You blinked, and it’s here: Thanksgiving, also known as 38 minutes of eating a meal that takes 36 hours to make and 8 hours to digest. When it comes to cooking, in a world of Turducken, nothing seems simple, anymore.
Is your turkey free range, organic and college educated? Will you brine, BBQ, bake or deep fry, bringing new meaning to a Thanksgiving family blow-out? Are you providing “tofurkey” (that’s a tofu turkey) for your vegan relatives, and avoiding gluten for your Celiac friends? What about the diabetics?
Ahh, what about the diabetics? If being a good host is on your to-do list, that’s a question worth asking. With 9.3% of Americans living with diabetes, about one in every ten of your potential party guests could be afflicted with the now-commonplace, and complicated, disease.
For many families, the number of diabetics at the dining table is much higher. It could be your sister, your uncle, your child or even you, but chances are, you’ll be cooking for someone with dietary restrictions when it comes to sugar.
Sure, our diabetic loved ones can “eat around” the table, meaning, they can have lean turkey sans skin and… that’s about it. Starchy, buttery potatoes, fatty gravy, cranberries that taste like candy, alcoholic beverages and pie after pie: these are not the foods of champions. It’s not just the diabetics, it’s all of us who need to eat consciously and alter age-old patterns that don’t serve us well when we’re serving dinner.
Despite their quirks, you know you love your family and you want them to live forever, right? So give everyone at your Thanksgiving table a lower-fat, lower-sugar feast their arteries will thank you for.
After perusing the annals of the American Diabetes Association’s recipes online, we’ve culled some of the best ways to make-over your holiday dishes and get you serving healthier versions of your must-have meals.
Making mashed potatoes is simple. The old way includes lots of milk and butter. Instead, simply substitute non-fat milk and Smart Balance margarine (or basically, anything but butter). Limit salt and add roasted, mashed garlic for extra flavor. Serve mints.
Since homemade Thanksgiving gravy starts with pan drippings from the turkey, go ahead and cook your turkey with olive oil instead of butter, and you’re off to a healthier start with gravy. Add lemon juice and vegetable or chicken broth to your pan drippings, along with herbs like rosemary and thyme.
If you’re partial to garlic, as everyone should be, add garlic and taste. Add more garlic and a little wine. Now have some wine. See how good that skinny gravy is?
If you’re one who serves canned, jellied cranberries with a fork and some pride, you can stop reading now, unless you want to completely reform your brazenly backward ways. No offense.
Instead of stand-alone, processed, sugar-laden cranberries of yore, go for more of a medley. Use cranberries with other tasty treats to make your own cranberry relish or salsa. Scoff at those who open cans.
Now it’s time to embrace a no-calorie sweetener, like Splenda, or the sugar substitute of your choice, because cranberries are so tart. Grab your bag of berries, cover with water, add sweetener, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and diced apples. Cook over low heat, with a dash of vinegar to round out the flavors, until the mixture boils and the cranberries pop. Cool and cover. Serve chilled or room temp.
We joked about having wine while cooking, and we all know that’s the chef’s prerogative to do so. Alcohol and diabetes, though, is no laughing matter. Start your guests off right with a festive beverage that’s non-alcoholic.
Our favorite is served in champagne glasses: sparkling lime water, a dash of cranberry juice, an orange slice and a single cranberry dropped into the glass for good luck. Kids love this one too, and since there’s no booze, you can even let the bigger little ones tend the “bar.”
It’s not your responsibility to hide all sugars and carbs from those who struggle with diabetes. You’re just the lucky person whose number came up to cook Thanksgiving dinner. You may not want to avoid pies and sweets altogether, what with living in reality and all.
What you can do is have small plates and cut small pieces, and let your guests choose how many servings they can handle. Or, you could just make terrible pies that no one wants. That’s the beauty of the holidays: it’s all up to you.