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How to Enjoy Thanksgiving for People with Diabetes

For people with diabetes, Thanksgiving can be as scary as Halloween, but with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing providing the frights instead of ghosts and goblins. These types of foods are carbohydrates and convert to glucose in our bodies, raising our blood sugar (blood glucose). With a little planning and strategic thinking, however, it is possible to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without sending your blood sugar through the roof.  These tips will help you have a happy – and healthy – turkey day.

Start the day with a healthy breakfast.

For everyone, especially people with diabetes, breakfast is an important meal every day, but on Thanksgiving, it can help you avoid feeling too hungry when all that tempting food is set out on the table.  Protein, whole grains and fresh fruit are good choices to start the day.  For example, scrambled eggs, a slice of whole wheat toast and yogurt with berries will provide fuel to start your day in the right direction without spiking your blood sugar.  Fiber is crucial to help maintain blood sugar levels, it helps to keep us feel fuller longer and slows down the absorption of glucose.  As the day goes on, it is smart to snack on fruits and vegetables such as an apple with peanut butter or fresh vegetables with humus.  You can also snack on small slices of meat, cheese, or nuts, keeping in mind these foods are great sources of protein but may be high in sodium.  Drink water throughout the day, people sometimes may confuse thirst for hunger.  Keep a water bottle with you or glass of water and challenge yourself to drink around 64 ounces.

Enjoy the turkey, it is low carb a great source of protein!

Turkey is a great source of protein, as well as niacin, zinc, selenium and other beneficial minerals and vitamins.  A six-ounce serving of turkey has only six grams of carbohydrates and roughly 185 calories and 30 grams of protein, this will not cause a drastic spike in blood sugar by itself, the beverages, sides and desserts are the items we really want to focus on for optimal blood sugar control which brings us to our next topic.

Be careful with your intake and portion sizes of high-carb sides and desserts.

Stuffing is made up mostly of bread, of course you may have this staple Thanksgiving side item but it is important to limit yourself to a smaller serving.  Mashed potatoes are also a carbohydrate food that will convert to glucose in our bodies and will raise our blood sugar, so again portion sizes are important, we don’t want to pile heaping spoonfuls of this on ours plates.  Of course, there will be tempting desserts, bring a healthy lower-carb option to share.  The best thing to do is to avoid them entirely, but if you can’t resist the temptation, be strategic.  Figure out which one is your absolute favorite and allow yourself a small portion, or if you have two favorites have one or two bites of each.  That way, you can enjoy the taste without adding too much extra sugar.  For some of us the best plan is to avoid desserts all together, the best option may be to have a coffee or tea after your meal instead.

Create a game plan.

This is a little easier if you’re hosting Thanksgiving and have control over the menu.  If not though, having a game plan for the day will help.  First, decide ahead of time, what you’re going to eat and how much.  You might make an adjustment or two once you see what’s on the table, but remember to lean toward adding protein, high fiber foods including fruit and vegetables.  Second, remember that you don’t have to eat a serving of everything on the table.  Yes, Aunt Sally’s yams are probably delicious, but it’s okay to skip them or have only one or two bites in order to stick to your plan.  Finally, prepare a couple of low-carb dishes and bring them with you.  These cauliflower mashed potatoes and ginger green beans are great options.

Start a new after-dinner Thanksgiving tradition.

Who says you have to lie around patting your belly feeling sluggish for hours after eating? Instead, gather everyone together for a half-hour walk around your neighborhood — you will have more energy afterwards and feel great, I promise! If you can’t convince anyone to join you, enjoy a quiet stroll by yourself. Both choices are a lot more fun than sitting on the sofa and watching a game on TV!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your meal, keeping smart choices in mind.

Talk to your Orlando Health Physician Associates Primary Care Doctor to schedule an appointment with our Registered Dietitians

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