Thanksgiving Dinner: Ideas for Diabetics, Vegetarians and Everyone in Between

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The holidays symbolize a joyous time of family, friends and food. As a big proponent of a plant-based diet, this time of year has usually served as a conundrum for me. While my family is carving the turkey and noshing on honey-baked ham, I have always found myself turning to the carbohydrate-heavy side dishes. I have decided I am done torturing myself and have taken to the Internet and vegan/vegetarian cookbooks for help in planning a healthy, plant-based holiday. Rather than turkey, I indulge in acorn squash stuffed with spinach and a bit of Gorgonzola (or, for my vegan audience, try a quinoa mushroom pilaf stuffing instead). The traditional turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes is not necessary for a fulfilling holiday.  If you are curious about plant-based Thanksgiving dishes, I highly recommend sites such as The Post Punk Kitchen, Vegetarian Times or One Green Planet. For me, experimenting with new, healthier foods has been an exciting and challenging adventure.

Regardless of dietary status, it is important to recognize that the average person consumes anywhere between 5,000 to 6,000 calories throughout Thanksgiving Day. Such a deluge of food into the human body overworks our system. According to Joanna Gorman, a registered dietitian quoted in the Las Vegas Review Journal, insulin and the breakdown of fat kick into high gear and cause unnecessary strain and stress. For those among us who must monitor their insulin, there are a number of substitutions one can make on Thanksgiving, such as switching out potatoes for mashed rutabagas, parsnips or cauliflower for more fiber and lower carbs. Try sautéed green beans with garlic instead of casserole, which can be heavy with cheese and cream. Use whole-grain bread crumbs (or even brown rice) and double the veggies for your stuffing. The Mayo Clinic and dLife (a Diabetes resource site) both share a number of recipes and ideas for a healthful holiday.

The best way to avoid overeating for one big meal is to partake in smaller meals throughout the day. Portion control and light exercise is key; rather than sitting on the couch all day, maybe take a little walk around the block with a loved one instead. Listen to your body and don’t keep allowing yourself to eat out of boredom or based on the deliciousness of a particular dish. Not only should we keep ourselves from overeating, we shouldn’t push our loved ones to eat more when they are already sated either.

It is important to enter the holiday season armed with knowledge on how we can better care for each other and ourselves. Many choices we make during this time of year, such as overindulging in sweets or tripling our calorie count can be harmful to our bodies. I know I have made these mistakes many times and felt remorse and physical pain as a result of my overeating. I truly hope these resources will allow my readers to seek out new and interesting recipes and partake in a healthy and happy holiday season.

Lauren is a medical research assistant currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland as well as Bachelors’ degrees in Anthropology and Psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her interests are expansive and include diabetes research, hormones and diet, traditional and alternative medicine, dietary transitions and the effects of globalization on health and diet.

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