortunately, since the 1980s we have seen a 90% increase in diabetes worldwide, despite talking about it more and more. Conventional medicine struggles to guide patients towards recovery and drugs have been proven inefficient; in fact studies show these drugs are potentially dangerous.
So making dietary and lifestyle changes are the only way forward. Being on a healthy diet and lifestyle can be scary for some people. Before our coaching sessions, my clients are terrified that being healthy means they will never have a good meal again!
The “health” industry has scared everyone with the hundreds of fad diets, the notion that food is boring and dull if healthy and false promises of silver bullets that will never deliver!
The truth is that food that is healthy is real food! Tasty and natural food made from prime ingredients that can satisfy the palate and promote/boost health; and a healthy Christmas meal is no exception!
If anything, I love people eating healthy at Christmas because they have the time to prepare food and create amazing dishes that they and their family can enjoy; things that have nothing to do with “diet” as we interpret it!
So here a few tips on how to eat and what to prepare this Christmas:
- Treat it like any other day: Before your family Christmas meal, treat this day like any other! Meaning: make sure you wake up and follow your routine, have a healthy, protein rich breakfast and carry on your day snacking on good food and not getting too hungry or overeating at lunch or dinner (whichever tradition you follow). With diabetes it is key to maintain a healthy and stable glucose level in the blood so we do not rely too heavily on injecting insulin. One way to do this is to eat protein and good fats with complex carbohydrates. Your Christmas day breakfast can be a little special and you can start with a Nori and Tofu scramble with a slice of dark Rye bread. Dr. Mark Hyman MD has shared that Rye has special Phytochemicals that help control and reverse T2D.
- Go NUTS for nuts: Eat a little snack every 4 hours and make sure they are protein and fat rich such as almonds! Almonds are amazing; they are high in fiber, high in vitamin E and Omega 3s and are also alkalizing! A handful with some water or herbal tea should keep you full and keep your glucose levels stable throughout the day.
- Practice Yoga for 20 minutes: Moving your body is particularly important with diabetes. As you are preparing yourself for a fun time and temptations, move your body, even if just for 20 minutes with some yoga! Choose the level appropriate for you and enjoy it! See this as your “me time” to collect your thoughts and feel amazing after! I recommend Lesley Fightmaster’s videos on You Tube which have a great selection of classes for all levels and can be easily adaptable to your need!
- What about alcohol: This is where it gets tricky for a lot of people, more so at Christmas. I get it: it is a time to celebrate and it is once a year! I wish I could say: “go ahead, enjoy red wine, after all the resveratrol is good for you”. But the truth is that, the sugar in alcohol is not! A lot of my clients will happily inject insulin to have a glass (or three) but feel awful the next day! Wanting to give you an advice from the bottom of my heart I say: don’t do it! It is not worth it! But I know you will want one and have it! Try to keep it to ONE and stick to H2O after! You can play around with awesome flavored water, infusing elderflowers, cucumbers and lemons in it, and that is unbelievably satisfying! Herbal teas and green tea are also great (green tea in moderation).
- Create a good plate: it is time for your Christmas meal and here you need to be careful! Having a table displaying the amazing creations you have worked on is wonderful, but it is also a temptation to overeating, something that with diabetes is not a good idea! In order not to overeat, preparing your delicious plate ahead is key as well as not skipping meals (remember the breakfast and snacks tips). Make your plate an abundance of colorful vegetables like roasted Brussels sprouts with shaved almonds, kale and quinoa salad with pomegranate and add a good amount of fats and protein. You can enjoy making the sprouts with some olive or coconut oil as well as trying this amazing dish by Erin Ireland – Cauliflower Roast. You can also enjoy a little soup as entrée, like my Broccoli and Cauliflower Curry Soup.
- Is there space for dessert? One of the issues at Christmas, second to alcohol, is dessert. Most traditional desserts are packed with sugar, which cause inevitable damage. But there are alternatives that I can suggest. Mostly, I would suggest waiting a couple of hours between your main and dessert so that perhaps dessert can be a little snack. Portion control is very important as a little can be handled, too much will be a disaster and you will need more insulin, possibly triggering hypoglycemia; and it is not fun! Choose a dessert that is kind to your body! I have a recipe that I truly love and that can be easily modified to suit diabetics as well! For starters, there is very little maple syrup in the original recipe anyway, but it can be reduced or eliminated further. The peanut butter component of my ice cream blocks, make this very palatable without sugar and this recipe is packed with good fats and proteins! If you choose not to use any maple, which I advise, make sure the chocolate is as good quality as I recommend (get OmBar if possible) so that you can enjoy a high quality ingredient with less sugar and higher nutrients!
- Have fun and be grateful: Aside from good food, Christmas is all about the people who are with you , sharing in the moment, so make that a special occasion for yourself and your family and loved ones. Also, chatting away about the year and how much you love the people you have there with you will allow you not to think of food! Food sometimes fills an empty space, so fill that space with love this Christmas!
- Go to bed on an empty stomach: If you can, have your Christmas meal at lunch or mid afternoon and allow 4 hours before bedtime with no food! This will allow you to digest properly and leave the body taking care of the essential repairs it needs to carry, needed even more when dealing with diabetes.
So now you are all set for your Christmas day special and although monitoring your sugar levels will still be necessary, I am sure you can enjoy the day feeling energetic and vibrant if you eat in a nourishing and happy manner. The sort of tips shared here are the basics to start your journey to recovery so that you can completely be free of Type 2 Diabetes!
If there was a time for mindfulness, Christmas is surely it, and perhaps you can start 2017 with a great resolution: to get healthy again, as it is your human right to feel alive!