5 Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner for Diabetics

Health & Safety Tips

Nov 9, 2021


Planning for Thanksgiving dinner for diabetics can be a stressful time. Not only do you have to be mindful of your blood glucose level, but you’re often surrounded by a lot of tempting food you know doesn’t work well with your body. Leaving you to question, what can diabetics eat at Thanksgiving? Can diabetics enjoy Thanksgiving? 

YES! With a few tweaks to the menu and some awareness of eating habits, diabetics can absolutely enjoy Thanksgiving. Here are five tips to make Thanksgiving healthy (and enjoyable) if you’re a diabetic.

How to make Thanksgiving dinner healthy for diabetic

Before we talk about Thanksgiving tips, let’s talk about how much sugar you should have a day. The recommended amount of sugar a day is about 12 teaspoons, this is about 50g of sugar or the amount of sugar that’s in one 12oz Coca Cola. If you’re diabetic, paying attention to the amount of sugar you take in a day is most likely a part of your everyday life. But it can be hard to stick to your good habits when the holiday’s come around.

Here are five tips for making a low-glycemic index Thanksgiving enjoyable:

1. Bring a dish (or two!)

It’s hard to stick to your plan when you’re tempted by food you should be limiting for your health. Especially, if you’re not the one creating the menu. To avoid temptation and prevent a diabetic emergency, offer to bring one or more of your favorite dishes in a way that’s more friendly to your dietary needs. Even if you know there will be duplicates, the goal here is to set yourself up for success. Who knows, you may even be helping a friend or family member out too. Some simple ideas are fresh green beans cooked in avocado oil, roasted root vegetables like carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes, or low-sugar desserts.

If you aren’t sure what to make, you can look up recipes online that are Paleo or Whole30. You don’t need to follow these diets to be in good health, but you can usually feel confident about the quality of ingredients in these recipes as they focus on using real, wholesome ingredients.

2. Eat your protein and veggies first

Filing your belly up with protein (like turkey) and veggies first can help manage your blood sugar in multiple ways. Not only does it help you feel more full before you get to the sugary, carb-heavy foods (like potatoes, bread, and pumpkin pie), it also affects how high your blood sugar spikes after the meal. When you eat your protein and veggies first, both your blood glucose and your insulin levels will be lower than if you started the meal with carbs and ended with protein and veggies. 

3. Enjoy your favorite foods in limitation

The key to enjoying your favorite dishes is to consider portion control on Thanksgiving. Portion control means serving yourself a smaller portion of food to avoid overeating. For instance, putting about a palm-sized amount of turkey on your plate or eating one smaller scoopful of your favorite sugar-filled side but limiting yourself at that.

4. Replace the foods you should limit with ones you can enjoy

Traditional Thanksgiving food isn’t necessarily diabetes-friendly… canned cranberry sauce, we’re looking at you. It’s often filled with processed ingredients and refined sugar that can cause a diabetic’s blood sugar to spike. Do your best to limit white bread, creamy mashed potatoes, pies or other desserts, and store-bought stuffing. Instead, try to enjoy or bring whole-grain bread, veggie-filled sides, or mashed sweet potatoes without marshmallows. If you aren’t sure what’s “safe” to eat, you can reference the glycemic index. The goal is to choose foods that make for a low-glycemic index Thanksgiving. 

5. Drink lots of water

Drinking water can dilute your blood, therefore reducing the amount of blood sugar circulating in your bloodstream. Keep in mind though, that drinking water in no way supplements a diet high in sugar, but it can help manage the sugar in the food that we are eating on Thanksgiving. So, long as it is within healthy proportions.

Another perk to drinking water is that aside from hyper- or hypoglycemia, one of the biggest concerns with diabetic emergencies is dehydration. The best way to prevent dehydration? Drinking water.

When to go to the ER for a diabetic emergency

Large meals, like those that are often consumed on Thanksgiving, can cause a diabetic’s blood sugar to spike or dip severely, leading to a diabetic emergency or diabetic ketoacidosis. Some types of diabetic emergencies can be treated at home, but when you notice your blood glucose levels aren’t lowering with treatment, we always recommend heading into an urgent care facility so that you can get the treatment you need.

What are the warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis? Here are several symptoms to keep an eye out for:

  • Fruity-scented breath
  • Dry skin and mouth
  • Fatigue and fainting
  • Muscle stiffness 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach and/or abdominal pain

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, and are unable to get your ketone levels to lower, head to an ER near you as soon as possible.

Need urgent treatment for diabetic-related issues? Come to Complete Care.

So, how do you treat a diabetic emergency? Get with your doctor to create an action plan for blood sugar emergencies. If you start noticing symptoms of hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, or diabetic ketoacidosis, you can use an at-home testing kit to measure your levels and treat as decided by your doctor.

If typical treatment isn’t affecting your blood glucose or insulin levels, do not wait to head into Complete Care urgent care. We offer 24/7 walk-in facilities complete with state-of-the-art medical equipment and care teams. So, head directly into one of our ER locations in Texas or Colorado offices or give us a call today. We will take complete care of you.

More Helpful Articles by Complete Care: