Hold the Stuffing: Making Thanksgiving Healthier for Individuals with Diabetes

Successfully managing diabetes means being able to avoid the many traps that come with holidays like Thanksgiving. But it is possible, says the ADA.

For individuals with diabetes, the holiday season can present several challenges—particularly when it comes to Thanksgiving, a day that often that seems to revolve around eating.

However, although staying on track during holiday gatherings may be difficult, there are steps that can be taken to successfully manage diabetes on Thanksgiving. The key, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), is to plan ahead and make small changes wherever possible.

Below are suggestions from the ADA designed to help make the holiday more enjoyable for individuals with diabetes:

  • Snack on healthy foods such as vegetables with low-calorie dip or a few small pieces of low-fat dip to avoid overeating.
  • Be physically active by taking a walk or playing outside with children.
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Opt for low-calorie drinks such as sparkling water, unsweetened tea, or diet beverages.
  • Look for side dishes that are light on butter, dressing, and other fats and sugars.
  • If you are a guest, offer to bring a healthy dish such as a green salad or side of steamed vegetables.
  • Make selective food choices. Sample only small amounts of foods that are high in carbohydrates.
  • Limit your salt intake.
  • If you are at a buffet, fix a plate and move to another room away from the food, if possible.

For those who are traveling, the CDC offers the following tips:

  • Check blood glucose more often than usual, as a changing schedule can affect levels.
  • Pack twice the amount of diabetes supplies needed in case of travel delays.
  • Keep snacks, glucose gel, or tablets on hand in case your blood glucose drops.
  • Be aware of time zone changes so you’ll know when to take medication.
  • Those who use insulin should be sure to also pack a glucagon emergency kit. Insulin should be kept cool by packing it in an insulated bag with refrigerated gel packs.
  • Pack a small cooler of foods that may be difficult to find while traveling, such as fresh fruit, sliced raw vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • Bring a few bottles of water instead of sweetened soda or juice.
  • Pack dried fruit, nuts, and seeds as snacks. Because these foods can be high in calories, small portions (1/4 cup) should be measured out in advance.
  • Place all diabetes supplies in carry-on luggage and keep medications and snacks close by for easy access.
  • If a meal will be served during the flight, call ahead for a diabetic, low fat, or low cholesterol meal. Wait until your food is about to be served before taking insulin.
  • If the airline doesn’t offer a meal, bring a nutritious meal and be sure to pack snacks in case of flight delays.

More resources:

  • A Healthier Thanksgiving feast
  • Enjoying Thanksgiving with Diabetes
  • Healthy Diabetic Thanksgiving recipes
  • A Diabetes Healing Thanksgiving Feast