Thanksgiving can be a stressful time when you have diabetes, as all around us people are stuffing themselves with stuffing and gorging on apple pie with ice cream, and you know you shouldn’t eat those things.
It’s especially difficult if you’ve only recently been diagnosed and you’re still a little confused about what you can eat. Should you avoid the fat? Or avoid the carbs? Or avoid the calories? Or avoid everything and slink away into your room and sulk?
I think we’d all agree that the last option isn’t optimal. And those of us who have had diabetes for years have learned how to cope with the Thanksgiving glut without feeling deprived.
If you’re cooking the meal yourself, or if a close friend or relative is cooking, you can cook some things you can eat or let the hosts know what you can eat so they’ll make sure there are plenty of side dishes that you can have. We can all eat turkey, thank goodness.
But if you’re planning to eat at the home of someone you don’t know very well, it can be more difficult.
One approach is “everything in moderation.” So OK, your blood glucose (BG) levels will be higher than they should be for a day, or you may have to take extra doses of insulin or other BG-reducing meds to bring them down. But as long as you don’t let tasting the “forbidden fruits” lead you into craving them for the rest of the month, you won’t do a lot of harm.
Another approach is to bring some dishes you can eat. Most people don’t mind a little extra food on Thanksgiving, although some can be insulted. If your friends/relatives are in the latter category, explain that your medical condition won’t let you eat all the goodies the host is providing. Most people feel better if you’re eating some kind of special food than if you’re sitting there not eating anything at all.
In fact, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. If someone offers me, say, sugary cranberry sauce and I say no thank you, I can tell they’re upset. If instead I take a teaspoonful, they seem happy. I can taste the teaspoonful or I can simply leave it on the plate. They don’t seem to notice.
I’ve already had my Thanksgiving dinner. A friend had bought a huge local turkey and had to go to her parents house on Thursday and so had some friends over to eat the turkey last Sunday. It was delicious.
I declined the stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy, but she’s very thoughtful and had made some cauliflower rice for me. I could eat the celery salad she made, and I tasted the cranberry relish. I brought a huge pot of brussels sprouts from my garden, garnished with butter, and I could eat those. For dessert we had a low-carb pumpkin mousse with low-carb whipped cream, from Fran McCullough’s Low Carb Cookbook. (You can get a used copy for a penny and you can probably find the recipe online, but I don’t like to cite online recipes that are copyrighted.)
I was perfectly happy with my meal, and of course the two large glasses of wine didn’t hurt. But the main thing about Thanksgiving dinner for me is the company, not the food, and the company was good.
If you’re cooking yourself, you could have cauliflower puree with gravy thickened with guar gum instead of flour. A good cranberry sauce is orange sugarfree gelatin with cranberries. Both easy and good.
If you love sweet potatoes made with tons of sugar, you could make sweet potatoes sweetened with fake sugar. There are stuffing recipes made with pork rinds instead of bread. If you want pie, make it with an almond flour crust.
For me, one of the nicest things about Thanksgiving with diabetes is that I don’t feel the need to eat second helpings of everything in sight, as I used to. I was perfectly sated with what I had, and I avoided that post-Thanksgiving torpor that requires a post-Thanksgiving nap. Robert Benchley described the feeling perfectly in the second paragraph of his “Christmas Afternoon.” OK. Wrong holiday. But a similar feeling.
So let’s all enjoy Thanksgiving in whatever way we can and focus on family and friends and the good foods we are able to eat. There’s more to life than soggy stuffing with lumpy gravy.