Season’s feastings – a survival guide

Most of us will admit to over-indulging in a little too much festive cheer, with the aftermath being weight gain, loss of fitness and, for some, compromised health.
For those with Type 2 diabetes, the festive period can bring an additional set of health challenges with indulgent food choices and reduction in exercise, resulting in increased blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and weight gain.

Diabetes is an incurable disease that affects 1.7 million Australians, with one person every five minutes diagnosed with the disease. There are more than 4400 diabetes-related amputations in Australia every year.
As health professionals, it is our responsibility to take control of what is a rising critical health issue but no-one likes to be a killjoy, especially at this fun time of year.  With this in mind, our dedicated dietitian and exercise physiologists have devised a survival plan for Type 2 diabetics that incorporates just enough festive cheer, without compromising health.

Tips for getting stuffed without the stuffing by dietitian Rebekka Frazer:

Adapt your recipes. There is a direct relationship between carbohydrate intake and blood sugar levels.  The more carbohydrates (including sugars) you consume, the higher your blood sugar levels will be later.
Focus on carbohydrate-free festive foods (such as ham, turkey, prawns/seafood, cheeses and spiced nuts) and try to limit your intake of carb-rich choices (cakes, biscuits, soft drinks, juices, bread).
Also get creative and adapt your favourite recipes by swapping out regular sugar for a natural sweetener such as Natvia.   Receipes at

Apply portion control. There is nothing wrong with enjoying dessert, alcohol or other treats, just watch your portions.  Eat your food slowly and mindfully to enjoy the experience.  
You’ll find you need less of that treat food or drink when you take the time to appreciate every aspect of its taste, texture, consistency and aroma, rather than scoffing it down in one mouthful.

Count your drinks. It is important to remember that alcohol contributes to overall calorie intake for the day and can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels in those suffering from diabetes.  
It’s not just the sugar or carb count, but rather the alcohol content itself (your overall intake of alcohol).  Alcohol puts a handbrake on fat being burnt off. For diabetics, the best options for those who do choose to drink will be dry wine (red or white), light beer (XXXX Gold) or spirits with a diet mixer (rum and diet coke or vodka and soda water).  Enjoy your drink after you’ve eaten.

Pack away leftovers as soon as meal time is over. It’s not really the single Christmas dinner that results in extra weight gain but the fruit mince pies, fruit cake and sugary treats that tend to creep into the house from the end of October.  Couple this with all those leftovers lingering around the house for a week or two into the new year and you have a recipe for unwanted weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels.  

Exercise tips for shifting the Christmas pud by accredited exercise physiologist, Eloise Sypott:

Any exercise is better than none. Time is hard to find around the Christmas period. If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare to go for a quick brisk walk, do it! Take the grandkids, relatives or friends with you and turn it into a fun activity.

Do a home workout. You do not need a big, fancy gym to exercise. For example, switch afternoon activities to include a family cricket/football/soccer game in the park. Maybe spend the afternoon enjoying water activities at the beach/in the backyard pool. In the kitchen, when you have a short break from food preparation, use a chair to do some quick sit to stands. Use a wall to do some wall pushups or even engage in some calf raises and high knee marching.  

Set some health and fitness goals. Have some exercise goals set over Christmas and get your family involved to keep you on track. This can include daily walking, pool lap swimming, bicycling challenges or anything active you can think of.  

Northside Allied Health runs an eight week Type 2 Diabetes program. It is fully Medicare funded under a GP referral. The next program commences in February 2018.