This article was originally published on dLife.com—a website dedicated to helping people with diabetes live happier and healthier lives—as "Carve Carbs at Thanksgiving," and is reposted with permission from the author.
What will your Thanksgiving table look like this year?
Let's face it: The traditional Thanksgiving dinner is not exactly low-carb or diabetes-friendly. And if you're also trying to trim your waistlineye olde turkey day feast is sure to sabotage those efforts, too. But that doesn't mean you can't have a delicious holiday meal. In fact, with these tips you won't feel deprived at all.
Here are 10 ways to cut carbs out of this year's holiday feast:
1. Root for rutabagas.
Instead of mashing potatoes, one of which can run you more than 30 grams of carbs (and that's a small one), swap them for a less carby white vegetable. Mashed rutabagas, a close cousin to the turnip, contain 21 grams of carbs in an entire one-cup serving.
Parsnips, califlower, and turnips are other good stand-ins that have fewer carbs and more fiber and other nutrients than the old potato. Even substituting half the potatoes for one of these veggies is worthwhile.
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2. Leave the sugar out of cranberry sauce.
Of all the foods associated with Thanksgiving, cranberries may be the star in terms of health benefits. The phytonutrients in these little, tart berries may help raise your good cholesterol, lower your bad cholesterol, and fight off urinary tract infections, periodontal disease, and even cancer. But just one 1/2-inch slice of that canned cranberry sauce contains 22 grams of carbs. And unsweetened cranberries are hard to love. Find a sugar-free cranberry sauce you can buy or, even better, make your own using an artificial sweetener. Or, try something entirely new, like dLife's unique Cranberry Relish or Cranberry Chutney.
3. Just say "no" to marshmallows in your dinner.
Okay, you may have fond memories of super sugary, sweet-potato casseroles, infused with brown sugar and smothered with melted mini marshmallows. Memories are fine, but you're a grown-up now. A medium sweet potato contains about 25 grams of carbs, so the last thing it needs is added sugar. These tubers are rich in beta carotene, fiber, and other great nutrients, though, so make a healthy version and, of course, count the carbs.
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4. Go for the green beans.
Pile your plate high with these low-carb nutrient powerhouses. A whole cup of string beans contains only 10 grams of carbs, yet they are rich in vitamins K C, A, and folate. Check out a recipe for a simple but delicious green bean casserole, or make a lower-carb, lower-sodium version of the classic, with slivered almonds.
5. Make your stuffing less stuffed with fluff.
If stuffing, or dressing, is something you can't pass up, just make it yourself and transform it into something healthy. First, use whole-grain breadcrumbs. Then, to bulk it up, add extra veggies: celery, carrots, onions, and mushrooms. You might also want to try a unique brown rice stuffing with mushrooms and water chestnuts.
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6. Rethink your favorite pies.
You may think Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. Or maybe you bear an undying love for pecan or apple pie. Whatever it is, don't despair; you have lots of options. Pies can be made without crusts, turned into creamy custards topped with whipped cream, or simplified into fruit cobblers, all made with minimal amounts of whole-grain or soy flour and less sweetener or a sugar substitute. Read dLife's article Low Carb Baking for more tips.
7. Make the gravy.
Homemade turkey gravy contains about 6 grams of carbs per serving, depending on how much you use and the amount of flour or cornstarch it contains. You can use alternative thickeners, such as ThickenThin, if you want a no-carb gravy. You can find these products at a health foods store or online. The amount of saturated fat that ends up in a portion of gravy is negligible, and as long as you use low-sodium broth, you should be okay in the sodium department as well. Gravy's too good to give up!
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8. Skip the bread.
Unless it's the very special bread that Uncle Fred brings every year, why bother wasting carbs and calories on something guaranteed to spike your blood sugar? Especially when it's a food you can find any day of the year. Sure, you can make rolls and other baked goods using whole-grain flours, but Thanksgiving offers so many other nutrient-packed and delicious side dishes that you just don't need them.
9. Mind the three don'ts.
1. Don't drink your carbs (or calories). Soda, juice, and sweet drink mixers will send your turkey day carb count over the edge. Stick to seltzer with lime, a glass of wine or champagne, and good old tap water.
2. Don't "save up" for your Thanksgiving meal. In other words, don't show up famished. Eat a reasonable, healthy meal earlier in the day so you can make good decisions and reign in impulsive overeating.
3. Don't approach Thanksgiving (or any big meal) without a plan. Think about where you want to "spend" your carbs and make a pact with yourself in advance regarding what you're going to stay away from. It may sound hokey, but it's guaranteed to make it easier to enjoy your favorites.
10. Load up on turkey.
Turkey is a diabetes superfood, with 0 grams of carbs, 3 grams of saturated fat and 40 grams of protein in a 1-cup serving (of light meat and skin). Turkey is full of important nutrients, too. Its very rich in selenium, especially, a mineral that's being studied for its potential role in preventing cancer. So, enjoy every bite and take seconds if you're still hungry. Thanksgiving only comes once a year.