As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it is important to remember that we are still experiencing the pandemic. On top of that, it can be challenging for people with diabetes to manage glucose levels. Here are a few tips on how to both stay safe and enjoy the holiday and its many traditional Thanksgiving foods.
Joslin encourages everyone to celebrate safely and follow the CDC guidelines for Holiday Celebrations.

Healthier Ways to Enjoy Thanksgiving

  • Plan, plan, plan. This means reviewing the CDC guidelines for Holiday Celebrations and setting your holiday celebration up accordingly. People with diabetes, even those who are vaccinated, are more susceptible to having a bad bout with COVID if they contract it.
  • Plan, plan, plan. Plan for what you will prepare and eat for Thanksgiving to make it a healthy one.
  • Timing is everything, start the day off with a good breakfast so you won’t be vulnerable to overeating later in the day. Timing of meals and snacks is important particularly if you take insulin or a pill that lowers your glucose.
  • Choose wisely and be selective to prioritize foods that are traditional holiday favorites that are only specially prepared during this time of year.
  • Consider both the portion and number of foods that contain carbs on your plate, and based on your experience, respect your body with food choices and medication that allows your body to manage glucose during Thanksgiving to help keep you safe.
  • Nibble on raw vegetables with low-fat dips before your thanksgiving meal rather than salted nuts or cheese and crackers.
  • Choose white meat over dark turkey meat, without the skin.
  • Prepare mashed potatoes with low-fat milk and tub margarine instead of butter.
  • Skim the fat off the top of the gravy before serving.
  • Season steamed or roasted vegetables with herbs or lemon juice in place of sauces.
  • Bake stuffing in a casserole dish rather than inside a turkey to limit the fat and promote food safety. 
  • Make a cranberry relish with fresh cranberries. Canned cranberry sauce is higher in sugar.
  • If you’re going to drink a glass or two of wine, do it with dinner, rather than starting earlier. Consider a white wine spritzer by mixing seltzer with your favorite white wine.
  • Enjoy dessert, but check in with young hunger, and if you are feeling full, consider a smaller portion of your favorite pie or dessert, or enjoy it as leftovers the next day. Pumpkin pie has fewer carbs than pecan pie. Bring your favorite dessert to the family gathering if you feel inspired. 
  • Instead of a nap after you eat, and try a gentle stroll around the block or in hallways in your building.


Family Support

It can be a challenge to care for diabetes on Thanksgiving when you see so much delicious food and everyone overindulging. It's also difficult if you have “food police” in your family who try to tell you what you can or can’t eat. Another challenge is if you  have someone who wants to load more food on your plate, saying “it’s only once a year.”  If you are feeling full or want to set limits, you have a right to, both out of respect for your body and care for your diabetes. Aligning with your body and setting firm boundaries will benefit you and your loved ones. Consider bringing in humor, offering the other person permission to eat more, asking for a recipe instead of a second portion, or a firm “no thank you” are ways to set limits with a food pusher.


Make your day about togetherness and family fun and not just about the food. 


Although this content is reviewed by Joslin Diabetes Center healthcare professionals, it is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.