Enjoying a Diabetic Thanksgiving

The holidays can be tough to navigate for any health-conscious Jane or Joe – but they’re especially tricky for diabetics. Between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the bevy of December holidays, there will be sweets around every corner. While it’s important to enjoy time spent with family and friends on these special occasions, it’s equally important to stick to your nutritional guns. 
 
In addition to the upcoming holiday bender, it’s National Diabetes Awareness month – and these companies are creating helpful resources and guides for enjoying the holidays healthfully! 
 
 
In her work with Homeland Stores, dietician Alyson Dykstra, R.D. L.D. CPT has advised plenty of people on how to maximize their holiday health. “Holiday treats can be nutritious with a few tweaks,” says Alyson. “Seek out recipes that rely on fruit's natural sweetness [instead of] on refined sugar. Like fruits, nuts can play a starring role: use them to add texture and flavor.” 
 
To make your desserts satisfying but healthy, Alyson advises using high-quality fats: “You can replace shortening or lard with [a] healthier fat like olive oil.”  Rely on your neighborhood Homeland this Holiday season for your healthy baking needs. - Alyson Dykstra, R.D. L.D CPT, Corporate Dietitian , HAC Retail
 
Molly Petrik works as a registered dietician in the Bryan Health Diabetes Center. The center offered a class on carb-smart cooking just a few weeks ago, and it aims to educate people with pre- and progressive diabetes about proper nutrition, lifestyle, and health habits. Molly explains, “[Our] theme for 2013 is Diabetes is a Family Affair.  Diabetes doesn’t end in November … it is a 24/7 diagnosis, 365 days of the year.” 
 
But even those diabetics who stick to their health goals the rest of the year might find themselves in dangerous territory come Thanksgiving. “During the holidays, it is important for diabetics to remember [that] they can, for the most part, eat what they want to,” says Molly. “But they have to be careful with the portion sizes to avoid elevating blood sugars. 
  • A half-cup of mashed potatoes or bread stuffing [each] have about 26 grams of carbohydrates – not bad. But it is the second helping of the potatoes, and the stuffing, and the roll, and the corn, etc… that starts to add up on the blood sugars. 
  • One-eighth of a 9” pumpkin pie has about 26 grams of carbohydrates, and a slice of pecan pie the same size [has] about 52 grams of carbohydrates.” 
 
So how can diabetics and family members make sure the holiday doesn’t turn into a health fiasco? Molly advises support and solidarity: “It is important for family members to try not to treat the diabetic differently – during the holidays especially – but remember to be supportive of watching portion sizes. Portion control is important for everyone during the holidays, especially to avoid weight gain.” - Molly Petrik RD, LMNT, CDE / Bryan Health Diabetes Center, Lincoln, NE
 
Why not go all-out on holidays, though? John S. Muchmore, M.D., PhD, of INTEGRIS Health says that treating your diet as a lifestyle – not a short-term solution – is key to weight maintenance success.  “Holidays are for feasting, merriment and family, and have been so for thousands of years.  [But even] on [holidays], common sense should prevail.  Food should be a balance of protein, vegetables and carbohydrate.  No portion should be as big as the palm of your hand.” John S. Muchmore MD, PhD
 

 
Tips and Tricks for Surviving – and Thriving – during Thanksgiving
 
If you survive Turkey Day, great – but you can do better and actually be healthy and well, even on treat-laden holidays. Here’s how.
 
If you’re hosting a meal, prepare a wide range of foods that you’re able to eat in good conscience. Remember that it’s okay to create new, healthy traditions – just because your family prepared a certain dish every year doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. 
 
If you’re a guest in someone else’s home, bring along at least one dish that you can comfortably eat and share. If it’s appropriate, let your hosts know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time. Usually, they care more about you enjoying the meal than they do about leaving the marshmallows in the sweet potato pie!
 
Don’t forget a bit of exercise: take a walk through the fall foliage or play a game of football in the back yard. Exercise will help you digest your meal and put those nutrients to good use – and will help you keep up energy levels. And if you include the whole group, it’s a great way to bond without sitting at the table. 
 
Drinking the alcohol…er, Kool-Aid? Wait until after you’ve eaten to have a reasonable-sized drink. That way, you’ll have something in your stomach but you won’t be able to drink more than your full belly can handle. 
 
If you overdo it, give yourself a break. Your body is resilient, so just take a moment to remind yourself of your goals and healthy lifestyle. One indulgent meal won’t ruin you for life – but it may well remind you of the reasons that you began eating healthier in the first place! 
 
What to Eat for a Diabetic-Friendly Thanksgiving
 
So what exactly are you supposed to eat as a diabetic on a holiday? You definitely don’t need to buy tons of diabetes-specific cookbooks: instead, just get on Pinterest! We’ve done the grunt work for you by coming up with a side-by-side comparison of a traditional Thanksgiving meal and a low-carb, low-sugar holiday spread. Here are some of our favorite recipes and tips, gleaned from diabetic-friendly and health-focused Pin boards. 
For Dinner: Focus on satisfying, nutritious foods.
 
Avoid processed carbs like bread and breadcrumbs. Instead, fill up on plenty of protein, healthy fats, and tons of produce – yummy winter squash, heart-healthy nuts, starchy seasonal veggies, and a small amount of whole grains will keep you satisfied without the insulin spike. 
 
Up your potato game. This sweet potato casserole from Diabetic Connect is more savory than sweet – but no one will be complaining. (Hint: their cake pin board is also full of great ideas.)
 
Have some white potato die-hards at the table? Give them a whopping serving of veggies with this sneaky cauliflower mashed potatoes recipe
 
You won’t miss the processed cream of mushroom with this super flavorful, fresh take on green bean casserole, courtesy of Diabetic Living.  See even more casseroles on their super-colorful pin board.
 
Bagged salad mix is boring; this salad is not. Use it as a template to incorporate fresh, seasonal produce into a beautiful dish. Combine kale or a similar dark, leafy green; a handful of pomegranate seeds; nuts of your choice (pumpkin seeds also work well); and a few chunks of butternut squash or roasted carrot. Toss with a balsamic glaze or a salty-but-healthy tahini dressing. 
 
Dr. Oz performed yet another miracle when he asked Paula Deen to lighten up her famous mac-and-cheese recipe. Your guests will have a southern drawl in no time.
 
Use this simple but delicious recipe for traditional herbed roast turkey to wow your guests – courtesy of Diabetes Educator.  
 
For Dessert: Tweak your favorite recipes to avoid a sugar crash.
 
It’s generally safe to cut sugar by 1/3 to ½ and load up on the spices – you won’t miss the extra sugar! If you’re not sure what’s in a dessert, pick something you know you’ll love. If you’re not satisfied, you’ll go back for slice after slice of that just-okay pie. The best choice: pick something made with natural sugars from fruit or starchy veggies – the slow-release carbs are much better for regulating blood sugar levels than their refined counterparts.
 
Also – using margarine and artificial sweeteners might lower the calorie count of a dessert, but many of those ingredients can actually increase your sugar cravings and wreak havoc on your digestion. Instead, opt for simple, real ingredients and have smaller portions. (It’s hard to over-eat real butter and cream!)
 
Pumpkin pie or cheesecake? This rich pumpkin cheesecake gives you the best of both worlds. 
 
Apples appear in this recipe no less than 3 times – in raw, butter, and juice or cider form. Dr. Oz’s cinnamon apple sauté is just as good without the fro-yo – but the frozen treat adds a dose of protein without too much sugar.
 
Ditch the artificial sweeteners in this hearty maple pecan pie – instead, use real maple syrup and enjoy in moderation. 
 
Even the pickiest kids will love Dr. Oz’s triple-chocolate chocolate chip cookies. We’re betting that the adults will want a taste, too…
 
Plan ahead and enjoy yourself for a balanced, healthy Thanksgiving.
 
Whether you or someone in your family has diabetes or you’re just trying to keep things on the healthy side this year, a bit of planning and smart choices can make a huge difference in how you feel the next day. And with Pinterest, you can find tons of ideas that suit your family’s tastes and dietary needs.