Everybody has a signature meal, either one they prepare exceptionally well, or one they can’t wait to eat. For me, it’s one and the same. Thanksgiving.
I remember the first Thanksgiving meal I made after I was diagnosed with diabetes. It brought back the first conversation I had with my internist, the brilliant—and funny—Dr. Jeff Galpin, after he gave me the news. Half an hour of sobbing and a box of Kleenex later, he pulled himself together and we continued to talk.
I said, “OK, I can give up sugar. No big thing.”
“Uh, no,” he said carefully.” It’s not just sugar. It’s carbohydrates.”
WHAT? Nobody told me that! I love carbohydrates! I live for carbohydrates! Oh, maybe that’s how I got here in the first place. So, NOW what am I going to do?
Well, I had to make some adjustments…and I did just that. And I can report that my reputation for a great Thanksgiving meal remains untarnished, and here’s why:
#2. When you’re making your stuffing, “forget” to add the butter.
If I really think I need to add something, I’ll make it a teaspoon of Smart Balance margarine, but the celery, mushrooms, and onions I add to the mix give it enough flavor to forego the butter.
#3. Same with the mashed potatoes.
A little goes a long way. Extra seasoning, yes. Extra butter, no.
#4. Drain the syrup.
If you opt for yams, as I often do, make sure you drain off all the heavy (sugar-loaded) syrup before baking.I usually mash them up, add a dollop of Smart Balance Margarine (every calorie saved is a calorie earned, I always say!), and brown sugar SUBSTITUTE (actually, Brown Sugar Twin isn’t bad). Add some pumpkin spice, throw it in the oven for half an hour and I promise your house will smell like Thanksgiving! And, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
#5. Go heavy on the veggies, but light on any sauce.
Opt for butternut squash with cinnamon and pumpkin spice. (I confess, if I just have to have my mother’s green bean casserole, I start with reduced-fat mushroom soup.)
#6. Don’t follow traditional recipes for cranberry sauce…
And don’t use the stuff that comes in a can where they start with sugar and add a few cranberries! Making your own with little or no sugar (that’s why Sweet ‘n Low and Splenda were invented!) will work just fine. Add some orange zest to the mix for a little-added tang.
#7. Make a nice salad and do NOT overdress it!
Mine comes out of a bag and has a little feta cheese, a few nuts and a couple of cranberries thrown in for good measure. I use about half the dressing that comes with the salad mix and believe me, it’s plenty.
#8. Buy small but tasty rolls.
There will be so much food on the table, it should be easy to keep the bread to a minimum.I use King’s Hawaiian Rolls, not only because they’re delicious, but because they’re really small. No matter what your guests do, YOU don’t want to fill up on bread!
#9. And what about dessert?
Well, when your friends ask what they can bring, tell them to bring dessert! That way, you’re not stressing over baking all day or having desserts from the bakery sitting in your kitchen and calling your name.
#10. Keep it to yourself.
The last, and most important tip...listen closely...do NOT tell anyone you've made ANY of these adjustments. I swear. They will not know. Nobody will notice at all! I promise. Even though we’ve managed to prepare a most reasonable and mostly “legal” Thanksgiving feast, how do we get through the evening without falling into a diabetic coma??? Well, here’s the secret. Enjoy it all, every single dish…only when the serving dishes are passed your way, take only a small taste from each. There will be plenty of food on your plate, but not too much of anything! Look at it, savor it, breathe it in, and then enjoy it. SLOWLY. One bite at a time. Leave some over.
And when it comes to dessert, if you feel you have any room left at all, take a SMALL sample so that you won’t feel left out. Remember the rule you’ve seen here before: They say the best bite of a treat is the first bite, and the second-best bite is the last bite. That means two bites oughta do it, right?
Now, as everyone is groaning and unbuttoning their pants, you’ll feel satisfied, not uncomfortably full, and not dragging from a 9000-carb meal. And after all is said and done, after the dishes are cleared and washed, after the leftovers are in the fridge, go take a little walk! Walk around the block, or even just to the corner and back. You won’t believe how good you’ll feel!
Go ahead, feel a little smug. You’ve earned it. And Happy Thanksgiving! (Just don’t let your guard down…because here comes Santa!)