Thanksgiving is a time to surround ourselves with family and friends, feast on an abundance of tasty foods, and be grateful for the people and the things that we love.
But as someone with Type 2 Diabetes, it can become a distressing task of eating foods that won’t spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling anything but grateful all afternoon.
In this blog post I will share my favorite healthy cooking tips, as well as traditional Thanksgiving recipes that are adapted to be lower in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
So that you can enjoy your meal without distress.
Healthy Cooking Tips
Often times, recipes on Thanksgiving day will be packed full of added fats, sugar, calories, and sodium. Using a few healthy swaps to your favorite Thanksgiving dishes
will allow you to enjoy these more responsibly. Here are some easy ways to do so.
Back off on the fats. In your favorite desserts, swap half the fat for unsweetened applesauce. While fat isn’t the “bad guy”, you are likely going to get plenty of it in the meal. Cutting back on this will also cut back on calories, and can save you from holiday weight gain.
Try a cauliflower substitute. I’m not always a fan of subbing this veggie in for starches...but if you haven’t tried mashed caulifl ower MIXED with mashed potatoes...it is worth it.
Make it homemade. While using canned goods is easy and fast, they contain lots of sodium, added fats, and preservatives. When possible use fresh or frozen green beans for your casserole. (HINT: if you have to use canned, rinse them. It cuts the sodium in half!). Check out the green bean recipe here for a healthy swap to this traditional dish.
Another canned culprit is cranberry sauce. This version contains high fructose corn syrup, and is far from wholesome like frozen cranberries would be. Try making it fresh a day before to save time on Thanksgiving Day.
Choose low-fat versions of milks, cheeses, sauces. Look for "low-fat" or "part-skim" on your cheese labels, swap cream for 2% or whole milk and add just a touch of corn starch, and limit your gravy or extra butter to avoid excess.
Skimp on the salt. Consuming too much sodium displaces water in your body, leading to bloating as well as high blood sugar and high blood pressure. Instead of salt, go for aromatic or bold spices such as garlic, onion, cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. The more fl avor an item has, the less salt it needs. You can also try Mrs. Dash blends - they’re great.
Choose a healthy cooking method. Does a dish call for frying in oil? Try roasting, broiling, or grilling instead.
Dismiss extra sugar. Sweet potatoes are already sweet! Decrease the added brown sugar in your candied yams by half to give yourself a little more control, or try a sugar substitute.
How to stay on track at the meal
Let’s chat about how to enjoy your favorites, while avoiding those afternoon blood sugar highs (and energy lows).
Don’t save up your calories for the big meal. Never go in starving - you can’t make good decisions when you’re hungry! It may seem logical to save all your calories for the one meal until you actually over-indulge so much at the meal that you still go over your calorie goal and feel terrible.
Take a lap first. Before actually going through the food “line”, walk down it and see what’s available. Making a game plan will allow you to choose the dishes that you really want, and not just pile everything, including 3 different kinds of potatoes and the roll on your plate. Even if the foods you choose are high calorie, you’ll have a more balanced and meaningful plate.
Skimp on the gravy and butter. These extras drive up your calorie count fast and cause blood sugars to stay high rather than come back down in a timely manner. Choose a small amount, so you get all the flavor without all the added calories and fat.
Stay hydrated. Sipping on water throughout the day will help maintain stable blood sugar, fi ll your belly a little, and balance out the excess sodium that you’re likely getting from the feast.
Pace yourself. It takes 20 minutes for your tummy to tell your brain it’s full. Try to practice mindful eating rather than shoveling it all in. This will allow you to enjoy the food longer, and eat less. Here are a few tricks: set your utensil down between bites; chew your food more intentionally (think about the textures, fl avors, aroma of your food); take a sip every 3-4 bites.
Drop the shame and guilt. Do not let guilt of overeating overwhelm you. Negative feelings can raise stress and inevitably your blood sugar - and does guilt take away the calories from the pie? Nope. So allow yourself to enjoy Thanksgiving responsibly, and know that tomorrow is another day!