Food you love shared with people you love—that’s the recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving feast.
But if this is your first Thanksgiving with diabetes, you may wonder how to keep your blood sugar stable when so many holiday foods are loaded with calories and carbs.
With a little planning and know-how, you can still enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal—and stay top of your diabetes all day.
8 tips for a diabetes-friendly Thanksgiving
- Lighten the menu. If you’re the host, try giving your favorite recipes a healthy makeover. Swap in low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise and sour cream when recipes call for full-fat versions. For sweet treats, replace half of the sugar with a sugar substitute. Making stuffing? Load it up with extra non-starchy veggies, and use whole-grain bread.And remember: Don’t overdo the taste-testing. Nibbling too much might affect your blood sugar.
- Don’t arrive empty-handed. Not in charge of the whole menu? Rather than fretting about what might be served, bring something that fits with your meal plan—perhaps a side of steamed green beans, roasted asparagus or a spinach salad.
- Think about timing. Will you be gathering around your table later than your normal schedule? If you manage your diabetes with insulin shots or pills, then you may need to eat a snack at your usual mealtime to keep your blood sugar from dipping too low.
- Divide and conquer. One way to make smart food choices is to think of your plate in sections. In general, aim to:
- Fill half with non-starchy veggies, such as carrots, green beans, Brussels sprouts or salad. Steer clear of dishes with heavy creams or crusts.
- Fill a quarter with turkey. Stick to lean white meat, and remove the skin.
- Fill the remaining quarter with starchy foods. You might treat yourself to dollops of mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole or stuffing. But don’t let them overtake your plate.
- Fit in your favorites—wisely. If Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without Aunt Jenny’s pumpkin pie, don’t deprive yourself. Just cut back on another high-carb food during the main course. Then indulge in a small slice for dessert, and count it in your meal plan. Overall, your total carb intake should be the same as it is on a regular day.
- Slow down and savor. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you’re full. So enjoy each bite — and some good conversation while you eat.
- Sip smart. Liquid calories can add up quickly. For a festive touch, sip sparkling water with a splash of 100 percent cranberry juice.
- Strut your stuffing. Make a morning turkey trot, an after-meal walk or a game of touch football a Thanksgiving tradition. Exercise will help your blood sugar stay in its target range—and burn off extra Turkey Day calories.
Last but not least, if you overindulge on Thanksgiving, don’t beat yourself up. You’ve had a slight setback—that’s all. Tomorrow is a brand-new day and your chance to get back on track.
Talk with a diabetes educator
If you’re new to diabetes, need a refresher or need to find a doctor who understand your unique needs, contact our Diabetes and Endocrine Center for help.
Author: LivingWell PDX Blog
Adventist Health is committed to creating a healthier Portland community.