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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Have a healthy Halloween (and still have fun)

“Pumpkin” by hin255 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Halloween can be a time of fun parties and tasty treats, but it can also be a difficult time to maintain healthy behaviors. How do we protect the fun of Halloween without sacrificing our health?

Celebrate the good

Fitness: Halloween creates many opportunities for physical activity. Trick-or-treating (walking) and dancing at parties are two examples of physical activity that many enjoy. Many people also like participating in fun runs and marathons featuring prizes for the best costumes.

Food: In addition, pumpkins (and their seeds) are a great addition to the diet. They contain antioxidants, vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber.

Friends: Halloween provides plenty of chances to be social. Spending time with family and friends is also part of a healthy lifestyle, reducing stress and increasing self-worth (click to read more).

Make healthy tweaks

Making healthy choices doesn’t mean giving up all candy and passing out dental floss, as one dentist does in a funny TV commercial. You (and your children) can still enjoy candy and other treats in moderation.

Suggestions for candy

  • fruit snacks with 100% fruit juice
  • bite-size or mini candy bars
  • chocolate over sticky or hard candies (to reduce candy sticking to teeth)
  • wait until a few days before Halloween to buy your candy (so you aren’t tempted to eat them all yourself)
  • pick a number of candies you (or your children) will eat each day (to teach moderation)
  • eat a healthy snack before trick-or-treating or going to parties
  • donate (or participate in buyback programs) any extra or unwanted candy to organizations collecting for soldiers

Ideas in case you want to give treats other than candy (again, no dental floss)

  • stickers
  • pencils
  • temporary tattoos
  • bouncy balls
  • plastic spider rings
  • whistles

Party food recipes

Keep safety in mind

Make sure your Halloween costumes allow free movement and full range of sight to avoid tripping. Observe small children to make sure they don’t choke on small toys or candy, and have them sit down while they enjoy any treats. Clear pathways for trick-or-treaters and party guests, and keep decorations from becoming fire hazards by putting candles away from flammable decorations and in areas where they are not likely to be knocked over. Use designated drivers or call a cab for any party guest that may have had too much to drink (Click here to see one serving of alcohol).

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Heart-healthy Valentine’s Day dinner ideas

Photo Credit: Ambro (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Photo Credit: Ambro (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Do something good for your heart and your taste buds this Valentine’s Day. These are some recipes from the American Heart Association that I thought you might like to have in case you’re planning a special dinner. (Disclaimer: haven’t tried these yet, but they look good.) Click the links to see the recipe and pictures on the American Heart Association websites.


Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta


Sauteed Mushroom Salad


Spinach-Stuffed Baked Salmon

Side Dish

Lemon-Dill Green Beans


Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Almond-Mocha Topping on Raspberry Sauce

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