Thanksgiving is a perfect time to spend time with family and friends. It can also be a time of great anxiety for people with diabetes and their families. Don't let questions on what to eat, how much to eat, and meal timing dampen your holiday. Plan in advance, so you can fully enjoy the day and keep your diabetes management on track.

Here are some tips to have a diabetic-friendly, safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday:

  • Think About the Timing of Your Meal. Plan in advance how you will handle making changes if your Thanksgiving dinner is at an "off" time to your regular meal schedule. If you take insulin or a pill that lowers blood glucose, you may need to have a snack at your regularly scheduled meal time to prevent a low blood glucose reaction. Check with your health care team if you have any questions.
  • Be Physically Active! The best way to compensate for eating a little more than usual is to be active. Start a new tradition that involves being physically active and away from the food. Ideas include taking a walk with the whole family or playing Frisbee, soccer, or touch football with your children, grandchildren, or the neighborhood kids.
  • Have Foods to Nibble On while Cooking - or Waiting. Choose a snack that won't sabotage blood glucose levels before you sit down to eat. Try setting out a platter of raw or blanched veggies with your favorite low-calorie dip.
  • Make Selective Food Choices. Don't feel obligated to sample everything on the table. Whether it is the mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie that you enjoy the most, select your favorites and pass on the rest. For example, if stuffing is your favorite, pass on rolls. Choose either sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes.
  • Eat Smaller Portions. Because high carbohydrate foods are plentiful at most Thanksgiving tables, watch your portion sizes. If you can't decide on one or two carbohydrate containing favorites to eat, have very small portions or "samples" of several dishes. Overall, try to keep your total carbohydrate intake like your everyday meals.
Meal Preparation Tips

  • Turkey is a great addition to your diet because it's low in fat and high in protein, and a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins.
  • Buy and Freeze Your Turkey. A frozen turkey can be bought months in advance and stored in the freezer section of the refrigerator. Allow about 24 hours of defrost time for every 5 pounds of turkey. A 20-pound turkey will take 4-5 days to thaw! Never thaw turkey at room temperature.
  • Stuffing. Stuff your turkey just before you place the bird in the oven. Allow ½ to ¾ cup stuffing per pound of turkey, and do not over-stuff. The stuffing must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees to be safe.
  • Roasting. Use a shallow pan to roast your turkey to perfection. Insert a meat thermometer into the inner thigh of the bird and roast it in a pre-heated oven set at 325 degrees. Your turkey is cooked when the thermometer in the inner thigh reads 180 degrees, and the juices run clear. Be sure the thermometer is not touching any bones.