Thanksgiving is the time of year to spend with family and friends, sharing thankfulness in our hearts with those we cherish, and of course, the food!
For many with diabetes, however, the holiday may bring about a certain amount of anxiety: Am I going to be able to control my glucose during the upcoming holiday celebrations? How much is the fun and food going to cost me in terms of my control? These are some of the questions each of us will ponder and ask throughout the season (or at least we should!).
Here are some useful tips on how to make this an exceptional celebration season and how to approach food-related holidays with vigor and enthusiasm.
First, Consider the Rules
- Don’t go to a party hungry.
- Don’t starve yourself throughout the day to “save up” for the big meal.
- Don’t stand near the buffet or food table.
- Eat small portions. (Reduce by 25-50%)
- Use a small plate.
- Avoid rolls and extra bread – too many extra carbs.
- Drink lots of water before and during the meal. Precede each meal with at least one 8 oz. glass of water.
- Know the facts about alcohol and diabetes – what lowers and what raises your blood sugar.
- Avoid sauces that are cream-based if you are watching fat and calories.
- Watch for hidden sugars in foods made with fruit, jams, or dried fruit.
- Choose appetizers with veggies and protein.
- Fill your plate with 50% veggies and/or salad.
- Fill your plate once and no more. Do not go back to the kitchen/buffet.
- Take “breaks’ between bites.
- Keep your head up. Talk to others at the table during dinner.
- Check your blood sugar before and after holiday celebrations.
- Last, but not least, enjoy yourself and keep in mind the true purpose of the holiday.
Recipes for the Chefs
To fancy up the holiday bird, try bathing it in champagne or non-alcoholic sparkling wine or cider.
It’s a simple but fancy way out of the plain old roasted turkey rut. This recipe is from my cookbook, Mr. Food Every Day’s a Holiday Diabetic Cookbook, with Nicole Johnson.
- One 7-pound bone-in turkey breast
- 1/2 pound red seedless grapes, stemmed and cut in half (about 1-1/2 cups), divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bottle (750 ml) champagne
- 1 can (14 ounces) ready-to-use chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Place the turkey in the pan and spoon 1 cup grape halves into the neck cavity. Season the turkey all over with the salt and pepper. Pour the champagne into the pan around the turkey.
3. Roast the turkey for 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours, or until no pink remains and its juices run clear, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices. If the turkey begins to get too browned, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
4. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth, cornstarch, and the pan drippings with the fat removed; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup grape halves and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until heated through.
5. Carve the turkey and serve with the champagne-grape sauce.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
- One 9″ graham cracker crumb crust
- 1 tablespoon gelatin powder (such as Knox)
- 3 whole eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cup cooked, or canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoons each, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 pint Dream Whip for garnish (optional)
- 1 jar of Caramel for garnish (optional)
1. Soak the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water.
2. Beat the egg yolks slightly and combine in the top of a double boiler with the brown sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt, and spices.
3. Cook and stir these ingredients over boiling water until thick.
4. Stir in the soaked gelatin until dissolved.
5. Remove from the cooktop and chill until mixture begins to set.
6. Whip the 3 egg whites until stiff, but not dry.
7. Gradually stir the 1/2 cup sugar into the egg white mixture, then fold in the pumpkin mixture.
8. Fill the pie shell. Chill several hours to set.
9. Serve garnished with: Whipped cream and drizzled caramel.
Decorating tips for Turkey Day
Along with creating delicious meals, another aspect that goes hand in hand with Thanksgiving is decorating. Here are a few easy tips and tricks to make your home extra cozy for Thanksgiving.
Plus, think of it this way — decorating is one aspect of the season that won’t cause your diabetes any trouble.
1. Stay away from plastic: Cover the card table or dining table with a tablecloth. You can buy table covers inexpensively. Or, if you are ambitious, try gathering fabric from the sale racks at your local fabric store. Use stitch witchery to finish the edges – it will hold beautifully for your celebration.
2. Decorate your chairs: You can also purchase slipcovers for the folding chairs we all end up using for about $20 or less. If you don’t go the slipcover route, try attaching garland to the backs of chairs adorned with pine cones or fresh berries, greens and/or flowers. This is a great kid activity during the cooking on Thanksgiving Day – have the kids gather leaves and other natural items from the yard to assemble and decorate with.
3. Candles make any setting more festive: Candles are always a lovely addition to any dining experience.
4. Try rolling pine-cones in glitter to make centerpieces or decorations for your mantle. Mixtures of red, green and metal (silver and gold) are gorgeous. This is also a fun activity for kids.
5. When setting your buffet or serving station, don’t forget to be creative. Cake plates and stands can hold all kinds of foods. Also, candlesticks turned upside down are great platforms for votive candles as opposed to tapers. In addition, small finger bowls look beautiful with greens and petals in them.
6. Set up a selfie station. Guests can take pictures during cocktails while you are putting the finishing touches on the meal. Use the photos to create greeting cards for the Christmas holidays or to send out as reminders of your thankfulness for those you love.
What to do After Dinner
Use this time to do double duty — both bond with your family and do your diabetes a favor.
Consider a family walk, a trip to the bowling alley, a game of football or a romp with the family dog.
Anything that involves activity! A little movement after a big meal or celebration will get everyone’s blood and endorphins pumping. A happier, calmer group will result.
We have an annual family football game and a walk around the neighborhood to survey the holiday lights. This is a must for anyone who wants pumpkin pie later in the evening.
Some other ideas for the time after the meal:
- A family movie
- A Thankful celebration – sharing memories and creating a stronger history
- A family concert – have the musicians in the family show off their talents
Most important though, let’s remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
By: Nicole Johnson, MA, MPH
Updated: 10/18 by dLife Editors.