Don’t let your blood sugars run away this Thanksgiving!

November 12, 2012By 1 Comment

Every year, around this time, the average person without diabetes either gives into the fact that the holidays are coming, and with it, some unwanted weight gain or they do their best to try to not over-do it.  For those of us with diabetes, we need to be concerned about unwanted high blood sugars…and weight gain.  For me, being pregnant, I now have all three things to think about!  Geez!  How to indulge in the best food of the year, without gaining too much weight, without letting my blood sugars get out of control, and protecting my growing baby.

Let’s take a look at the average Thanksgiving meal, and think about some changes we can make or things to remember when keeping our blood sugars in tip-top shape to enjoy the holdays…without depriving yourself!  Scroll down to the bottom to see the carb content of the average serving of some popular Thanksgiving meal options.

Things to Skip: Okay, let’s start with the bad news first. On Thanksgiving Day, if you skip the following things, you can take advantage of much more satisfying things…like dessert!

– Breaded or carb-rich appetizers!  Stay away from anything with fillo dough/puff pastry, potato chips etc.  By skipping these carb-rich appies, you’ll give your blood sugar a running head start at being in normal range before you sit down for the main meal.  So, instead, munch on the higher protein snacks like pistachios or other nuts, cheese and turkey pepperoni (skip the cracker), shrimp cocktail or veggies and dip.

-Skip the BREAD or cornbread!  Why go and ruin a perfectly sized heaping of steaming hot mashed potatoes that you could be enjoying by stuffing a roll in your mouth first?  No need for it!  You can eat fresh bread any old day of the year… save your carbs for the main course!

-Sugary drinks!  Eggnog? Sparkling apple cider?  Baily’s irish cream?  These thick and sweet drinks are just empty calories!  Stick with a glass of wine or a beverage with club soda or sugar-free tonic.

Things to have smaller portions of: Okay…it’s getting better…

– Mashed potatoes, squash, turnip, sweet potatoes… are they all vegetables?  Sure are.  Are they all high-carb vegetables?  SURE ARE!  Please, help yourself to all three, but in moderation… split your portions among all three if you choose to try each one, or just pick one of the options and have a nice portion of that.  The same goes for stuffing…while not a vegetable, still high in carbs… ask your host how they make their stuffing to get a better idea of how much bread (or often apples/raisins) are in it.

-Green beans and carrots may look deceiving… make sure to ask your host if they have made them with any sugar/molasses so that you can make sure you bolus for them!

-Cranberry sauce… take a look at the can before the host throws it out to see the carb content

– Dessert:  Oh boy, le’s see… you’ve got apple pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie and 10 other pie’s… the options are endless!  And of course then there is the scoop of ice cream that is often served.  alongside.  Don’t be a dessert hoarder.  Dessert is one of those things that will always taste just as good the day after, or many days after the holiday.  Pick one piece of pie, enjoy, and save the others for the low blood sugar you will have at 2am after over-bolusing for this giant feast.

Okay, the good stuff…. The one thing to indulge in:  (keep in mind, these feast items are higher in fat, but if your going to go gung-ho for a holiday, I’d rather you do it with these things rather than the high-carb meal items).

– TURKEY!  While an over-abundance of turkey might make you sleepy, it won’t immediately affect your blood sugar, so eat up!  And go ahead and pile on the gravy.

-Other meat: Not every family does Thanksgiving the traditional old way… so these rules apply if you are also eating a baked ham or roast…

KEEP IN MIND:  High protein and high fat… equals HIGH BLOOD SUGAR hours later.  While it doesn’t have the same immediate effect of high carbs, when you consume large amounts of protein (one serving of protein equals 7 grams, which is only an average slice of turkey) it can pile up in your body and lead to high blood sugars hours later.

TEMP BASAL…if you can:  The beauty of having an insulin pump is truly center stage during the holidays or special events.  Being able to up your temp basal to 110 or even 150% will help to curb those spikes from the all-day munch-fest. *Check with your Endo or CDE first if you’ve never used this feature.

CHECK YOUR BLOOD SUGAR OFTEN:  Keep an eye on your blood sugars and make frequent corrections as needed.

SAVE THE BEST FOR THE REST:  The best part about Thanksgiving is the leftovers… don’t try to be a hero and match your football playing cousin to a gorge fest, keep everything in moderation and enjoy more of it for lunch on the days to follow.

Carbohydrate content and calories of common Thanksgiving meal items: *Adapted from (keep in mind that these are estimated and that your homemade recipe may vary in nutritional content).

Stuffing Mix – Homestyle Herb   (Stove Top)

Serving   Size: 1 oz (28g), Calories: 110, Fat: 2.5g, Carbs: 19g, Protein: 3g


Crescent Butter Flake Dinner   Rolls (Pillsbury)

Serving   Size: 1 roll (28 grams), Calories: 110, Fat: 6g, Carbs: 11g, Protein: 1g


Sweet Potato Pie (Homemade)

Serving   Size: 1/6 pie, Calories: 250, Fat: 9g, Carbs: 38g, Protein: 3g


Potatoes – Mashed,   home-prepared, whole milk and butter added (Generic)

Serving   Size: 1 cup, Calories: 237.3, Fat: 8.9g, Carbs: 35.2g, Protein: 3.9g


Green Bean Casserole (From   French’s Onion Label) (Bill’s French’s)

Serving   Size: 1 c, Calories: 142, Fat: 9g, Carbs: 15g, Protein: 15g


Jellied Cranberry Sauce 14oz Can   (Ocean Spray)

Serving   Size: 1/4 Cup (70g), Calories: 110, Fat: 0g, Carbs: 25g, Protein: 0g


Turnip Mash (Sodexo Workplace)

Serving   Size: 5 oz, Calories: 160, Fat: 8g, Carbs: 20g, Protein: 2g


Corn – Sweet, yellow, canned,   cream style, regular pack (Generic)

Serving   Size: 1 cup, Calories: 184.3, Fat: 1.1g, Carbs: 46.4g, Protein: 4.5g


Turkey breast meat (Generic)

Serving   Size: 1 serving, Calories: 34.3, Fat: 0.5g, Carbs: 1.4g, Protein: 5.6g



Old Fashioned Apple Pie   (Hls Apple Pie)

Serving   Size: 1 Slice (1/8 pie), Calories: 367, Fat: 15g, Carbs: 67g, Protein: 0.5g


Pecan Pie (Homemade)

Serving   Size: 1 slice, Calories: 530, Fat: 29g, Carbs: 63g, Protein: 5g



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  1. Beth Shapiro says:

    Too bad the nuts served at the end of the meal (a la pecan pie) don’t meaure up to the nutritional value of the nuts served at the BEGINNING of the meal! I WAS looking forward to that piece of pecan pie…ouch! Guess I’ll just have to actually exercise some control at Thanksgiving!

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