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4 Strategies to Tackle Thanksgiving When You Have Diabetes

Nov 26, 2019

By Shani Davis, PhD, ANP-BC, CDE

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends, but the role of food during the holiday fellowship can be stressful for persons living with and affected by diabetes. Typical holiday tables are adorned with endless varieties of potato dishes, crumb-topped vegetables, warm and cold pasta dishes, bread-based stuffing, dressings, breads, cakes, pies, sauces and jellies that are also carbohydrate laden. The delicacies are often homemade, so the estimated carb content of each helping is as unique as the dish from which it was scooped! Any other time of the year, we avoid many of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes or we know to consume them in limited portions. But on Thanksgiving, it’s often an “all rules out the window” mentality. For these reasons, contemplating strategies for blood sugar management during Thanksgiving can feel challenging and discouraging. 

To help you have a happy and manageable holiday, here are 4 “P” strategies that boost opportunities for successful blood sugar management during Thanksgiving. 

Plan

Meal planning is a way to approach the Thanksgiving table with purpose. Understandably, you can’t always plan for all the specific foods that will be offered, but the commitment to making personal efforts to limit big rises in blood sugar is what matters. A good plan might include starting your day with a healthy breakfast in an effort to minimize hunger cravings during the Thanksgiving meal and selecting mostly non starchy vegetables (green beans, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms, etc.) for side dishes. 

Protein

Because protein takes longer to digest, a high protein Thanksgiving meal can generate the feeling of fullness faster and lower cravings for carbohydrates. The choice to go high protein on Thanksgiving or to participate in a high protein diet plan should be discussed with your health care provider to ensure safety especially when there are questions about kidney health. 

Post Meal Monitoring

Knowledge is power and homemade Thanksgiving dishes are mysteries! Checking your blood sugar after eating can help determine if your medications and activity are working to prevent blood sugar from going too high. This is particularly the case when you take rapid acting insulin prior to eating. These readings should be taken 1 or 2 hours after the start of the meal. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) makes this task easy. This valuable information can be used to modify meal choices and insulin doses.

Portion Management

The amount of food you eat and blood sugar elevations are directly related. Therefore, managing your portion size is one of the simplest ways to manage your blood sugar. Limiting how much you eat can be done by reducing how much of each food you put on your plate, reducing the size of your plate, avoiding second servings or limiting carbohydrates. It’s important to also allow the body’s “I’m full” signals to kick in by slowing how quickly you eat or drinking water before and/or during the meal. 

Remembering these 4 “P’s” can help you focus more on friends, family and the fellowship experience this Thanksgiving holiday. For more on the holidays and diabetes, check out AADE’s holiday season eating tips (also available in Spanish) at DiabetesEducator.org/LivingWithDiabetes under “Tip Sheets and Handouts.” 
 


AADE Perspectives on Diabetes Care

The American Association of Diabetes Educators Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Association of Diabetes Educators and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered, and proper attribution is made to the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

HEALTHCARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit DiabetesEducator.org/Find.

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