PLAN A DIABETES-FRIENDLY THANKSGIVING.
It’s November, and the holidays are around the corner. Along with holidays come parties, traditional favorite foods, and typically lots more calories! It may be a bit more of a challenge, but with a little extra planning and a few recipe adjustments, there’s no need to compromise your blood sugar control.
Eating at your regular times and choosing foods closest to your usual diet will help keep blood sugars in your target range. Reducing stress by starting early and making plans now, will give your plenty of time to make that perfect menu.
Before dinner, there’s usually an array of snacks or appetizers, making it easy to eat more than you realize. Have a small snack before you arrive to tame hunger and avoid impulse eating.
When you are faced with a display of goodies, focus on fiber. Studies find that high-fiber diets improve insulin sensitivity, slow blood sugar rise, and, may reduce medication needs in persons with diabetes. Fiber is the indigestible portion of foods and is classified as soluble or insoluble.
Soluble fibers dissolve into a gel that may reduce cholesterol and blood sugar. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, and barley, as well as apples and citrus fruit. Insoluble fiber helps to draw water into the gut and aid with digestion. Sources include whole wheat, bran, nuts, and seeds. Most plants contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, in differing amounts and both are essential to a healthy diet.
Consider these high-fiber starters at your next holiday meal:
-Fiber Crispbread with hummus, mashed avocado, or bean dip
-Crispy sweet potato skins
-Fresh cranberry relish
-Dried apple slices
THE MAIN COURSE
Turkey is the usual main dish on Thanksgiving and is an excellent source of protein. Stick with the breast or white meat for lower fat and avoid deep frying. Skip brining the turkey if you have heart or kidney disease as this significantly increases the sodium content.
Roasting is the simplest and healthiest method of cooking turkey. Place it on a rack inside the pan to allow the fat to drip away. Focus on adding fresh herbs for seasoning instead of butter and salt. Avoid eating the skin where fat is hidden.
For smaller gatherings, a whole chicken or chicken breast may be just right. Or consider substituting salmon or other fish, or a legume entree such as stuffed butternut squash with quinoa, spinach, and chickpeas.
WHAT’S ON THE SIDELINES?
It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the vast array of side dishes. Typically mashed potatoes or sweet potato casseroles are served. Why not serve potatoes whole, baked with the skin on? The skin of the potato contains many nutrients and fiber as well as flavor. Serve with plain Greek yogurt and diced green onions and pumpkin seeds.
Or skip the potatoes and add a high-fiber pasta dish made with legume pasta made from chickpeas or lentils. Add your favorite tomato sauce or try a butternut squash sauce.
If you cook your stuffing separately from the turkey, try making it in muffin tins instead of one big casserole. The individual portions are great for portion control and are just as tasty.
Green bean casseroles can be lightened up by substituting a mushroom broth in place of cream of mushroom soup. Sauté some onions and mix with panko seasoning in place of fried onion topping.
A fresh mix of greens tossed with grated or diced veggies, berries, toasted seeds, and nuts makes a beautiful and healthy salad. Opt for a light dressing such as Balsamic Vinaigrette or Italian.
Forgo canned cranberry jelly or sauce. Make your own cranberry relish with fresh cranberries and a naval orange cut into chunks, skin included. Process both in a food processor until finely chopped. Throw in some walnuts or shelled pecans for added fiber and texture.
WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL?
An occasional drink when blood sugars are well controlled is usually safe when you have diabetes, however, you should follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to alcohol.
Alcohol contributes to calories and carbohydrates and can cause blood sugar to either rise or fall. If you do drink, include it with your meal, and don’t drink on an empty stomach.
Drink slowly and stay hydrated with plenty of water, and avoid mixed drinks with sweetened beverages or cordials and sweet wines.
Also, alcohol can act as an appetite stimulant and may lead to overeating and may affect your judgment or will power and lead to poor food choices.
DO I NEED TO SKIP DESSERT?
Often times desserts evoke some of the best family memories. Apple or pecan pie or a special holiday pumpkin recipe leaves no one wanting to skip dessert! However, this is where those extra calories, fats, and sugar are neatly packaged.
It’s okay to go ahead and have a small piece of your favorite dessert. On the other hand, if fresh fruit is available, choosing an apple or pear will provide more fiber and less sugar and calories.
Offer to bring a dessert. A cookie that is low in sugar and loaded with nuts and rolled oats is a healthy and tasty way to add fiber and the individual serving size helps with portion control.
Once you’ve chosen your dessert, walk away from the table and socialize with family and friends. Suggest an after-dinner walk, before settling in for the football games!
When you have diabetes, holiday meals can be stressful. Trying to decide what to eat or not to eat can make the event unenjoyable. Choose foods closest to your usual diet and focus on adding fiber, to help slow blood sugar rise and keep it on track.
Look at your favorite holiday recipes and make adjustments to decrease added sugar and fat. Often a small decrease doesn’t affect the end product. Increase fiber by adding nuts or seeds.
Change preparation methods, roast instead of frying, and serve some items in portion-controlled sizes. Limit alcohol intake and always pair it with food. Avoid sweetened mixers and stay well hydrated.
Enjoy a small portion of your favorite dessert or offer to bring a healthier modified version. Start a new tradition of taking an after-dinner stroll, and, most of all, enjoy the time spent with family and friends!