Kids and diabetes: Pile on the mashed potatoes - your child can enjoy holiday meals

2013-11-05 07:12:10 by Janet Haas, RN, CDE, as posted on the blog.

Flickr/CC photo by jeffreylcohen Flickr/CC photo by jeffreylcohen

Just when you thought you had adjusted to proper eating for your child with diabetes, along comes the holidays. Sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie – oh my! What’s a parent to do?

You and your child can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner – with a little planning and oversight. Here are some tips to help manage your child’s diabetes during this food-focused holiday.

  • Load up on turkey and non-starchy veggies. Turkey is one of the only Thanksgiving foods with virtually no carbohydrates. Most non-starchy vegetables are also low in carbohydrates. Think asparagus, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and zucchini.

  • Fill your child’s plate wisely. If your child loves mashed potatoes, give them a generous serving while cutting back on other high-carb foods like rolls and stuffing. It’s all about balance and carb counting.

  • Encourage physical activity. Take advantage of children’s natural desire to be active. Instead of lingering at the table, suggest that they get up and play after dinner. Or better yet, go for a family walk so that everyone benefits.

  • Consider the timing of the big meal. Thanksgiving dinner is often served in the middle of the afternoon – instead of a more normal dinnertime. If your child takes insulin injections or blood-glucose-lowering medication, consider giving them a snack at their normal mealtime to prevent a low-blood-glucose reaction.

  • Contribute healthy foods. If you are going to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, take along some low-carb, healthy appetizers – like raw veggies and low-fat dip or a plate of low-fat cheeses – to ensure that your child’s blood glucose levels don’t rise before the meal even starts. You might also offer to bring a low-carb side dish like a green salad or green bean casserole minus the French fried onion rings.

  • Avoid making your child feel deprived. Be reasonable and allow your child to enjoy sensible portions of his or her favorite foods. After all, it’s not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. Yet, one piece is plenty.

Carbohydrate counts of popular Thanksgiving dishes:

Food Serving Size             CarbsCranberry sauce, jellied        1/2 cup               27Dinner roll                     3” diameter           22Gravy                           1/4 cup               3Pecan pie                       1/8th of 9” pie       52Potatoes, mashed                1/2 cup               18Pumpkin pie                     1/8th of 9” pie       28Sweet potatoes, mashed         1/2 cup               40Stuffing, bread                 1/2 cup               26Turkey                          3 ounces              1

For more information, read “Holiday Meal Planning” on the American Diabetes Association website at

Janet Haas is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and diabetes program coordinator for Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.

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