Healthy Thanksgiving Foods to Combat Diabetes



November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the disease and encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes. We also celebrate another much-loved holiday in November, Thanksgiving. For many people, Thanksgiving is a time for family and feasting, but for those with diabetes, trying to maintain blood sugar can be tricky. Sugary delights like cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie are traditional favorites, but diabetics must also watch carbohydrate and fat intake.

This year, in keeping with Diabetes Awareness Month, let’s make healthier substitutions for the processed sugar and simple carbs we usually consume at Thanksgiving. Here are some low to no-sugar options:

  1. Cranberry Sauce: Canned cranberry sauce is simple and tasty, but it’s loaded with sugar (24 grams per 1/4 cup in Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce) (Calorie King). Instead, try this Sugarless Cranberry Sauce that uses fresh cranberries, natural sugars from pineapple and orange juices, unsweetened applesauce and honey. Alternatively, try this Low-Sugar Apple-Cranberry Sauce with chopped Gala apples, fresh cranberries and raw sugar. You won’t miss all the refined sugars.
  2. Sweet Potato Casserole: Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, so topping them with sugary marshmallows or loads of brown sugar is not necessary. Instead, substitute maple syrup or Stevia and add grated orange rind for extra flavor. This Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole is big on flavor and low on carbs and sugar.
  3. Pumpkin Pie: Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without this quintessential favorite. This Low-Fat Pumpkin Pie keeps calories and sugar low by using a reduced-fat graham cracker crumb crust, sugar-free pudding and fat-free cream cheese and whipped topping.
  4. Mashed Potatoes: While not sugary, potatoes are high in starch and when mashed with cream and butter, also high in fat. Instead, opt for these Rosemary Roasted Potatoes using fresh rosemary and heart-healthy olive oil. For added fiber, try these Simple Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

In addition to these healthy substitutions, here are some tips for making wise food choices this Thanksgiving:

  • Eat a high-fiber, protein-rich breakfast before the big meal so you won’t be tempted to over-eat.
  • Choose water instead of sugary colas or alcohol with your meal.
  • Choose steamed or roasted vegetables over casseroles loaded with cream sauces.
  • Choose white turkey meat over dark and no skin.
  • Fill your plate with salad or other vegetables.
  • Skip the high-carb dinner rolls and stuffing.
  • Take a walk after dinner.
  • Test your blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Diabetes is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects millions worldwide, including roughly 30 million in the U.S. (Diabetes). It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. The pancreas has a limited ability to produce the insulin necessary to regulate blood sugar properly. Without regulation, sugar remains in the blood stream, causing organ damage.

This November, in celebration of Diabetes Awareness Month and Thanksgiving, make healthy dietary choices by choosing low-sugar food options and taking proactive measures not to overindulge. Instead of focusing on food, be grateful for the time you get to spend with your loved ones.