Easy Survival Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner and Diabetes

Thanksgiving dinner and diabetes is doable with planningOne of the biggest dinners of the year is around the corner. Everyone around you is busy stocking up on stuffing, yams, pumpkin pie, marshmallow fluff…and you’re stuck. Why? Because you’re a caregiver, and your older loved one has diabetes. And everyone knows that Thanksgiving dinner and diabetes just don’t go together.

Or do they?

Believe it or not, you can make Thanksgiving dinner diabetes friendly. And delicious.

Think it’s impossible? Read on. Because this is your Easy Survival Guide to Thanksgiving dinner and Diabetes.

Let’s get into it.

1. Appetizers and first courses

There’s a word that’s going to appear a lot here, so let’s say it now: choices. The first key to making Thanksgiving dinner healthy and delicious for everyone at the table is to include a variety of choices.

Yes, I know. That makes pre-plating really difficult. And it’s true that there’s nothing quite so elegant as a fully pre-plated, beautifully presented meal. But if the price is going to be either a) that your kids are going to turn up their noses or b) that your loved one with diabetes will feel left out, it’s just not worth it.

(It’s not that you can’t pre-plate, by the way. It just means you won’t be able to do it ahead of time, since each guest will have to state their preference. So if pre-plating is something you just can’t give up, make sure each choice is something you can serve without a lot of work.)

Your other option, of course, is to choose an appetizer everyone can eat. Either way, here are a few ideas for diabetes-friendly Thanksgiving appetizers and first courses:

  • Soup
  • Mini-meatballs
  • Dips with pita chips, whole wheat crackers, sugar-free bread sticks (like this one)
  • Veggie-stuffed mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, onions
  • Steak salad
  • Mini chicken pot-pies
  • Pu-pu platters (either mini-individual or family style)

2. Side Dishes

Here’s where all those yams and marshmallows come in. And stuffing, and potatoes with gravy. If these are things your family loves and enjoys, don’t take all of them off the menu. Choose the 1 or 2 side dishes that just say “Thanksgiving” to your kids, and then substitute for the rest.

Another alternative is to adjust. You can make stuffing diabetes-friendly by using lots of vegetables and whole-grain crackers or bread. Sweet potatoes are actually better for diabetic people than regular potatoes, because of their high fiber content. Or swap the sweet potatoes for butternut squash and make a marshmallow-free pan, too. Your kids probably won’t even notice.

Some more ideas for side dishes:

  • Green beans – steamed, roasted, sauteed
  • Mashed cauliflower (great substitute for mashed potatoes)
  • Roasted veggies
  • Ratatouille
  • Whole-grain rice pilaf
  • Quinoa with sauteed vegetables
  • Stir-fry

3. Main course

Turkey is a very diabetes-friendly dish. Low in fat and super-healthy, the only thing that could make it less than ideal for your loved one is if you dress it in lots of fat, or bathe it in a sugar-based sauce. So keep the cranberry and other dipping sauces on the side and you’re good to go.

4. Thanksgiving dessert and diabetes? No way.

Yes way. You can create sugar-free versions of your favorite baked goods by substituting powdered Splenda for sugar in your recipes. Want to serve apple pie with ice cream? Check out the frozen dessert section at your supermarket. There are a whole bunch of ADA approved ice creams you can pick up.

More dessert ideas:

  • Fruit salad
  • Grilled peaches or pineapple
  • Fruit skewers
  • Baked apples or pears
  • Fruit crumble (use Splenda in the crumbs)
  • Dried fruit compote (this is delicious)

If you have any doubts as to which foods will be appropriate for your loved one, don’t hesitate to talk to their primary physician or to ask the staff at their place of residence. And remember: Preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and diabetes might not be easy. But it is so, so worth it.