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The diabetes dilemma

Is Thanksgiving off the table?

Article Author: Beth Stambaugh

Article Date:

yummy Thanksgiving food on a nicely decorated table

Navigating one of the most food-focused holidays of the year isn’t easy for anyone trying to maintain a healthy diet. For the 34 million Americans with diabetes, the feast can be especially tricky, but definitely not impossible.

“With some tweaking, people with diabetes can still enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal,” said Katherine Gilsenan, a wellness coach at the Baptist Center for Healthy Living - Nocatee. “It’s all about moderation and making smart choices.”

Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, which is needed to deliver blood sugar (glucose) to cells and used for energy. Because of this, glucose remains in the blood, which keeps blood sugar levels high.

“Controlling blood sugar is the key to managing diabetes,” said Gilsenan. When blood sugar levels spike, a person with diabetes can experience increased thirst, nausea, stomach pain and fatigue. Left untreated, diabetes can cause kidney damage, eye damage and an increased risk for heart disease or stroke.

A cornucopia of choices

So what are the best food selections for those living with diabetes?

“Keep foods high in protein and fiber at the top of the list,” Gilsenan recommended. “The best choices are turkey and veggies. Turkey is a great source of protein and vegetables are high in fiber, both of which help control blood sugar.”

At the bottom of the list: foods high in carbs such as cranberry sauce, stuffing, breads, pies and other desserts, sweetened beverages and alcohol. Sticking to water is a great way to eliminate the vast amount of sugar in many drinks.

Here are some other easy switches for a healthier holiday:

  • Whipped cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes
  • Roasted vegetables like Brussel sprouts instead of green bean casserole
  • Using cauliflower instead of breadcrumbs for stuffing
  • Removing the crust from pie or serving your dessert in a cup or mug to control serving size (see recipe below)

It's all about moderation when it comes to dessert. One of Gilsenan's favorite healthy dessert recommendations:

Pumpkin Pie in a Cup


  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 box (1 ounce) fat-free, sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
  • 3/4 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 tablespoons thawed low-fat frozen whipped topping


  1. Whisk together the milk and pudding mix in a medium bowl for 2 minutes, or until thickened. Whisk in the pumpkin and 1/2 teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice until blended. Pour into 4 pudding cups or glasses.
  2. Chill until ready to serve. Top each with 1 tablespoon of whipped topping over the pudding and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

Nutrition per serving: 92 calories, 5 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 1.5 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 1 g fat, 348 mg sodium

If you are concerned about your health and wellness, or specifically type 2 diabetes prevention, and you don’t currently have a primary care physician, visit Baptist Primary Care to find a doctor near you. For a free wellness coaching session, visit Baptist Y Healthy Living Centers.

Recipe from Prevention.com.

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