13 Thanksgiving dinner tips for people with diabetes

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Thanksgiving dinner for diabetics

Enjoying vegetables is a healthy option for diabetics as long as heavy sauces are avoided (Shutterstock photo)

People with diabetes have healthy appetites just like everyone else, which makes Thanksgiving Day a bittersweet holiday to look forward to. Not only do family and friends get to gather together and enjoy some fabulous food, they get together to enjoy one another’s company. For someone with diabetes, however, Thanksgiving dinner can be a difficult (and tempting) situation to get through.

Read more tips for a healthy Thanksgiving dinner

“People with diabetes need to give thought to what they will eat so that they can keep their blood sugars in a normal range,” Connie Diekman, current president of the American Dietetic Association, told ABC News. “People with diabetes can enjoy most of the foods so typical to the holiday season if they know how to balance the right portion of food into their meal plans. Such planning might be difficult for a new diabetic, but with a little experience it really isn’t that tricky.”

Enjoying Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t mean ignoring all the good snacks! Here are some tips for making the holiday all it can be without compromising your health.

Thanksgiving dinner for people with diabetes

  • Plan your meal times accordingly: Because timing is important to regulation for a diabetic, knowing what time Thanksgiving dinner is served is important. Some diabetics may need to have an allowed snack prior to the big dinner.

    Turkey Roll

    There are a number of ways to eat healthy around Thanksgiving day if you’re a diabetic (Shutterstock photo)

  • Do not skip meals to compensate for a big dinner: Diabetics who skip meals will find it more difficult to regulate blood sugar throughout the day.
  • Watch those carbs! The American Diabetes Association recommends watching Thanksgiving foods that are high in carbohydrates, like sweet potato casseroles, stuffing, rolls and desserts. Choose your favorite ones and skip the other ones. So if you’re having stuffing, skip the pie! Also, remember to keep your portions small.
  • Eat a well-balanced breakfast:  A well-balanced breakfast will lay a good foundation for more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
  • Opt for healthy snacks: We tend to munch on lots of high-calorie foods while we wait for the main Thanksgiving dinner. Make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks around such as carrots, celery, apples or nuts.
  • Limit grains and starches: Diabetic Educator recommends keeping grains and starches to only one quarter of your Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are excellent choices for the diabetic, though experts recommend steering clear of those in gravy or sauces. If you are cooking, opt for steaming your veggies and skip butter or oil based dressings.
  • Stick to calorie-free drinks: Drinking water or calorie-free drinks will help balance out sugars throughout the day.
  • Eat slowly: Eating slowly prevents overeating.
  • Avoid alcohol: Especially if you are overweight, skip that glass of wine! It adds calories to your meal and increases your appetite. If you still want to drink something, limit it to one serving and make sure you drink while you eat. Another option is to go for the alcohol-free beer or wine!
  • After Thanksgiving dinner take a walk: Exercise after a meal will help lower blood sugar levels for a diabetic.
  • Be careful with the desserts: Be careful not to overindulge! Share a slice of pie or cake with someone else for example. Make sure you skip syrups and frosting, and the crust. Opt for sugar-free or low-sugar desserts.
  • Let everyone know: If you’re a guest, let everyone know you are a diabetic. As uncomfortable as that may be, it will  help you stay safe! It will take away the pressure off (“please, have some more!”) and in case of an emergency, it will allow others to be on alert for any signs something might not be right.

Turkey tips

Courtesy of the American Diabetes Association.

  • Turkey is good for you. Have a serving of about 3 ounces (or the size of a deck of cards). Have your turkey without any skin to make it low in fat and high in protein.
  • Prefer roasting to frying. 
  • Skip stuffing the turkey. If you still enjoy stuffing, have it as a side dish and in small portions, and use whole grain bread instead.
  • Skip the gravy. Replace with a low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth, and thicken it with a bit of flour.

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