A holiday such as Thanksgiving that is so focused on food can be a nightmare for people with special diets, especially those with diabetes. Dinner becomes a minefield of indulgences and often throws even the most disciplined eaters off track. However it doesn’t have to be this hard! We’ve compiled a list of 8 tips that will help you navigate the bountiful feast and leave you thankful for something aside from those stretchy pants waiting for you at home!
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Although it might seem counter intuitive, Thanksgiving Day should not be a feast or famine situation. People often skip breakfast with the intent to “make space” or “save calories” for dinner. However there are two major issues with this tactic. Skipping breakfast can wreak havoc on your blood sugar leaving you feeling sick, and it can also leave you way too hungry. If you are starving by the time the meal starts you are much more likely to overeat as well as more likely to choose unhealthy foods. Eating a balanced breakfast will help you feel fresh and level headed which is the perfect recipe for smart dinner choices!
Beware of Appetizers
Appetizers are a great way to keep guests from starving before the main meal is ready, but be careful of what you eat in this time. Try to aim for fruits and veggies to snack on if you are hungry, and avoid eating mindlessly just because food is there. And of course, if Aunt Sally’s famous artichoke cheese dip is something you look forward to all year, eat some! But remember to keep your portion appropriate and count any carbs eaten towards your meal total.
Don’t Congregate Around Food
In the same vein as not mindlessly eating appetizers just because they are there, try to keep the buffet of food out of sight when eating dinner. If you are hosting this can be as simple as keeping the food in the kitchen and eating in the dining room; otherwise, try to snag a seat with your back to the food. This helps with the “out of sight, out of mind” concept and will greatly decrease mindless or nervous eating. It also gives you a chance to fully enjoy your plate of food before considering a second helping!
Use Small Plates
With so many different dishes, the amount of food on your plate can add up quicker than you think! One of the simplest ways to limit the amount of food you eat without feeling restricted is to use a smaller plate. This will allow you to fill your plate without going completely overboard.
Whether you are a little-taste-of-everything or a just-the-classics type of thanksgiving eater it can be very easy to forget about standard portions during the holidays. Remember to use the Diabetic Plate Method to keep your food ratios in order, and check out this awesome visual portion guide created by SparkPeople’s Melinda Hershey!
Pick This, Not That!
Having so many different options can actually be quite helpful at a meal like Thanksgiving. Turkey and other meats are all protein and great options. Also consider veggies and salads as your side dishes, vegetables are one of the best things you can eat with diabetes! Stuffing on the other hand is full of carbs so is one to be careful with. Also keep in mind sauces such as gravy or cranberry sauce often has added and hidden sugars. You don’t have to restrict yourself with these dishes, just remember your portions and keep tabs on your carb intake.
Instead of vegging out on the couch after the big meal, try and gather a group of family and friends to go for a post dinner walk to help digest all that food! This can be a great chance to continue conversation while all taking a healthy step to remain active. If the rest of your family is stuck in a food coma, a quick 10 minute walk on your own can leave you feeling energized and ready for the transition to dessert.
Leave the Leftovers
If you’ve been looking forward to this meal all year (and trust me, we have been doing the same!) it can be sad when it’s all over and done. It makes it that much more tempting to take home a plate of leftovers, or if you’re the host you can look forward to a smorgasbord for the next few days. We often give ourselves a “free pass” to pig out when it is for a celebration which is fine! Let yourself off the hook with that one, as long as you are smart about it. If your holiday dinner turns into pie for breakfast and continuous feasting until the food is all gone that can be a problem. Consider not taking a plate of leftovers home, or if you take a plate, make it a healthy one! If you are the host try to plan out the meal ahead of time to minimize the amount of leftovers and either offer anything leftover to your relatives or think about donating to those in need. Food52 has a great guide you can check out here that offers different options for donating leftovers and canned goods.
Although Thanksgiving is largely centered on a delicious dinner, remember that being with family and friends is what the holidays are all about. Enjoy the company of others and let this help you realign your focus from food to family. Making it through this holiday season with normal blood sugar levels is something you can be proud of, and your waistline will no doubt thank you for it later!