How People Living with Diabetes Can Have a Healthful Thanksgiving

family at Thanksgiving dinner

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, just in time to bring awareness to healthy eating habits before one of America’s biggest feasts.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, more than 30 million Americans live with diabetes and a quarter of those people aren’t aware they have it. More than 80 million US adults have prediabetes. In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled. This may be because more Americans than ever are overweight or obese, one of the major risk factors for diabetes. Americans are also getting older, another risk factor.

Which bring us to Thanksgiving. It can be tough to stick to a healthy diet when there are so many high-carbohydrate and sugary foods on the table. This, paired with well-meaning family members who might encourage you to overeat or “treat” yourself (“It’s only one day a year!”), can make for a difficult month.

So what can you do to ensure that you, or your loved one with diabetes, stick to a healthy meal plan this Thanksgiving?

To start, whether you’re hosting or going for a visit, consider eating a healthy breakfast on Thanksgiving Day to help keep yourself from overeating. If there are any pre-dinner snacks, stick to healthier options like raw veggies and low-fat dips. Try and avoid the usually overly salted nuts and crackers. Appetizers and snacks are often even more plentiful than the main meal, so keep that in mind as the day goes on if you’re feeling the need for something to munch on.

If you’re the host, you may have more control over the ingredients in food, so be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations. If you’re a guest, consider bringing an item that is more diabetic-friendly, such as roasted veggies or cranberry sauce with less sugar or a sugar alternative (you can also add things like black grapes or a little fresh orange juice in place of sugar).

If you want to enjoy alcohol on Thanksgiving, be watchful of how much you drink, especially if you aren’t eating much. Try not to drink on an empty stomach and consider things like wine spritzers or similar cocktails. Remember to also drink plenty of water.

Consider your priorities at the table. While some things are very seasonal, such as cranberry sauce and turkey, other things like mashed potatoes and rolls can be year-round sides. If there’s a seasonal item you can’t do without, including a favorite dessert, consider forgoing some of the more common dishes. Likewise, be wary of going for seconds or thirds. Try to be honest with yourself about how hungry (or full) you are to avoid overeating and stick to smaller portion sizes.

Most importantly, remember why you’re there. Thanksgiving is a time to spend with friends and family, giving thanks for the wonderful people in our lives. Take the spotlight off food and try playing games, watching movies, retelling old family stories, or even going through some of your favorite photos. After dinner, take a walk around with your family and friends (especially if your neighbors already have their holiday lights up!).

As always, be sure to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you might have.

Categories: Nutrition, Senior Health