Nutrition & Diabetes

Thanksgiving and Diabetes

Posted on: November 16, 2010

This week’s question that I received from is: My husband was diagnosed with diabetes as few months ago and has been working hard to lose weight and control his blood sugar.  Each year we have a family gathering for thanksgiving that includes lots of food (large turkey dinner with all the trimmings and assorted pies & cakes for dessert).  What are your suggestions to ensure my husband doesn’t overeat but also does not feel deprived this thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving!  What a glorious time of the year!  Thanksgiving is easily one of my favorite holidays.  I get to spend time with friends and family, and I must mention the food!  I know it is very difficult to try to not overeat at Thanksgiving dinner with all the delicious foods around, but I think with a little planning your husband will be just fine. Here are some suggestions that might help your husband to not overeat and especially to not feel deprived at Thanksgiving while still controlling his weight and blood sugar.

Portion size and having a balanced Thanksgiving meal is the key, especially if your husband wants to sample a little bit of everything.  Your husband doesn’t have to deprive himself of any of the foods that you will be serving.  He will just have to make sure he isn’t eating too much food in one sitting in order to avoid overeating.  In addition, he has to make sure that the majority of his meal is not carbohydrate rich foods, but is a balance of carbohydrate, fat, and protein.  The carbohydrate control is especially important to ensure that his blood glucose levels stay normal.

An appropriate amount of turkey should be on his plate because turkey is an excellent source of protein and has zero grams of carbohydrates.  The carbohydrate rich foods like stuffing, breads, potatoes, yams, rice, pies, and cakes can be a difficult area to control.  I would just take a little sample of these types of food items and not overflow his plate with these carbohydrate rich foods.  Your husband can balance out his meal and avoid overeating by loading his plate up with nonstarchy vegetables and salad greens.  These foods can help him to not consume too many calorie rich foods and to help him avoid filling his plate up with mostly carbohydrate rich foods.  Non-starchy vegetables are very low in carbohydrates and some examples are carrots, spinach, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes.  Salad greens are considered free foods and some examples are romaine lettuce, arugula, and watercress.

As for pie and cake, yes your husband can have these foods, but again would have to limit the amount he consumes.  Some pies and cakes are full of sugar and can be high in carbohydrates depending on the serving size, therefore portion size again will be key with these food items.

Some other tips that might help your husband to not overeat is to make sure that he eats throughout the day before the big dinner or to have light healthy snacks available to ease any hunger while waiting for dinner.  Maybe a fruit tray with reduced fat cheeses or some vegetables with dip might be a nice snack.  Lastly, if you have leftovers, you can portion out the Thanksgivings food items to make another dinner for your husband for the next day.  This way he will have a brand new Thanksgiving dinner waiting for him in the refrigerator.

I hope this helps.  Below I have listed some food items that might be part of your Thanksgiving dinner in terms of what they cost in carbohydrate, meat, and fat exchanges.  These exchanges are found in the American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association’s Exchange Lists for Diabetes.

One serving of  a starchy food has 15 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange (serving)

One serving of fruit has 15 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange.

One serving of milk has 12 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange.

One serving of sweets has 15 grams of carbohydrates which equals one carbohydrate exchange.

Nonstarchy vegetables have 5 grams of carbohydrates and is equal to one vegetable choice, therefore 3 cups of raw or 1 1/2 cups of cooked nonstarchy vegetables would equal a carbohydrate exchange.

Plant-based proteins and alcohol vary in carbohydrates.


1 oz turkey = 1 lean meat exchange

1 slice (1 oz) bread or 1 oz small roll = 1 carbohydrate exchange

Biscuit, 2 1/2 inches across = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/3 cup rice, white or brown, cooked = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup of corn or peas or yam or sweet potato = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cob of a large corn on the cob = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/4 of a large 3 oz baked potato with skin = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup of boiled potato = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup mashed potato made with milk and fat = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1/2 cup beans or lentils or peas = 1 carbohydrate exchange

1 can (12 oz) regular soda = 2 1/2 carbohydrate exchanges

1/2 cup fruit juices = 1 carbohydrate exchange

12 fl oz of regular beer =  1 carbohydrate exchange

3 1/2 fl oz Wine, dessert (sherry) = 1 carbohydrate exchange

2 inch square of frosted cake = 2 carbohydrate exchanges and 1 fat exchange

2 chocolate chip cookies (2 1/2 inches across) = 1 carbohydrate exchange and 2 fats exchanges

1/2 cup of fruit cobbler = 3 carbohydrate exchanges and 1 fat exchange

1/8 of an 8-inch pumpkin or custard pie = 1  1/2 carbohydrate exchanges and 1 1/2 fat exchanges

1/6 of an 8-inch commercially prepared fruit pie with crust covering it = 3 carbohydrate exchanges and 2 fat exchanges

1/2 cup regular ice cream = 1 carbohydrate exchange and 2 fat exchanges

1/4 cup cranberry sauce, jellied = 1 1/2 carbohydrate exchanges

1/2 cup of gravy = 1/2 carbohydrate exchange  and 1/2 fat exchange


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November 2010
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About Me

Iris M. Pacheco, MS, RD, LD/N

This was a blog I wrote during 2010-2011 while I was a dietetics and nutrition student.

Through this blog I volunteered to answer questions from people with diabetes that were submitted to is a website that helps people with diabetes make better food choices. It holds of large databases of food items and gives recommendations on which foods to have "More Often," "In Moderation," or "Less Often."

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