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Stay Healthy Through the Holidays - Part One (Thanksgiving)

Many of us with diabetes and other blood sugar issues are nervous about getting through the Holiday season. The first hurdle is Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful time with friends and family, but also a time when food abounds at the holiday table.

The trick is to plan ahead for events and be very aware of what you are eating. Also, it is important not to let yourself get too Hungry, Anxious, Lonely or Tired so that when faced with sweets, cookies and other foods you will be able to make smart choices rather than eat mindlessly.

Here are some suggestions that will help you not only get through Thanksgiving, but to enjoy the day to the fullest.

Include fiber rich foods in your Thanksgiving meal: With a few small changes, you can make a Thanksgiving meal that your family will love. For your stuffing, choose high fiber whole grain bread and add vegetables such as onions, celery and mushrooms for even more nutrition. I like to make my stuffing with Sprouted Grain bread. (Food for Life's Ezekial brand is available in most grocery stores, usually in the freezer section). Here is an easy way to make your own bread crumbs:

• Preheat oven to 400˚F. Position 2 racks in the middle of the oven.

• Cut bread into 1 inch cubes with a serrated knife.

• Lay bread in a single layer on a sheet pan.

• Spray bread cubes with some olive oil cooking spray.

• Toast bread for about 8-10 minutes until lightly browned, tossing once to evenly cook.

• Set aside to cool. Use in your favorite stuffing recipe.

Avoid added sugar in recipes: If you are going to make mashed sweet potatoes, avoid adding sugar and instead flavor them with cinnamon and vanilla. If you want a hint of sweetness, use a small amount of plain Stevia, Truvia or other sugar substitute of choice [See recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes in the Recipes section of our Blog]

Include lots of vegetables in your holiday meal. At my house, I balance the starchy dishes like mashed potatoes with an array of vegetables, including Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and caramelized onions, string beans with roasted garlic, and rainbow coleslaw. Take some time now to plan your menu so that it includes a rainbow of colors and healthy choices.

Savor the Thanksgiving meal and stop eating when you feel satisfied: The 90% rule comes in handy here. Fill your plate with protein and vegetables, but it is not necessary to feel deprived, if you want to taste some of the stuffing or mashed potatoes. Just remember to eat mindfully, and truly enjoy whatever you put on your plate. Eat slowly, and when you are full, stop. I usually prepare either a salad or soup to eat before the main meal, which helps when it comes to portion control and feeling satisfied.

Plan ahead for Dessert: Over the years, I have found that once I get started with sweets it is hard to stop. My strategy is to prepare a sugar-free dessert just for me, that I can enjoy fully without worrying about my blood sugars. For me that is a creamy “pudding” made with low-fat Ricotta and vanilla whey powder that is flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and Truvia. I enjoy my special treat with tea or coffee along with a very small slice of the traditional pumpkin pie.

You can always make a Sweet Potato or Pumpkin pie using a sugar alternative of your choice. Preparing a delicious fruit compote with whipped cream is another option that everyone will like. Or put out a beautiful cheese, nut, and fruit platter along with the traditional pies. For a bit of sweetness, you can put some Fig Jam and some high quality dark chocolate on the side. Very European! There are actually lots of options for including dessert without including ingredients that will cause your blood sugars to soar.

Be creative and remember to go easy on yourself and stay in the moment. Thanksgiving is a time of bounty, not just of food, but family, friends and a time to be grateful for all the choices we have. So the best advice I can give you is to take time to make good choices for yourself enjoy your holiday, and stay tuned for Part 2, where I will give you more tips for staying energized, not just for the holidays, but all winter long.


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