Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year for the family to spend time together—and enjoy an indulgent meal. But for the 30 million Americans who live with type 2 diabetes, a spread of carb-heavy foods and sugary desserts can make managing blood sugar spikes difficult.
Of course, it can be even harder than usual to stick to a diabetes-friendly diet when all of your friends and family are chowing down on your mom’s homemade stuffing and pumpkin pie. However, it’s important to remember that you can enjoy the feast, too—it’s all about moderation.
“Eat the foods you love and look forward to throughout the year while being mindful of how you are balancing your plate,” says Lori Zanini, R.D., certified diabetes educator and author of the Diabetes Cookbook and Meal Plan for the Newly Diagnosed. “Deprivation never works, and it usually leads to overeating later.”
So how do you let yourself indulge without going overboard? Keep these tips from Zanini in mind before your feast:
Pile on the protein. Foods that are low-carb and high-protein will be the best options. Your body digests protein more slowly, thus creating less of an impact on your blood sugar levels. Go for the turkey first!
Choose the right carbs. “I always recommend that carbs come from high-quality, plant-based sources such as quinoa, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and berries,” says Zanini. “These types of carbs will also come with fiber, which helps food digest slower.” Limit the added sugar.
Keep your portion sizes in check. After all, there will be leftovers. “Quantity and portion sizing will be the most important factor in keeping your blood-sugar levels balanced through the holidays,” Zanini explains.
Make smart swaps. You can make tiny changes to almost any recipe to make it more diabetes-friendly. For example, when making baked goods or desserts, substitute a healthier type of flour, suggests Zanini. “Coconut and almond flours can be especially helpful in lowering the carbs, but whole wheat, oat, and chickpea flours will also add higher-quality carbs compared to white flour, creating a more diabetes-friendly dish,” she says.
Get moving. If you do overeat (hey, we are all human!), try going for a walk after the big meal, which will help prevent a blood sugar spike.
So there you have it—there’s no need to fret over the holiday spread. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up diabetes-friendly alternatives to nearly every turkey day favorite, plus a few recipes from some of our favorite bloggers to make your meal planning easier. Trust us: The entire family will have no problem digging into these mouthwatering dishes.