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Enjoying Thanksgiving with Diabetes

Thanksgiving can be challenging for people with diabetes who are trying to manage blood glucose levels and weight.  Many traditional Thanksgiving foods are high in fat as well as carbohydrates, but with careful planning, you can make healthy choices that fit into your diabetes meal plan and enjoy this wonderful celebration with friends and family, says Tracey Lucier, R.D., Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center.

The Right Thanksgiving Food Choices

  • Start the day off with a good breakfast so you won’t be tempted to overeat.
  • Nibble on raw vegetables with low-fat dips before dinner rather than salted nuts or cheese and crackers.
  • Choose white rather than dark turkey meat, without the skin.
  • Make mashed potatoes with low-fat milk and margarine instead of butter, and take it easy with the gravy.  Skim the fat off the top of the gravy before serving.
  • Steam vegetables like peas and green beans rather serving them in a casserole with creamed sauces.
  • Bake stuffing in a casserole dish rather than inside a turkey so you can make it with less fat.  Bake with low-fat broth and margarine.
  • Make cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries.  Canned cranberry sauce is high in sugar.
  • If you’re going to drink a glass or two of wine, do it with dinner, rather than starting earlier.  Consider diluting white wine with seltzer water to make a wine spritzer.
  • Have dessert with everyone else, but choose pumpkin pie over pecan pie, or bring a dessert you’ve made with an artificial sweetener.  Top it with low-fat whipped cream.
  • Don’t take home leftovers.

Family Support

It is unquestionably hard to stick to your diabetes meal plan on Thanksgiving when you see all of the food and everyone else is overindulging.  It's also difficult if you have “food police” in your family who try to tell you what you can or can’t eat, or have someone who wants to load more food on your plate, saying “it’s only once a year.”

Let your family members know they can support you by walking around the block with you after dinner, Lucier says.  "Make your day about togetherness and family fun, and not just about the food."

To make an appointment with a Joslin Nutrition Educator, please call (617) 732-2400.

Page last updated: November 07, 2019