Managing Diabetes During Thanksgiving

thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving is almost here. Your friends and family are gathered and enjoying a delicious turkey. When dessert time rolls around, everyone happily grabs a slice of pumpkin pie or peach cobbler. Instead, you cautiously eye each plate. Living with diabetes, you know the struggle of enjoying Thanksgiving and other holidays celebrated with lavish meals.

While many traditional Thanksgiving foods are high in fat and carbohydrates, you can still make healthy choices that fit your diabetes meal plan. Yes, that can include dessert. Here’s how you can put your worry away and focus on what really matters:


No one knows your diabetes meal plan better than you. If Thanksgiving is at your house, you likely do not have too much to worry about. However, if you’re visiting family and friends for dinner, things can be a bit more uncertain. Find out what’s on the menu ahead of time to ensure there are healthy options on the table. Come early and help prepare dishes or bring alternative dishes that you know you can enjoy.

Quick Tip: Avoid the temptation of overeating during dinner. Start the day with a good breakfast, and snack on raw vegetables and low-fat dip throughout the day.1


The easiest way to manage insulin levels is portion control. Limit yourself to one plate and pay close attention to the items you’d like to eat carefully. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that your plate consists of one-half fruits and vegetables, one-quarter protein and one-quarter grains. If you feel tempted to take an extra plate (especially when everyone else is going for seconds or thirds), get yourself an extra helping of vegetables. And remember, squash and pumpkin are carbohydrates and should be eaten in moderation.3

Other foods to consider during the meal:

  • Turkey is high in protein and has no carbohydrates. Go for a palm-sized serving of white meat but remove the skin, which adds unnecessary calories.
  • Stuffing mainly consists of bread, a carbohydrate, so account for this in your meal plan. See if non-starchy vegetables and whole grain or wheat bread can be used as a healthy alternative
  • Buttery mashed potatoes and sweet potato casseroles can really pack in the carbs, fat and calories. Keep your portions small and skip the sour cream and butter.
  • Although cranberry is a healthy fruit high in anti-oxidants, cranberry sauce has a lot of added sugar and a high amount of carbs. If you must eat it, remember that a little bit can go a long way.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to eat everything you see on the table. Save room in your meal plan for the dishes you absolutely do not want to go without.4


A common misconception is that you must avoid ALL sugar to be safe from high blood sugar; however, this isn’t true. Again, it’s all about watching what you eat. If you don’t fill up on turkey, you can save room for dessert. Opt for pumpkin pie rather than pecan pie, and skip the whipped cream. Or better yet, bring your own dessert made with an artificial sweetener.

Managing diabetes on your own is difficult, especially during the holidays. Let your family know that they can support you by taking a walk together around the block or tossing a football after dinner.

If you start to notice the signs of low or high blood sugar, you know that it’s time to head to the hospital. In any case of an emergency, it’s good to know the address of the nearest St. Vincent Neighborhood Hospital location for closer, faster care to quickly get back to spending time with those you are thankful for.





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