Diabetes-friendly Thanksgiving recipes and tips

Thanksgiving at the Trolls by floodllama, on Flickr
Photo Credit: “Thanksgiving at the Trolls” by Josh Wedin/floodllama, on Flickr
Used unmodified under the CC Attribution license

November is American Diabetes Month. It is also the month of Thanksgiving, which is known for food in abundance, especially food full of starchy carbohydrates.

What Thanksgiving foods have fewer carbohydrates? What recipes can be changed or substituted so people with diabetes don’t feel like they can only eat one bite of the rest of the family’s food?

The American Diabetes Association has a large list of free diabetes-friendly recipes for holidays and throughout the year. Another good sources of recipes is the USDA SNAP-Ed recipe finder (although these vary in carbohydrate content), and they even give information on cost (per recipe and per serving).  I’ve pulled out a few examples here, with carbohydrates (in grams per serving). You can go to each recipe to find the rest of the nutrition information.

What foods have carbohydrates?

In general, carbohydrates are found in sweets and desserts; grains and grain-based foods (pastas, rice, bread, crackers, etc); beans, peas, and legumes; milk and yogurt; and fruits. Carbohydrates are not bad. We need them to survive. However, eating too many can be harmful, especially for a person with diabetes. The amount of carbohydrates we should eat depends on what we are doing and our own bodies. A dietitian (or other members of your diabetes healthcare team) can help you figure out how many carbohydrates you should eat.

Other tips for a healthy Thanksgiving

In addition to new recipes, people with diabetes (and everyone at the table) can practice moderation and mindful eating to help reduce the amount of carbohydrates (and calories and fat, etc)  that they eat during the holidays.

Moderation means being aware of how much we eat, thinking about portion sizes, and eating slowly to allow our bodies to realize that we’re actually eating.

Mindful eating is being aware of and enjoying whatever we’re eating by thinking about how the food tastes, smells, and feels as we eat it.

It may also be helpful to eat a small snack an hour or two before you sit down for the Thanksgiving meal, to avoid excessive hunger and filling your plate with more food than you need. Snacks like cut vegetables, a small handful of nuts, or a piece of cheese are good choices.

One more tip to keep in mind: you can’t save up your carbohydrates and eat them all at once on Thanksgiving. Rollover minutes may work for cell phone plans, but there is no such thing as a rollover carbohydrates meal plan. You diabetes medical team should have told you an estimate of grams of carbohydrates per meal, or given you a number of carbohydrate exchanges per meal. Stick with this plan, even during Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.

If you need help figuring out how many carbohydrates you should eat each meal or want help with eating well with diabetes, including tips on portion sizes, meal planning, and eating out, you can use this Find a Registered Dietitian tool to find an RD near you.

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