Planning a Thanksgiving for People Living with Diabetes 

Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to relax and spend time with family and friends. But if you or someone on your guest list has diabetes, this holiday that revolves around tables loaded down with food might seem like a bit of an unhealthy minefield. It doesn’t have to be that way. A few simple tips can have you planning a Thanksgiving meal that caters to people with diabetes without anyone feeling like they’re missing out on a feast of flavors.  

Thoughtful eating. People with diabetes have to be thoughtful about what they eat and drink, because their bodies have trouble regulating blood sugar. Many take medication to help regulate their blood glucose levels. But eating certain foods – and going easy on others – are also part of staying healthy. So is portion control. Since small portions and healthy eating don’t typically go hand-in-hand with the traditional idea of Thanksgiving dinner, a little planning before the holiday can help keep things on track.  

The good news about turkey. Turkey often takes center stage on Thanksgiving – and that’s good news. People with diabetes are often encouraged to focus on low-glycemic foods, or foods that don’t cause blood sugar spikes. Turkey is a low-glycemic food. It packs a lot of protein to help keep you fuller for longer. 

Adding more low-glycemic foods to your holiday menu is a good way to keep the meal diabetes-friendly. Some examples of low-glycemic foods:   

  • Raw carrots  
  • Non-starchy vegetables  
  • Fruits   
  • Avocado  
  • Broccoli  
  • Spinach  
  • Yams  
  • Lentils  

Healthy swaps. Looking at this list, it’s easy to make some swaps, or add more side dishes suited for those with diabetes. For example, serve a dish of roasted yams instead of a traditional whipped sweet potato souffle smothered with toasted marshmallows. A fresh spinach salad with chunks of avocado makes a great starter for the meal. A fresh fruit salad with a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice is delicious. So is a colorful plate of raw, sliced vegetables.   

Foods to avoid. Bread stuffing, dinner rolls and sugary drinks are often on Thanksgiving tables. These foods are need to be consumed in moderation for people with diabetes. Here are the foods someone with diabetes should take it easy on because they are considered high-glycemic foods that can cause spikes in blood sugar:  

  • Potatoes 
  • White bread  
  • Sports drinks  
  • White rice  

Portion control. Controlling food portions can be difficult, especially during the holidays when there are huge meals, appetizers and lots of desserts being offered. Having a “sampling” mindset can be a helpful approach for people living with diabetes. It’s a good idea to focus on low-glycemic foods with a spoonful or two other foods to get a good taste, but not overdoing it. The same goes for desserts: a small slice of pie or a piece of chocolate can be savored.  


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