Prevent blood sugar spikes at Christmas

 05 Dec 2020

Top tips for keeping your blood sugar levels balanced this Christmas

When I speak with my clients, managing their blood sugar levels is top of the list when it comes to introducing better eating habits. With sugar consumption on a startling increase all year round, Christmas is a time when we unintentionally consume more sugar with the selection boxes, festive coffee's, biscuits and sweets.

As the coffee houses announce their Christmas festive menu's, takeaways become more tantalising and the weekly grocery shop has become ‘NAUGHTY & NICE’, who would blame us to relax and enjoy with friends and family. Before I discuss tips on how to maintain your blood sugar levels amidst the festive season, it's important to look at important blood sugar facts:

  • - Blood Sugar refers to the amount of glucose in the blood stream
  • - Glucose is a simple sugar and is needed by the cells in the body to supply energy
  • - Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose from your blood into the cells for energy and storage
  • - Too much/ too little glucose in the bloodstream can cause problems within the body

Serving sizes

  • - 1 teaspoon of sugar = 16kcals/ 4g/ 1 sugar cube 
  • - The World Health Organisation recommends only 10-14 teaspoons of sugar/ day, remember that there is 4g in a teaspoon.

I want to share top tips on how to curb the calories, dodge the high sugar pitfall and leave you facing 2021 in good shape. Don’t worry, I won’t be saying you need to completely avoid all the Christmas goodies, but there are some smart and enjoyable ways to enjoy some indulgence mindfully over the festive season:

  1. Coffee & hot chocolate
  2. Alcohol
  3. Sleep
  4. Balanced meals
  5. Shopping list
  6. Healthy snack stash
  7. Understanding natural sugars, free sugars and starches
  8. Freeze leftover meals
  9. Bake small amounts
  10. Learn to enjoy food guilt free

1) Coffee & Hot Chocolate 

Did you know that an average festive coffee with cream, syrup and extra chocolate/ marshmallows can be a WHOPPING 500 kcals. On top of that, it will spike your blood sugar levels resulting in energy crashes and cravings for more sugar - one vicious cycle created from that festive coffee. It's worth bearing in mind that a female daily recommended intake of food & drink is 1500 - 2000 kcals if you wish to lose an average pound per week.

Label Advice for drinks (per 100ml)

  • - Low = 2.5g and below 
  • - Medium = 2.5g–11.25g
  • - High = 11.25g plus 

My tips and tricks to maintaining balanced blood sugar levels when it comes to festive coffee's are:

  • - Leave off the cream 
  • - Say no the complimentary 1-2 pumps of syrup 
  • - Fluffy marshmallows be gone! 
  • - Better options are Americano/ espresso/ low calorie lattes leaving you with room for a small treat 
  • - Avoid adding extra sachets of sugar
  • - Instead of large, choose medium OR even better instead of medium choose small and work down to the smallest quantity. 

2) Alcohol 

Where to begin, it's unsure whether pubs will be opened but chances are we can do just as much damage in our own homes! My tips and tricks around alcohol to avoid your blood sugar spiking during the festivities are:

  • - Choose bottles rather than pints 
  • - Choose clear spirits instead of liqueurs
  • - Choose spirit based cocktails instead of cream/ liqueur based 
  • - Avoid mixing your drinks; shots/ wine/ beer/ spirits, etc. It's worth noting that there are LOTS of calories and sugar in these drinks
  • - Drink water in between. This will ensure you drink less and you do not fall prey to the following days carbs and fat cravings 
  • - Make your own mulled wine using fruits, seasons and festive spices and avoid adding sugar, honey and syrup to keep a low sugar and low calorie volume
  • - Assign alcohol free nights and make festive non alcoholic sugar options like slimline tonic, sparkling water with fruits and healthy probiotic drinks like kombucha which looks the business in a nice champagne flute!

3) Sleep 

Alcohol and sugar can impact on our sleeping habits. Staying up later and getting up later can create havoc with our body clock so try as much as possible to keep to a loose routine. Finish eating and drinking at least 1-2 hours before bed and upon waking prepare your MORNING DETOX TONIC HERE 

4) Balanced Meals 

Avoid skipping meals. It's easy to think that by ‘starving’ ourselves early in the day leaves scope for indulging more in the evening and this couldn’t be further from the truth. The body will hold onto glucose (usually on the waistline) and it can cause blood sugar crashes leaving us wanting our first food choices to be carbohydrate laden and sugar laden treats. 

  • - Have a healthy breakfast. I recommend incorporating a green smoothie to cleanse the body from the previous day and to keep it in an alkaline state rather than acidic state.
  • - Have a light lunch (Batch cook a soup, fill up on salad, wholegrains and good protein like turkey or ham, overall, try to keep it as clean as possible
  • - In the evening have a little of what you fancy for dinner and treats in moderation

5) Shopping List 

Make your shopping list now (at the start of December) so you are more likely to stick to it. Think of how much you actually need which will result in money savings, less food waste and less extra weight! As always, shop when you are not feeling hungry or overtired so you will be less tempted by festive treats.

6) Healthy Stash 

Stock up on the healthier options like dark chocolate (70% plus), popcorn (unsalted / unbuttered), nuts (unsalted/ unroasted), dates, figs, fruits you like and natural yogurt. For some healthy snack ideas, CHECK OUT MY RECIPES HERE!

7) Understand Natural Sugars, Free Sugars and Starches 

Sugar can be described by many different names including sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, molasses and syrups. In addition, chemical sweeteners like sorbitol, aspartame, saccharin are used in foods and can be labeled ‘low sugar’. Chemical sugars over time can interfere with hormone activity, energy levels, sleep and brain function. 

  • - Natural occurring sugars: The two main sources are lactose contained in dairy foods such as milk and yogurts and fructose found in fruit.
  • - Free sugars: These are simple sugars (can be natural or chemical sugars) added to foods by the manufacturer or consumer. Think honey , syrups, sweeteners, fruit juices). 
  • - Carbohydrates: Starches provide energy and are digested to give us glucose just the same as sugary foods. It’s the amount of them that lead to excess glucose and in turn excess fat. Limit white refined starches and choose wholegrain versions which fill us up more and release energy slowly keeping us satisfied for longer and keeping blood sugar level. 

8) Freeze leftovers meals 

There will be a time when you are stuck for a quick meal for work or a nice treat so save some for a rainy day and use as you need. This will limit temptation to HOOVER everything up by 1st January! 

9) Bake small amounts 

When it comes to baking, sometimes Christmas baking is out of tradition like the cake and puddings not because you actually like them or want them! Take a look at what you plan to bake and limit to the things you really really want and not because of tradition or nostalgia. 

Only bake in small batches and not for an army! This will create less food waste, less overeating and avoiding that sluggish feeling. Variety is key so enjoy a little of everything and in moderation. 

10) Learn to enjoy your food guilt free

Have a little of what you fancy, GUILT FREE! Practice mindful eating; eat when hungry and finish when satisfied not when STUFFED!

There is only room for one turkey at Christmas :)