Navigating Thanksgiving with Diabetes: A Comprehensive Guide for 2023


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Thanksgiving with Diabetes: Thanksgiving, a time for indulgence and gratitude, can pose challenges for individuals managing diabetes. Elizabeth Stasny, a university professor with type 1 diabetes, emphasizes the struggle to maintain blood sugar levels during this festive season. However, experts suggest that with strategic planning, swaps, and mindful choices, people with diabetes can enjoy the holiday without compromising their health.

Thanksgiving with Diabetes
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Thanksgiving with Diabetes: Strategic Swaps for Diabetes-Friendly Thanksgiving Dishes

Thanksgiving classics like mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and dinner rolls can be high in carbs. Dietitian Grace Derocha recommends incorporating more vegetables, like roasted green beans or Brussels sprouts, into the meal. For mashed potatoes, adding cauliflower and white beans enhances protein and fiber, allowing for more volume with fewer carbs.

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Thanksgiving with Diabetes: Main Course Considerations for Blood Sugar Management

The main course, whether turkey, pork, fish, turkey, or ham, serves as a protein source that fills without significantly raising blood sugar levels. Balancing the plate with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is crucial, especially for individuals with type 2 diabetes. For type 1 diabetes, careful consideration of main course add-ons, such as dressing with sugary ingredients, is essential for proper insulin dosing.

Indulging in Diabetes-Friendly Desserts

People with diabetes need not skip dessert. Dietitian Arévalo recommends treats that offer more than just carbs, such as a bowl of fruit with a chocolate drizzle or a protein-rich coconut flan.

Alcohol combined with diabetes medications poses a risk for low blood sugar. While a glass of wine is generally acceptable, festive mocktails provide a good alcohol alternative. Staying hydrated is key, especially when consuming alcohol.

Mental Preparation for the Holiday

Stress management is vital for individuals with diabetes, as stress hormones can impact blood sugar levels. Creating boundaries and a stress management toolbox, including breathing techniques and meditation, helps mitigate stress during the holiday season.

Strategies for the Big Meal

If attending Thanksgiving dinner, a quick assessment of the table helps in planning a balanced plate. Dietitians recommend including carbs, protein, fat, and fiber on the plate to manage blood sugar effectively. Bringing a diabetes-friendly dish, staying hydrated, checking insulin numbers, and celebrating the day contribute to a positive experience.

Incorporating Exercise into the Celebration

Exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels. Activities like a family walk or assisting with cleanup after the meal are beneficial. For those watching sports, incorporating movements, such as jumping jacks or push-ups, during exciting moments adds a fun exercise element.

Tips for Hosts Welcoming Guests with Diabetes

Hosts can assist guests with diabetes by sharing the menu and ingredient details. This helps individuals with diabetes plan their insulin doses accurately. Normalizing diabetes-friendly dishes for everyone, especially children, contributes to an inclusive and supportive environment.

Conclusion: Thanksgiving Isn’t About Perfection

Thanksgiving can be manageable for people with diabetes with thoughtful planning and a focus on balance. It’s about enjoying the festivities, trying a bit of everything, and embracing the spirit of the holiday without unnecessary stress or restrictions.

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