Thanksgiving is about being grateful for your blessings, spending time with loved ones and enjoying delicious foods. Unfortunately, most of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes are nutritional nightmares – and can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.

This doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the Thanksgiving festivities, though. With some preparation and thoughtful decisions, people with diabetes can enjoy holiday fare and keep blood sugar levels in check.

Tips and Tricks for Managing Thanksgiving Meals

At Thanksgiving dinner:

· Fill up on turkey and veggies. Your Thanksgiving plate should be made of mostly veggies and a little meat. Choose non-starchy vegetables that aren’t coated in breading and fried – go for sautéed green beans and roasted broccoli. If the turkey is fried, peel off and discard the skin before eating.

· Contribute healthy appetizers and side items. If you’re not in charge of the menu, ask the host if you can contribute some dishes. This is the best way to guarantee that there will be nutritious foods to eat. Make dishes that are low in carbs and fat, such as:

o A crudité platter of raw vegetables and a low-fat dip.

o Shrimp cocktail with low-sugar cocktail sauce.

o Cranberry sauce made with fresh cranberries instead of canned.

o Roasted sweet potatoes with herbs and olive oil rather than mashed white potatoes.

o Stuffing made with wheat bread instead of white and vegetable broth rather than butter.

· Choose one starch. Fried appetizers, dinner rolls, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole are all popular Thanksgiving fare that can make your blood sugar skyrocket. Avoid most of these foods but enjoy a small helping of one of your favorite starches.

· Enjoy alcohol or dessert – not both. If you want a glass of wine, have it with your meal instead of on an empty stomach. Better yet, dilute white wine with a bit of seltzer water and make it a spritzer. If you want dessert, choose pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie and skip the whipped cream.

Also, be mindful to keep up other healthy habits:

· Eat at regular times. If Thanksgiving dinner will be served at an odd time, eat a healthy snack during your normal meal time to prevent low blood sugar.

· Don’t skimp on calories earlier in the day. Many people have small breakfast and lunch portions in an effort to “save” their calories for Thanksgiving dinner. However, this can be a recipe for a blood sugar disaster. It’s best to eat typical serving sizes for each meal.

· Be physically active. Regular exercise is great for blood sugar levels – and it’s also a good way to compensate if you overdo Thanksgiving dinner. Gather your family and take a walk between dinner and dessert, or play a game of touch football.

· Say no to leftovers. Enjoy one day of indulging and get back on track with your healthy lifestyle tomorrow.

American Diabetes Association
Joslin Diabetes Center