Holidays can be a tough time to have food restrictions, especially if the holiday is heavy on the food traditions like Thanksgiving is.
The trick to enjoying any holiday to its fullest—whether you have food restrictions or not—is to plan ahead. If you need to watch your blood sugar levels, finding low-glycemic meals and side dishes ahead of time can help you focus on the joyful festivities, rather than what you can and can’t eat.
You might be thinking that this philosophy will work with any holiday but Thanksgiving, a time when foods rich in flavor and loaded with sugar take center stage. But don’t worry—there are plenty of low-glycemic foods you can enjoy so you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
What to bring to the table
Let’s set some ground rules first about low-glycemic foods. Each food has a glycemic index (GI) score from 0 to 100. A low GI score (0–50) means the food will have little effect on rapidly increasing blood sugar levels. The higher the number, the more your blood sugar will be affected.
With this numbering system in place, it’s easier to know which foods to go all in on and which to avoid. This means saying yes to all the green vegetables (most non-starchy vegetables, really), lean protein, and beans. Some fruits, multi-grain bread, and oats are okay too (in smaller portions).
Anything with white flour (including many desserts), potatoes, and sweet treats are best avoided.
You might be surprised how much these guidelines leave us to work with. Read on for inspiration on low-GI foods to take to your feast!
8 low-glycemic foods for a delicious Thanksgiving feast
Turkey. Great news—you don’t have to stay away from the star of the Thanksgiving meal. Being high in protein, turkey won’t cause significant spikes in blood sugar. Keep in mind, though, that sugary glazes and deep frying will raise turkey’s GI score.
Mashed cauliflower. Mashed potatoes are a staple of most Thanksgiving meals, but you don’t have to rely on high-glycemic potatoes to get your fix. Mashed cauliflower’s creamy texture and mild flavor makes it an excellent alternative, and it can be livened up with a little bit of butter and your favorite seasonings.
Vegetable casserole. Green bean casserole is another common Thanksgiving side dish. With a few adjustments, such as sautéing with slivered almonds and a touch of olive oil instead of mixing with a heavy cream, you can still save some room on your plate for this popular dish. If green beans aren’t your thing, try a broccoli cheddar casserole or another vegetable-and-cheese combination.
Roasted veggies. Turkey gets all the attention during Thanksgiving, but the vegetables can be the real star of the show if you do them right. Roasting veggies in the oven is one of the best ways to make tasty vegetables, and they add a nice splash of color (and nutrition!) to your plate. Bonus tip: if you add bacon to your veggies, you will become the star of Thanksgiving.
Quinoa stuffing. One glance down a certain grocery store aisle around Thanksgiving will show you that there are approximately a million stuffing options to choose from—including a low-glycemic option made with quinoa, a whole grain rich in fiber and protein. If you want to try your hand at making your own stuffing, mix it with your favorite sautéed vegetables, herbs, and a low-sugar vegetable broth to create a satisfying side dish.
Charcuterie board. Finger foods are definitely allowed for Thanksgiving. Fill up a charcuterie board with various cheeses, olives, and nuts and enjoy to your heart’s content. Just be sure to save some room for the other delicious foods on the table.
Deviled eggs. Eggs have a GI score of 0, so they’re an excellent option if you’re looking for low-glycemic foods to add to your meal. However, after eggs have been “deviled,” they are more likely to be a medium-glycemic food, so you may want to check to see what ingredients were used in the filling first.
Mixed berries with whipped cream. If your favorite thing about pie is the filling, you’re in luck. Most fruits, especially berries, have a low GI score and make a wonderful low-glycemic dessert when mixed together as a berry compote or fresh berry salad, topped off with a dab of whipped cream.
Need more inspiration on healthy swaps for sugary foods? Check out this post.
Strike the right balance
While a low-glycemic Thanksgiving meal certainly is possible, don’t get too caught up on putting together a perfect low-glycemic meal. The important thing is to focus on enjoying the delicious food in front of you and the special time you’re sharing with friends and family.
If you plan to indulge on certain foods more than you usually do, be sure to take Balance 10–15 minutes before you eat. Balance contains a proprietary fiber matrix that is designed to help ease some of the impact excess dietary carbohydrates and cholesterol can have on the body. A helpful aid before any meal, but especially on Thanksgiving day.