Holiday Dishes for Diabetics

For many people Thanksgiving is a holiday surrounded by food and family. It is a time for festive dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams, and pumpkin pie–dishes that can be high in both carbohydrates and saturated fat. It can be difficult to find a healthy balance in our eating during this season, particularly for diabetics. So how do we have a tasty, festive meal that provides healthy fats and helps avoid huge spikes in blood sugars? If you’re diabetic, particularly type 2 diabetic, do you have to avoid the carbohydrate-rich foods altogether?

The answer to that question is definitely not. Carbohydrates are a very important component of healthy eating, particularly for diabetics. But it’s important to focus on the more healthy, complex carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables–carbohydrates that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. And it’s important to remember to spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the whole day, rather than consuming a large amount of carbohydrates in one sitting. Similarly, by making a few changes like reducing the butter and cream in recipes or using more healthy fats like olive or canola oil, we can really cut down on our saturated fat intake, which will help prevent conditions like heart disease.
Here are a few tips for enjoying a healthy, diabetic-friendly Thanksgiving feast:
  • Try to stick to around 3-4 carbohydrate servings/choices per meal (carbohydrate choices would including things like stuffing, rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, starchy vegetables like corn and peas, gravies and pies)
  • If you know you want to enjoy the mashed potatoes and yams, you could serve a non-starchy vegetable like greens, broccoli or spinach to cut down on the carbohydrates.
  • Go easy on the gravy–remember most gravies are thickened with flour or cornstarch.
  • Make your stuffing using whole wheat bread to add some fiber, which can help slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream.
  • Have the pumpkin pie a few hours after the actual meal, to help spread out the carbohydrate load.
I recently came across a few articles that discussed holiday recipes that were fit for diabetics. This article (click the link) provides several fun holiday dishes as well as the diabetic-friendly cookbooks in which they are found.
This article (click the link) is from Diabetes Forecast, which is the magazine for the American Diabetes Association. I like the recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple and Spices (click the link) which the article provides, because it uses pineapple to sweeten instead of the less healthy brown sugar and marshmallows that are more commonly used. Another great idea was making mashed potatoes with olive oil and some of the cooking liquid rather than the traditional butter and cream. This helps to cut down on the saturated fat. I also really like the recipe for the Sage Stuffing (click the link), which uses whole wheat bread and healthy fats.
Certainly each diabetic’s blood sugars are affected differently by various foods. So what works for one may not work for another. But by following the general principles of healthy eating and watching portion sizes, we can all enjoy healthy holiday feasting.
I wish you all a fantastic and happy Thanksgiving!
Rachel Cope MPH, RC, CD