Turkey. Cranberry sauce. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes. Green beans. Corn. Carrots. Biscuits. Pumpkin Pie. Pecan Pie. Apple Pie.
There are a thousand ways to prepare these basic components of the holiday feast. But it’s in the preparation, with the addition of fats and sugars, where the unhealthy calories intrude, and the invariable blood sugar spikes for diabetics.
For chefs, the key to keeping your weight and blood sugar under control at the holiday feast is to prepare these foods with a minimum of added fat and sugar (nix the deep fried turkey!). The American Diabetes Association recommends that you always roast a turkey, as it cooks in its own juices, which keeps the calories down. When you deep fry it, or glaze it, the calories shoot through the roof. Make the mashed potatoes with low-fat milk and olive oil instead of butter. Steam vegetables and serve with an olive oil and herb drizzle, instead of baking them in a casserole with creamy sauces. Bake the stuffing in a casserole instead of inside the turkey – this cuts way down on the fat. Serve fresh cranberries, one of the healthiest fruits on the planet – when sold as cranberry sauce, they become something else entirely.
If you’re a guest at the feast, choose wisely and eat modestly. At dinner time, take the skin off your turkey, and choose white meat instead of dark. The ADA says that “White turkey meat (without skin) is low in fat and high in protein. It is a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. It is also one of the only parts of the Thanksgiving meal with no carbohydrate.” Say “no” or “just a pinch” to butter and gravy, and take a big portion of fresh vegetables and a small portion of white potatoes. If you have a glass of wine, drink it with dinner, instead of before. Alcohol metabolizes much more slowly in the presence of food.
There’s really very little difference in sound diet advice for diabetics or non-diabetics. The modern American diet, the primary culprit in the diabetes epidemic, is so far off the rails, that it would do us all some good to reign it in a little this holiday. For anyone, a healthy diet is one with generous portions of fruits and vegetables, and is low in fat, sugar, and salt.
Start Thanksgiving and Christmas Day with a healthy breakfast: high fiber cereal, fresh fruit, whole wheat toast with olive oil, or a scrambled egg with smoked salmon on toast. Instead of snacking on cookies, keep a bag of baby carrots or your favorite vegetables handy and reach for those instead. High fiber foods give us a full feeling much faster than those that are low in fiber.
After the meal, go for a walk with family members – it’s a great way to catch up, enjoy some fresh air, and burn off calories and excess blood sugar at the same time. It will also keep you from falling into a turkey coma (which really isn’t from the turkey, it’s from the carbohydrates).
But whether you’re diabetic or not, we darn well know that we’ll probably eat if not too much, then more than we should. To deal with the extra calorie load, exercise more strenuously for a few days before the feast and for a few days after.
Ask your family members to support you and to help you celebrate another year of good health.