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8 Ways to Host a Diabetic-Friendly Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving table may be full of harvest goodies, but it’s also a bounty of carbohydrates. For diabetes sufferers, those foods can lead to dangerously high blood sugar. Here’s how to make sure your Thanksgiving dinner satisfies both their palates and their health needs.

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Thanksgiving dinnerPhoto: Shutterstock

Give your guest space

“When someone is living with a chronic health condition, they can get self-conscious about how people perceive their self-management,” says Sally Ho, a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian at Motivate Nutrition in Edmonton. While some people feel comfortable testing their blood sugar in a group or giving themselves insulin at the table, others don’t. Direct them to a private space where they can take care of those needs.

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Veggies and three different dipsPhoto: Shutterstock

Start fresh


When it comes to appetizers, it might be time to give your beloved pumpernickel bread and spinach dip a rest. Since the main course at Thanksgiving tends to be carb-heavy, veggies and dip, reduced-sodium pickles and cheese are more balanced pre-dinner alternatives.

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Roasted carrotsPhoto: Shutterstock

Offer variety

People with diabetes don’t need to cut out carbs entirely. Rather, they should enjoy them in moderate amounts, says Andrea Toogood, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Essence Nutrition and Wellness Coaching in Regina. Providing a selection of alternative choices, such as steamed green beans, roasted carrots or a green salad, can help lighten the load.

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Pureed cauliflower with garlicPhoto: Shutterstock

Play with the classics

Toogood says puréed cauliflower is a great alternative to mashed potatoes. While raw potatoes pack 17 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams, raw cauliflower comes in at just three grams—and two grams of that is fibre, which the body doesn’t break down and convert into glucose. Remember to let everyone know the main ingredients in each dish so those who have various dietary restrictions can enjoy accordingly.

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Sparkling water with lime slicesPhoto: Shutterstock

Stock the bar

Remember to keep a variety of low-sugar beverages on hand, including water, sparkling water and diet pop, says Ho. “People who have diabetes know they should be mindful of alcoholic drinks,” she says, explaining that beer, wine and liquor can both raise and lower blood sugar depending on how it is consumed and when. It’s a good idea to have a bar set up where guests can mix their own drinks, giving them control over ratios.

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Pumpkin pie with whipped creamPhoto: Shutterstock

Make something sweet

If your guest likes dessert, it’s a nice gesture to tailor a sweet dish to their needs. While Ho says regular desserts are fine in small portions, you can also try baking with sucralose (commonly known as Splenda), which is heat stable and doesn’t raise blood sugar. Another option: fresh fruit.

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Autumn forestPhoto: Shutterstock

Walk it off

Thanksgiving isn’t just about food; it’s about enjoying time together, says Toogood. One of the best ways to do that might be to plan a post-dinner activity, such as a stroll to enjoy the autumn colours and fresh air. “It helps the person burn the carbohydrates or sugars they’ve eaten,” she explains.

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Autumn table settings with pumpkinsPhoto: Shutterstock

Show respect

Both Toogood and Ho stress that your diabetic guest knows what’s best for them. Don’t pressure them into having seconds or trying dessert, or pass judgment if they choose to eat a lot of sweets. “That’s not helpful,” says Ho. “Guests are responsible for their own health.”

Next, find out how to host a Michelin Star-worthy dinner party.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada