By: Soey Park for Body1
Thanksgiving is one of the hardest holidays for people with diabetes, because the entirety of the holiday revolves around food. More than the plight of the pilgrims, giving thanks for your health, or celebrating with family, the first thought that enters most minds at the mention of Thanksgiving, is food - more specifically, turkey. However, short of refusing to celebrate with family and participate in the Thanksgiving feast, you are left with having to make sure that you have a game plan before eating. To help you plan out your holidays, here are some general tips/guidelines to help you enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations.
First and foremost, speak up. Don’t be afraid to remind the host or hostess prior to the dinner that you have diabetes and therefore have certain nutritional needs. If you were invited to their Thanksgiving celebrations, you are more than likely a family member or loved one rather than an annoying guest with finicky tastes.
If for some reason you are not in the position to request diabetic-friendly options for food, there are still a few things you could do while having a good time. For example, simply adding a walk into your morning Thanksgiving routine could help with managing your blood glucose levels. It may be hard to motivate yourself to go out for a walk (especially when everyone else is sitting around watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade or football), but keep in mind that it will help you enjoy the Thanksgiving feast.
o Eat up. Turkey breast is good for you and though it has a small amount of fat, it has no carbohydrates or sugars. Just be sure to avoid the skin. Loading up on turkey breast will fill you up and not dramatically affect your blood sugars. Stay away from the gravy however, as it contains some carbohydrates. If having gravy is essential to enjoying your dinner however, try watering it down a little bit. Remember though, that protein can affect blood sugar levels.
o Limit eating ham to a bite or two. Ham has a lot of fat and sugar in it because of the way it is prepared and cooked. Most hams are glazed with some form of sweetener, which you may want to avoid.
o Most side dishes for Thanksgiving contain massive amounts of carbohydrates (i.e. bread rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole) so the key is compromise. Turkey is good on its own so try to minimize your carbohydrate intake by considering a small portion of your favorite side dish (i.e. mashed potatoes) instead of a bread roll.
o Here are the carb-counts for some of the more basic side dishes:*
Mashed potatoes – one cup (240g)serving of home-made mashed potatoes with whole milk has roughly about 42g of carbohydrates
Stuffing – about 1 cup (200g) serving of bread stuffing has about 44g of carbohydrates.
Dinner Roll – 1 (50g) Kaiser roll has about 25g of carbohydrates.
Cranberry sauce – 1 serving size (70g) has about 27g of carbohydrates.
o Stick to the green vegetables if you can. Most common vegetables like carrots, corn and sweet peas are high in sugars and carbohydrates, unlike green vegetables like green beans, broccoli and green salad. If possible, make green vegetables the majority of your sides to help limit carbohydrate consumption.
After eating dinner, consider waiting a couple of hours before having some dessert. Having diabetes does not necessarily mean that you have to avoid desserts like the plague. Try and stay away from pre-packaged “sugar-free” desserts. Instead, try eating small portions (1-2 spoonfuls) of a regular dessert, drink plenty of water to wash it down, and take a walk afterwards. If this is not your “cup of tea”, try bringing your own diabetic-friendly dessert. Bringing something will not only help out, but this way, you can ensure that you will end the night with some tasty dessert.