Your Balanced Thanksgiving Plate
What are you grateful for this year? The Thanksgiving season is a time to reflect on all the joys we have, the people we love, and to share those grateful feelings with others. It can also be a time of added stress, especially for those who have dysregulated blood sugar and Type 2 Diabetes. With so much focus on food and eating, it can be hard to navigate this season in a healthy way. Read on for some tips for making your day healthy while still allowing a little indulgence.
Start Your Day Right
I’ve heard from SO many people over the years that they skip breakfast, or really any food at all, until the big dinner so they can fit in as much food as possible. This is not a great idea for anyone, especially those with Type 2 Diabetes. Fasting all day long then over-eating at dinner is a sure way to throw your blood sugar out of wack. Instead, begin your day with a meal that is balanced with protein, healthy fat and fiber. A great idea is 1-2 eggs, ½ an avocado and 1 cup of berries. This will keep you satisfied without making you feel full. Another option is a smoothie, which is a great way to pack in the veggies. Opt for your favorite protein powder, no more than 1 cup of fruit, and 1-2 cups of sliced zucchini, cucumbers, pureed pumpkin, and/or 2 large handfuls of greens.
You can enjoy appetizers at your Thanksgiving gathering, and again we want to use the principles of protein, fat, and fiber. First, chose a small appetizer plate to pile your goodies on and then stick to that serving to avoid overeating. If there are any vegetables around grab some of those first – maybe some celery with a soft cheese, gherkin pickles, or veggie slices with hummus. Then opt for about 3 pieces of cured meat and 3 pieces of cheese. I love to pair my cheese with apple slices instead of crackers to save on my intake of processed foods. If your appetizer set up in less charcuterie board and more creamy dips, take about 2 tablespoons of the dip and place onto your plate, then use the healthiest dipper you can find – again sliced vegetables would be great here.
Get a Little Help
Now that we are getting onto the big meal, taking a digestive enzyme and/or some bitters will help your body break down the (probably) heavier food you are about to eat. These supplements can help reduce the stress on your body and in turn the negative effects on blood sugar, your microbiome, and cortisol.
Another way to ensure your food is properly digested is eating slowly and really chewing each bite. Choose the slowest eater at the table and match your pace with them. If it is already you, then great! Now, focus on chewing each bite 20 times. Research shows the simple act of chewing each bite more can help prevent insulin and blood sugar spikes.
You also want to avoid drinking water WITH your meal. Water will dilute your stomach acid and decrease your ability to digest food. It is best to drink water consistently throughout the day to stay hydrated.
This is the place where a little reframing may be in order. The goal of Thanksgiving is NOT to stuff yourself. It is to enjoy time with family and friends. Keeping that in mind, here is a diagram of what your plate could look like. Of course we all have different foods, and I chose to illustrate the most common Thanksgiving dishes. The basic principle is half of your plate should be vegetables, one quarter of it should be protein, and the last quarter is the carbohydrate/starchy foods. If you are having alcohol, be sure you have just 1-2 glasses with dinner. At this point you really shouldn’t be going back for seconds. If you somehow find you’re hungry later in the day then go back and make another plate, but for now hold off and let your body digest what you just put in. Tap into gratitude for your full belly and the delicious food, rather than feeling lack from not going back for more.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions growing up was a family walk after dinner. My grandparents lived on the Wye River and we would always go for about a 1/4 mile to a 1/2 mile walk as the sun was setting over the golden leaves and glassy water. Taking a walk after a big meal certainly feels better than continuing to sit around! It also helps your body digest and can lower your blood sugar post meal. Maybe your family is more the friendly football game type, but whatever it is, encourage everyone to get up and moving.
Whatever food choice you make, enjoy it! Again, this is a time of feeling gratitude and love, and spending quality time with friends and family. There is no reason to feel guilty about anything. Know that lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight, and the change is also not linear. We all go through good periods and not so good periods. Hopefully this blog has given you some good ideas on how to enjoy your holiday a little more mindfully so that you can feel your best. Because that is the ultimate goal, is it not?
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