With Thanksgiving a few days away, families across the country are happily anticipating one of America’s greatest traditions.  After gathering around the table and giving thanks, the real work of the day begins. Millions will pile high dinner plates and eat their biggest meal of the year. 

From a wellness perspective, over-eating is the most obvious concern of holiday meals. However, guests with diabetes face additional risks to their health at Thanksgiving. The challenge of eating and staying well can be addressed with careful planning and making mindful choices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers ways diabetics can enjoy the holidays while keeping their blood sugar levels in check:

Plan Ahead: Before holiday gatherings, communicate with your host or family about your dietary needs and preferences. Plan your meals and snacks in advance to ensure they fit within your recommended carbohydrate and calorie limits.

Monitor Blood Sugar: Continue to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly, especially during the holiday season, to stay on top of any fluctuations.

Make Smart Carbohydrate Choices: Be mindful of portion sizes and choose complex carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index, like whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods and drinks.

Stay Active: Incorporate physical activity into your holiday routine. Go for a walk, play active games, or join a family activity to help manage your blood sugar levels.

Balance Your Plate: Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein and one-quarter with carbohydrates (preferably whole grains or starchy vegetables).

Choose Lean Proteins: Select lean sources of protein like turkey, skinless poultry, lean cuts of meat, fish, and plant-based protein options.

Watch Portions: Use smaller plates and utensils to help control portion sizes. Avoid going back for seconds and be mindful of portion control when serving yourself.

Limit Sugary Drinks: Be cautious of sugary beverages like soda, fruit juices, and cocktails. Opt for water, sparkling water, or unsweetened beverages instead.

Monitor Alcohol Intake: If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation and be aware of its impact on blood sugar levels. Avoid sugary cocktails and mixers.

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help control your appetite and stay hydrated.

Manage Stress: The holidays can be stressful. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Have a Support System: Share your diabetes management goals with friends and family, so they can provide support and understanding during holiday gatherings.

Don’t Skip Meals: Skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day. Stick to your regular meal schedule as much as possible.

Be Mindful: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly and savor each bite to avoid overeating.

Enjoy Desserts in Moderation: If you want to indulge in desserts, choose smaller portions and share with others. Consider sugar-free or reduced-sugar dessert options.

Speaking of desserts, if you are considering preparing and sharing a sugar-free or reduced sugar dessert, a gluten-free vegan chocolate cake recipe option is provided below. As prepared, following this recipe, it can also be enjoyed by guests with various food allergies. This recipe is free from common allergens like nuts, dairy, eggs and gluten.

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake


1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease an 8-inch round cake pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the water, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. You can make a simple dairy-free chocolate ganache by melting dairy-free chocolate chips with coconut cream or almond milk until smooth, then spread it over the cooled cake.

Jayne Hopson
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