Each November, Americans are prompted to take stock of what they’re thankful for and enjoy time with those they love. For many, the Thanksgiving Day feast is a meal they look forward to all year, but the traditional plate of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, rolls, and pumpkin pie can be too much for anyone.
For those with diabetes, the carb-heavy meal can also be fraught with concerns about how much of which food they can eat while managing their blood glucose levels and weight.
November is National Diabetes Month, and it’s the perfect time to focus on how those living with diabetes can enjoy one of the most special meals of the year while maintaining their good health.
This year, Thanksgiving is November 24. It’s important to plan well in advance of the holiday to make sure there are foods on the table that are tasty as they are diabetes safe. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 31.7 million Americans have diabetes, though only 28.7 million have been diagnosed. Another 96 million, or 38% of the country’s adult population, have prediabetes, and most are unaware. With these statistics and the knowledge that the typical American will consume 3,000 to 4,500 calories at their Thanksgiving feast, there’s a good chance someone else at your holiday table will have similar dietary needs.
The first thing to keep in mind when thinking about the bountiful Thanksgiving dinner is that the day is day of thanksgiving, not how much rich food you can eat.
Now, you can start planning the meal you will make or eat with these Thanksgiving dinner ideas for diabetic patients.
If you’re going to be a guest at the table, start by thinking about what foods you have only once a year and those that you wouldn’t mind passing on. Once you have your priority list, it’s a good idea to contact the host and double check to see what’s on the menu. You can adjust portion sizes to maintain the carb and calorie count you typically have for dinner. Don’t forget to include all the delicious holiday appetizers and desserts in your plan.
If you’re cooking the meal, you can tweak recipes to create a meal that is tasty and satisfying to everyone around your table. The American Diabetes Association has created a good guide for creating a diabetes-friendly meal. Prevention Magazine also has a list of suggested recipes that are delicious and diabetic friendly.
If you’re charging ahead with your traditional meal, these cooking substitutions and adjustments can help:
- Use olive, grapeseed, avocado, or canola oil instead of butter, margarine, or vegetable oil in your recipes.
- Substitute white or brown sugar in your desserts with artificial sweeteners. This webpage can help you convert sugar amounts into Splenda (sucralose).
- Reduce carbs in your traditional recipes. For example, use low-carb pasta or cauliflower in place of regular pasta for your mac and cheese or mix your regular mashed potatoes with cauliflower and root vegetables.
- Reduce sodium amounts by using low-sodium versions of broths, canned items, and dressings. You can also try other fresh and dried herbs to pump up your dish’s flavor.
Some general Thanksgiving dinner ideas for diabetic patients to enjoy traditional meal include:
- Opt for white meat over dark meat if you’re having turkey.
- If you find unexpected goodies on the Thanksgiving table, keep track of their carb counts. This resource from the organization Beyond Type 1 has an easy chart that can help.
- Keep track of your Thanksgiving Day food intake in your food diary. Note whether you went over your planned portion and how it affected your blood sugar levels.
- If dinner is on the later side, be sure to eat a snack to maintain your proper blood sugar. Don’t skip on breakfast or lunch.
If you have additional special dietary restrictions, be sure to check with your doctor before you plan to change things up this Thanksgiving.
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