Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart: Watch what you eat on Thanksgiving

UW Health Family Medicine physician Dr. Jacqueline GerhartMadison, Wisconsin - UW Health Family Medicine physician Jacqueline Gerhart writes a column that appears Tuesdays on madison.com and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Columns are re-published here with permission.


I've been invited to my sister's house for Thanksgiving dinner, but I am diabetic, and my blood sugar shoots through the roof when I eat her cooking. She doesn't follow any dietary restrictions, and gets offended when I don't try everything she makes. Any advice?


Eating what you like, pleasing your family, and keeping your health in line are often difficult. In my last column I wrote about keeping off the winter weight. But, you pose a different question: how to eat the right things for a specific health condition.


If your sister is anything like my aunt, I'm guessing she makes turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes with butter and cream, green bean casserole with those crispy onions, cornbread stuffing, cranberry relish, and three pies: pumpkin, pecan, and apple. You then pass each dish around the table and judge each other's plates to be sure no one is skimping. If you choose not to take something you get accused of "eating like a bird" or the relative next to you says, "oh… I see… you're on a diet" (complete with eye roll).


Here are some tools to get around that:


1. Use humor: "I'm just waiting for you to try it to be sure it's not poisoned."


2. Use deflection: "Oh yeah? How 'bout them Packers?"


3. Use blame: "It's my doctor's fault. She says I have to watch my portions."


4. Use honesty: "I'm really trying to keep my blood sugar low. But thanks for being concerned about me."


So what can you eat? Diabetics should stay away from sugars and starches. This means minimal potatoes, stuffing, or pie. They also need to skip the holiday wine, as this has fermented sugars.


Patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease should ask the cook to make "light" recipes or offer to make a "light" dish to pass. Instead of butter and cream in potatoes, consider making them with chicken stock or olive oil to reduce the fat. Eat white meat rather than dark meat, and watch portions. A typical portion of meat is the size of your palm. Come knowing what you should eat and not eat: a ¾ cup of green bean casserole is 160 calories, 9 g of fat, and 11 g of carbohydrates, whereas a slice of pecan pie (1/8 of the pie) is 500 calories, 27 g of fat, and 67 g of carbohydrates.


Some tools you can use: www.allrecipes.com will let you look up recipes, complete with their nutrition information, and will help you find fun ways to use up your leftovers. Check out www.calorieking.com for nutrition on general foods such as turkey or apple pie. smartphones also have applications where you can type in your meal choices and it will calculate your total nutrition counts (calories, fat, protein, carbs, etc). Some programs will scan the barcodes of grocery store items and calculate the nutrition for your total meal or day.


If you need further assistance for a specific medical condition, consider seeing a nutritionist. Many clinics have them, and most insurance plans cover their services. Also, for diabetics, see a diabetic educator. This person (usually a registered nurse) will help manage your blood sugars and medications, and will keep you on track, so you can do less thinking and more celebrating!


Happy Thanksgiving!



This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Gerhart to people submitting questions.


Date Published: 11/22/2011

News tag(s):  jacqueline l gerhart

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