How to Cook for a Diabetic at Thanksgiving
An easy guide to help make your Thanksgiving every bit as tasty while also being diabetic-friendly.
For someone monitoring his or her blood sugar, indulging in a traditional Thanksgiving feast can be distressing. From the carb-laden appetizers to the sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind when low-sugar options are sparse. Though fear not, for we are here to provide you with an easy guide to help make your Thanksgiving every bit as tasty while also being diabetic-friendly. After all, everyone should be able to enjoy the holiday with as little stress as possible.
Diabetic-Friendly Thanksgiving Appetizers
A diabetic should be snacking on a little something every few hours to keep blood sugar levels in check. It would not be wise to attempt to fast the whole day leading up to the big meal. This could result in your blood sugar dropping too low and leave you feeling lethargic and dizzy. Instead, aim to incorporate snacks with protein, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats every few hours.
- Easy munchies: Raw vegetables with hummus, protein-packed cheese board, roasted nuts, shrimp cocktail
Our favorite low-sugar appetizer recipes:
- Gram’s Clam Dip
- Cauliflower “Caviar” with Frizzled Prosciutto
- Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball
- Caramelized Onion, Gruyere, and Bacon Spread
Diabetic-Friendly Thanksgiving Main Meals
Believe it or not, this is where things get easy. A ton of easy substitutions can make lightening the carbohydrate and sugar content of Thanksgiving staples a breeze. In fact, we’ll walk you through every inch of the traditional spread to make it fail-proof.
- The Bird: Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, which you want plenty of on this holiday. Consuming protein in combination with carbohydrates and sugar will help prevent spikes in blood sugar and keep you feeling satiated. We recommend keeping the seasoning simple and avoiding any maple or brown sugar glazes.
- Stuffing: A straightforward holiday stuffing calls for great bread; we recommend choosing a bakery loaf of whole-grain for nutty, toasty dimension and fiber. The fiber will help keep high blood sugars at bay despite the heavy carb load. For flavor, choose aromatics such as onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and herbs; skip the dried fruit.
Green Bean Casserole: Luckily, this side dish is typically low in sugar and one you want to include on your plate. For a heart-healthy dose of sugar-stabilizing fat, add a handful of chopped nuts on top. As a general rule of thumb, you should fill up half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and leave the remaining space to occupy protein and starch. In addition to green bean casserole, reach for a serving of roasted sheet pan vegetables, carrots, sautéed greens, or cauliflower.
- If you want to try something new, we highly recommend our Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans and Pearl Onions.
- Our Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes are quick and convenient, but still plenty dressy.
- Or instead of casserole, try our easy Sweet Potato Stacks with Sage Browned Butter. A dose of salty, nutty Parmesan balances the sweet flavor in these adorable, delicious stacks.
Cranberry Sauce: There's nothing that puts the finishing touch on a holiday spread quite like a vibrant dish of cranberry sauce. However, this is another Thanksgiving staple that tends to be overly sweetened to balance out the bitterness of the berries. To help level things out, we recommend adding black grapes to the cranberries to amp up the natural sweetness. You could also add fresh orange juice and a dash of pure maple syrup in place of granulated sugar.
Diabetic-Friendly Thanksgiving Desserts
We’ve made it through the main meal unscathed, so now it’s time for the grand finale. Instead of depriving yourself, try these lower-sugar dessert ideas that will satisfy your sweet cravings without spiking your blood sugar.
- Fruit dipped in almond butter and Greek yogurt: a hearty dose of protein and heart-healthy fats will keep blood sugars at bay.
- Spiralized apples with Greek yogurt: both festive and healthy, spiralized apples provide natural sweetness and visual allure.
- Almond Butter Chocolate Truffles: Made with almond butter, dark chocolate, and only 1 tbsp of honey, you can add any toppings you like such as coconut, chopped nuts, or cocoa powder for a low sugar treat that slays.
Chocolate Stout Brownies: The typical brownie has nearly 20 grams of sugar. Here, we dial the sugar down to only 8 grams for a richer, denser brownie that truly satisfies.
Whether it’s you or a loved one trying to navigate the diabetic highway on the biggest eating holiday of the year, by using these tips and recipes, you're sure to produce a spread the whole family will love. Don’t forget to incorporate some fun physical activity throughout the day, too. Go on a family walk or throw the Frisbee outside. Every little bit counts.