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LivingFood and DrinkLiving with diabetes at Christmas

Living with diabetes at Christmas

Lise, Pêches & Poivre

When I first learned that I had type 2 diabetes I thought, “I am doomed” and that I would not be able to eat my favourite foods.  Having seen the effect of diabetes on my grandmother’s health, I was determined to get this illness under control.  I soon realized that I could eat tasty and wonderful meals as long as I was keeping my blood sugar levels in check. Christmas is certainly a trying time to control your blood sugar!

For me, early on, getting active was one of the strategies I used.  I looked at what I liked to do and started going for a 30-minute swim or a 30-minute brisk walk.  After getting in the groove of things but realizing that my body was protesting and clearly telling me I was out of shape, I needed to do something different to feel better.  I registered at the Almonte Fitness Centre.  My first visit was a challenge!  So many machines and equipment!  I did not know where to start and how to use those tools of torture.  So I hired a trainer, Lynne Jenkins, to help get a grip on this foreign environment.

This has been going on for 6 months now and I have never felt better!  I often say diabetes is the best thing that happened to me, it was the wake-up call I needed.  Obviously, I also changed my diet.  Mostly I cut the refined sugar, and, thanks to Naneen of County Fare, who’s no sugar, low sugar and full sugar jams and jellies we have been carrying at Pêches et Poivre for several years now, I learned about xyla, a substitute to sugar I liked.  Naneen explained that xyla looks and tastes like sugar but has fewer calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.  Xylitol’s glycemic index (GI) — a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar — is only 7, whereas regular sugar’s is 60–70.  Xyla is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in some plants.  I have learned to cook with xyla and it now replaces white sugar in my baking. You can get Xyla at Dandelion Foods here in Almonte.

The Christmas season 

One thing I still struggle with is gatherings where food is plentiful, and it becomes more difficult to restrain the amount of carbohydrate intake.  Christmas is certainly a trying time!

So for those of us for whom willpower doesn’t come too easily, here are some tips I will apply for enjoying sensible eating during this holiday season.

Monitoring and staying active

I am planning to measure my blood glucose levels more often to be aware of variations and make necessary adjustments.  I am also planning to stay active.  I like outdoors outings like a long walk, skating or snowshoeing.  It is a good way to take full advantage of the season!  I will also continue to visit the gym on a regular basis as by now it is a foundation of my week.

Eating in or eating out

If you are dealing with type 2 diabetes, you may have to try what is best for you, but here are some eating or food related strategies that are working for me.

Avoid feeling hungry for too long

One thing I realized quite early after my diagnoses is that when I am hungry it will lead me to overeat and choose fatty, sugary goodies.  One way to avoid being so ravenous, I will eat a little snack before leaving home before a meal out, preferably a protein like yogurt, peanut butter on celery or a handful of nuts.

Don’t Forget the vegetables

Rule of thumb when planning a meal is to make sure at least half of your plate consists of vegetables.  So, I will make sure my plate is filled with a good portion of non-starchy vegetables. Vegetables help to keep me full longer.  Then leave a quarter of my plate for carbs such as rice, potato, pasta or bread and a quarter for lean protein like turkey.

Slow down, enjoy the food and the company

The faster I eat, the more food I put in my mouth!  By eating slower I am less tempted to take seconds.  Taking interest in the conversation and catching up with family members I have not seen in a while should allow me to slow the pace.

Out of sight out of mind

After the meal is finished I will move away from the table.  When there is a buffet style meal, I will have a small plate of the foods I like best and then I will move away from the buffet table.  I will enjoy my favourite foods, but only eat as much as I normally would.

Bring your own dishes

Everyone loves the extra bit of help in cooking the holiday meal.  When going to a friend’s or family member’s house I will take something along, especially a sweet or dessert, this way I can use xyla and everybody wins.  This recipe is perfect for any chocolate lover.

Cream Cheese Brownies 


  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, divided (substitute with I cup or ½ cup of xyla)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Separate two eggs, putting each white in a separate bowl (discard yolks or save for another use); set aside.  In a small bowl, beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar or xyla until crumbly.  Beat in the whole egg, one egg white and vanilla until well combined.  Combine flour and cocoa; gradually add to egg mixture until blended.  Pour into a 9-in. square baking pan coated with cooking spray; set aside.
  • In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining sugar until smooth. Beat in the second egg white. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls over the batter; cut through batter with a knife to swirl.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until set and edges pull away from sides of pan. Cool on a wire rack.






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