Meal planning for diabetes during the holidays can be challenging since most traditional foods, laden with carbohydrates and sugar, can send blood sugar levels skyrocketing—but with careful planning, you can create a Thanksgiving feast everyone can enjoy in good health.
What does a roasted turkey with gravy, cranberry stuffing, sweet potato casserole, buttered rolls, and pecan pie equate to? A lot of carbs and a lot of calories. The average American consumes well over 2,000 calories at their Thanksgiving meal, according to the American Diabetes Association. With all the rich and savory choices, it may be difficult to avoid overindulgence.
Meal planning for diabetes during the holidays can be challenging since most traditional foods, laden with carbohydrates and sugar, can send blood sugar levels skyrocketing—but with careful planning, you can create a Thanksgiving feast that everyone can enjoy in good health. Here's how to navigate the big day.
Start the Day With Breakfast
The old adage "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper" is a great strategy to help you stay on track on Thanksgiving Day. Eating breakfast can keep you satisfied and help prevent you from overeating later in the day, when you are less likely to burn it off. Choose breakfast foods that will stick with you. Think high protein and high fiber.
Prepare Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Foods
Keep in mind that some of your favorite recipes can be easily modified when meal planning for diabetes:
You can make buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of skim milk, and you can add this to Yukon Gold potatoes (which are naturally sweet and creamy) to give your mashed potatoes that classic texture at a fraction of the fat and cholesterol.
Don't use too much gravy, and be sure to skim the fat off the top before you pour it onto your plate.
Steam vegetables rather than serving them with butter or cream sauce.
Bake stuffing using your own whole-grain bread cubes rather than store-bought white-flour bread cubes, which often contain high fructose corn syrup and trans fat.
Make cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries rather than serving canned cranberry sauce, which is high in sugar.
You don't have to sample everything on the Thanksgiving table. Choose one item and pass on another. For example, if you can't live without the mashed potatoes, say no to the dinner rolls. The good news is that the key component of the traditional Thanksgiving feast—turkey—is high in protein and has zero carbohydrates.
Watch Your Portions
A healthy Thanksgiving is about choices, and there are plenty of satisfying options for people with diabetes. Adjust your portions to keep your calorie and carbohydrate counts low. Try to choose the right balance of foods by using the diabetes plate method as your guide. Fill half of your plate with vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, leafy greens, and turnips. Reserve a quarter of your plate for white meat turkey without the skin. Fill the remainder of your plate with your favorite starchy foods such as sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. If you still crave that slice of pie for dessert, make sure to skip the dinner roll.
Add a salad to the menu. Kale Salad With Apples and Cheddar
Add an Extra Helping of Exercise
One of the most important decisions you make on Thanksgiving may be the one that follows the feast. Getting some exercise can add a healthy spin to your day. A brisk walk burns calories, relieves stress, and stabilizes blood sugar—and what's even better is that it's something you and your family and friends can do together.
American Diabetes Association, Planning Ahead
Joslin Diabetes Center, Enjoying Thanksgiving with Diabetes
American Diabetes Association, Navigating the Thanksgiving Feast
American Diabetes Association, Create Your Plate
The New York Times Company. NYT Cooking, Kale Salad With Apples and Cheddar