The festive season can be a tough time for the 1.8 million South Africans who are affected by Diabetes Mellitus. Many of the lifestyle factors that diabetics are advised to avoid – such as drinking, consuming vast amounts of sugar and red meat, smoking and being inactive – are how the rest of the population fill their days during the December/January holiday time.
Petrie Marx, product actuary at Sanlam Personal Finance says this time of year can be stressful for diabetics as they are out of their normal routine. “November is Diabetes Awareness month where the global spotlight is placed on this chronic disease. It is the perfect time to remind diabetics and their loved ones to take care during the festive season. Managing A1CL levels is always top of mind for diabetics and never more so than during the holidays.”
He offers a few tips for a diabetes-friendly holiday.
Put your own spin on the festive season diet
There are myriad ideas online for tweaking traditional festive season food for the particular needs of a diabetic. If you celebrate Christmas, you can find a lot of great ideas on Diabetes UK. Some quick hacks are:
Everything in moderation – rather than complete denial, keep treats like the odd chocolate small and infrequent
replace fatty braai meat with lean ones make your roast potatoes big so there is less surface area to absorb oil (and use light cooking oil spray)
use low-fat custard instead of brandy butter remove the skin from your turkey roast on Christmas Day
Limit your carbs
Carbs are the food group that have the biggest impact on blood sugar. Choosing carbs wisely to keep blood sugar levels stable is critical during the season.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Consider following these tips from the American Diabetes Association:
Don’t drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose level is low
Don’t replace food with alcohol
Drink slowly and always have a zero-sugar and zero-alcohol drink (water, diet soda, iced tea) by your side to keep you hydrated
Opt for light beer or wine
Add sugar-free and calorie-free mixers to hard liquor
While a lot of the holiday plans may revolve around meal times, there are also many great ways to be active. If you are at the coast, pack your body board or take long walks on the beach. If you are home, keep up your gym routine or head to the park for some soccer or cricket with friends and family.
If you experience a setback, get back on track
Don’t beat yourself up, we are all human, but if you do overindulge, try to get back on track immediately to avoid getting into a situation where you need medical help.
Check medical aid and severe illness cover
Before going away on holiday, make sure your medical aid is up-to-date and check which hospitals in the area you are travelling to are on your plan.
Familiarise yourself with local medical facilities
If you are travelling to a new location, find a GP and 24-hour medical room and familiarise yourself with the location so that you can get efficiently treated if needed and get back to the holiday fun!