From green bean casserole to pumpkin pie, enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving feast may be stressful when managing blood sugars. But the holidays should be joyous, not spent worrying about how carb-rich foods fit into a diabetic-friendly meal plan.
Use these diabetic Thanksgiving dinner recipe ideas and tips to enjoy the holiday with health in mind. (All without sacrificing the taste of those seasonal favorites!)
Diabetic Thanksgiving Tips & Ideas
From snacking sensibly to balancing the meal plate, apply these tips for a diabetic-friendly (and delicious) Thanksgiving meal!
For those managing blood sugars, waiting to eat before the Thanksgiving feast can cause blood sugar drops. Blood sugar lows may cause confusion, shakiness, dizziness, and hunger.
However, snacking sensibly leading up to the Thanksgiving dinner helps control blood sugar and reduce such unpleasant side effects. A snack can also help control hunger levels and lower the risk of overeating at the Thanksgiving meal.
Ideally, snacks should be moderated in carbohydrates, rich in protein and fiber, and balanced with healthy fats. A few snack ideas to consider before the Thanksgiving meal may include:
• Cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, and other raw veggies with hummus
• Shrimp cocktail
• A small handful of roasted nuts, including almonds and pistachios
• Lightly salted edamame
• A few slices of cheese and crackers
Balance the Thanksgiving Meal Plate
Balancing the meal plate helps control calories, carbohydrates, and portion sizes. It also ensures adequate nutrients to satiate and satisfy the body.
Ultimately, too, carbohydrate is the top instigator of blood sugar levels. But pairing carb with protein and fat can lower the risk of blood sugar spikes.
Follow these guidelines to help balance a Thanksgiving meal plate:
• Fill half the meal plate with non-starchy vegetables. Roasted Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans are great choices to consider for a diabetic-friendly Thanksgiving menu.
• Allocate one-quarter of the plate with 3 to 4 ounces of protein. This includes the infamous Thanksgiving turkey or ham.
• Use the remaining quarter for starch and complex carb. Examples include roasted carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. A small dinner roll can also fit onto a balanced plate.
• Complement the meal with a healthy fat source. For instance, drizzle olive oil or add chopped pecans to leafy spinach greens.
• Feel free to add a small serving of fruit or sweet treat. This may include some cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.
Prepare a Diabetic-Friendly Thanksgiving Menu
Whereas traditional Thanksgiving foods can still be enjoyed, there are simple ways to healthify those favorites. Healthy, diabetic Thanksgiving side dishes, recipes, and tips include:
• For a sweet potato casserole, cut back on the amount of brown sugar used and naturally sweeten with unsweetened applesauce.
• Swap out cranberry sauce for a fresh cranberry and spinach salad.
• Use skinless and lean cuts of ham and turkey to lower overall fat and calorie content.
• Prepare the stuffing with whole-grain bread for a boost of satiating fiber.
• Bake a healthier pumpkin pie by reducing the amount of sugar added to the recipe.
Watch Out for Liquid Calories
In addition to the meal itself, watch out for liquid calories. Drinking sweetened beverages can lead to blood sugar spikes and drops.
Sugary beverages also pack on excess calories from sugar without supplying significant nutrients. Besides, one 12-ounce regular soda supplies a whopping average of 35 to 40 grams of sugar. To put this in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends men limit added sugar intake to 36 grams daily. Women should limit added sugar to no more than 25 grams per day.
Limit liquid calories with these simple tips:
• Increase water intake to at least 64 ounces daily, as water will always be the superior source for good hydration. Drink more water by using larger cups and flavor enhancers such as freshly squeezed lemon.
• Swap fruit juice with a whole piece of fruit. Greater consumption of fruit juice is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and blood sugar.
• With that slice of pie, sip on black coffee rather than a cup laden in sugar and cream.
• Moderate alcohol intake and choose no to low-sugar mixers such as seltzer water. Women and men should limit alcohol to one and two servings daily, respectively.
Enjoy Some Physical Activity
Delicious food tends to be the highlight of Thanksgiving. But physical activity can also be another great way to spend a portion of the day!
Being active muscles helps utilize sugar for energy instead of building up in the bloodstream. Exercise also supports heart health, distracts from food cravings, and boosts mood among many other benefits.
There are many ways to get active over Thanksgiving, too. Some ideas to get you started include the following:
• Start the day with a turkey trot.
• Take the dog on a walk around the neighborhood.
• Round up the group for a game of charades or scavenger hunt.
• Take a family bike ride or hike on a nature trail.
Truly, enjoying Thanksgiving with diabetes can be less of a stress by balancing the meal plate, snacking sensibly, and watching portions. Partaking in physical activity is also helpful.
All-in-all, though, relish the time spent with loved ones this Thanksgiving and holiday season!