Can I eat this? Like, pancreatically?
November 14, 2011 5:24 PM   Subscribe

What should I make for diabetic Thanksgiving? Expanded waistline ahead.

A dear friend was recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He's also the person who's designated Thanksgiving Chef every year, and since this upcoming season is bound to be hard on him, I want to make a dish or two that might ease the dietary transition for him. He will most certainly cook dinner as planned and probably limit his own portion severely.

Instead of worrying about him torturing himself during the meal, I'd love for him to have one or two good sides that he doesn't need to worry about, as well as a dessert. Can you suggest tweaks to traditional Thanksgiving/wintertime fare to make it diabetic-friendly, or do you have any good ideas for unboring substitutes? I'm not used to cooking with these restrictions and don't really know how best to proceed. Please advise with recipes or ideas, along with any tips you've picked up about cooking this way. Example: I just read about making a pie crust with coconut oil instead of butter. Have you tried this? Assume I have access to all equipment and ingredients and am a relatively good cook/baker. Thank you!
posted by therewolf to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Hi, I'm a Type II diabetic. Since you're friend cooks, I would recommend asking him what dishes really mean "Thanksgiving" for him and work on making diabetic friendly versions of those.

Me, I exercise in the morning, fill up on meat and veggies and save room for a piece of pie.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:37 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

My stepdad is now diabetic, and while he largely focuses on just not eating very much of the stuff we have, we made sure to do more veggies (I can't find the one we used, but this broccoli recipe is pretty similar to what we did last year.) We also did this kind of thing with carrots and everyone liked it quite a lot. I'm tempted, because he's a huge mashed potato fan, to do this thing with cauliflower, but honestly, it may be pushing the boundaries of "this is a holiday, I can break the rules for one flipping meal."
posted by SMPA at 5:39 PM on November 14, 2011

The cauliflower thing? Try a small batch of it first, see if he likes it. 'Cause it tastes like shit, especially when you're expecting a potato. It's not the same and could be very disappointing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:44 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Roasted Brussels sprouts are delicious and healthy.

Roasted butternut squash or plain baked sweet potatoes. These two options are better than the sweet potato casseroles that are loaded with sugar/marshmallows/streusel.

I wouldn't worry about trying to alter your pie crusts or recipes too much. He can have a piece of pie. Yeah, you have to watch it with empty calories and practice portion control but the special diabetic diet stuff is old school. A healthy diet for you and me would be the same for a person with type II diabetes.
posted by Fairchild at 5:47 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good on you for trying to accommodate his diabetes! It can be quite a challenge, but fortunately not an insurmountable one.

My husband is diabetic (Type II) and his blood sugar is very sensitive to starches - flour, potatoes, grains, etc. Sugars aren't nearly as devastating for him, which we have learned through testing, testing, testing. So before you settle on recipes, it would be worthwhile to ask your friend what he has learned so far about how to keep his blood sugar in a reasonable range.

If he has difficulty with starches, you could make the traditional pumpkin pie in a crustless version (no special recipe needed; just grease the pie plate well) or focus on green vegetables as side dishes while skipping the mashed potatoes and the like.
posted by DrGail at 5:51 PM on November 14, 2011

Thanks, Brandon Blatcher, for the warning. This has been the tremendous pitfall for us with all the diabetic-specific stuff we've tried (that most of it is awful.) We completely gave up on funky pie and cookie recipes probably six months after he was diagnosed, and haven't done sugar-free candy since that first Christmas.

The funny thing is, my grandma was type I and we always ate normal stuff at her house - traditional Sunday roasts and everything. She just watched portions and had me eat her whipped cream (off of cakes and pies.)
posted by SMPA at 5:51 PM on November 14, 2011

Yeah, just make more delicious winter vegetables and fewer goopy sides. I personally love creamed cauliflower, but there's also cauliflower au gratin, curried cauliflower, and plain old cauliflower roasted in bacon grease with salt, pepper, and bacon. There's green beans, or GB casserole made with actual dairy products instead of canned soup. Broccoli, cabbage, winter squash (made savory please, it's sweet enough and it loves garlic), ratatouille, brussels sprouts.

Apps: Deviled eggs. Meatballs and cocktail franks. Olives and cheese and nuts and cold cuts.

And then salads: Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing, slaw, fruit and nuts with no sugar, good old-fashioned wedge.

Let the man have his appropriate portion of pie and stuffing/dressing, and just keep as much sugar/flour out of the rest of the meal.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:57 PM on November 14, 2011

Thank you all for your answers so far!

I should note, this person tends to be rather all-or-nothing in terms of diet/lifestyle. I want to offer dishes that are explicitly healthy (or at least ostensibly so), because as delicious as bacon-roasted brussels sprouts sound, he would probably avoid it. He's also at risk for high blood pressure, having had a heart attack in the past. And as much as I'd like him to accept the "just eat reasonably" mantra, the news is still so fresh he most likely will not exercise moderation here and go instead for the flagellation school.
posted by therewolf at 6:06 PM on November 14, 2011

My sugar free oatmeal cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups Splenda for baking
1 3/4 whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar free maple syrup
1 cup sugar free chocolate chips
1 cup raisins or 1 cup pecans. (I like the raisins better, but using pecans instead leaves out some more sugar)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups of quick oats
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Add Splenda, Sugar free maple syrup, eggs and vanilla to melted butter. Stir until it smooth.
In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking soda then stir into the butter mixture
In the second bowl mix the oats, sugar free chocolate and raisins or pecans. Try to get the raisins to separate so you don't have a giant clump of raisins. Mix that with the butter mixture.
Make into balls and bake on cookie sheets for 12-16 minutes, depending on your oven. I take them out when the bottoms are very slightly brown when I peek under with a spatula.

I've made these for several type 1 and type 2 diabetics and they all report back that their sugar is fine afterwards as long as they don't eat a million at once. <
posted by artychoke at 6:39 PM on November 14, 2011

I've never cared for carrots with extra sugar, but I love to roast carrots in concentrated poultry(chicken or turkey) broth. Carrots, either sliced or 'baby cut.' Put in a roasting pan with some good chicken broth. Roast, stirring occasionally, until carrots are done and broth is evaporated, @ 45 minutes. I discovered this when I couldn't find the roasting rack and used carrots under a roasted chicken.

I haven't made this version of Roasted Brussel Sprouts, with Pancetta, but it looks great. Roasted brussel sprouts + bacon/pancetta/kielbasa or garlic = delish. Here's a recipe for Seared Brussel Sprouts that looks sooo good. on preview, use the less of the pancetta, and use some olive oil.

Many people haven't encountered parsnips, but they roast beautifully, and I've heard that they're tasty pureed.

I believe fiber helps regulate the sugar/insulin balance (ask a nutritionist) so mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash might be a good alternative. Use whole wheat where possible, in stuffing and bread, and maybe some extra bran.

To help enhance the 'specialness' of the meal, make some small, but beautifully presented versions of foods that are restricted. Pumpkin tartlets, decorated with a tiny leaf shape cut from the pastry, tiny pumpkin creme brulee, that sort of thing. I genuinely prefer pumpkin pie that is less sweet, and apple pie bursting with apples, but not too gooey or sugar-y.

Happy Thanksgiving.
posted by theora55 at 6:42 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

therewolf  as delicious as bacon-roasted brussels sprouts sound, he would probably avoid it.

Are you sure? There are a lot of Type II people who hardcore count carbs and who would therefore very happily enjoy bacon and brussels sprouts or collard greens, but won't eat sweet potatoes in any form, for example.

Also, as DrGail mentioned, different people's blood sugar responds to different things. I have a Type I friend who has to avoid all nonfat and lowfat dairy, but can eat full-fat dairy with no issues.

You should probably ask him how he defines "healthy" and work around that. You and he are both going to be bummed if you cook stuff thinking "low-fat, healthy whole grains, roasted plain sweet potatoes, fruit salad" and it turns out he's actually low-carbing. Or vice versa.

If you can't ask him what he'd prefer, the safest options that should cover most Type II diabetics' preferences are low-starch, low-sugar vegetables and leaner meats, fish, and poultry, with the option to add oil, butter, or a fatty (and flour-free, low-sugar) sauce or dressing at the table if it turns out he needs that to slow the blood sugar dump.

Here is a kale & ricotta salata salad that is better when made the night before.
posted by hat at 6:59 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

High fat,
generous protein,
very low carbohydrates (but ofcourse, it's OK to eat vegetables!).
This is what's good for your friend!

So anything with lots of bacon fat, butter, heavy cream (as long as there's no lactose intolerance) (note! not half-and-half!)
Don't be afraid about using butter on your crusts. It's good for him. What's bad for him is the flour. In fact, go ahead and use lard (from a good quality farm, not the grocery store).

You can make a pumpkin soup with heavy cream or coconut milk, with pork sausage (chorizo is good) or bacon, and indian spices (garam masala, cumin, ginger -- and paprika if your sausage is not spicy).
Turkey is fair game.
Green leafy vegetables are great! Cook them in animal fats, not oxidized vegetable oils.

If you don't like to cook a turkey for thanksgiving, how about a Wintergreen lasagna? Besides the noodles, it's very healthy, cheese and all!
Carrots and parsnips are very sweet, they don't need sweetener. I cut them pinkie-sized, rub melted butter all over them, and roast them in a oven. They are. so. sweet.

If you add plenty of fat to your pies, you shouldn't need much sugars. Fat gives flavor. It's only nowadays that we need high sugar for flavor, because people are afraid of fats (Fat doesn't make you fat, sugar and wheat does. Everyone in the old days knew that).

DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT include grains (even whole grains. They are worse for a diabetic than table sugar!) This is specially true if he suffers from high blood pressure like I do (or used to). Do not feed him grains.
Ofcourse, you'll need some for pie crust, unless you want to make custards instead. Actually, you could make steamed egg pumpkin custards. Egg is high fat, so it will be good for him. With cinnamon sprinkled on top. Oh dear :-)

To be honest, the traditional thanksgiving dinner is not too bad for a diabetic! Meat... vegetables... even the pie wouldn't be so bad if people used traditional high-fat recipes.

Feel free to Me-mail me if you wish...
posted by midnightmoonlight at 10:30 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you think I'm wrong, ask any diabetic friends if they ever get off their medications, lose body fat, and stay healthy... on the diet recommended by their doctors. Nope!

Have a great thanksgiving!
posted by midnightmoonlight at 10:35 PM on November 14, 2011

What about roasting / broiling some asparagus with olive oil + salt and pepper? You could use flavored ones like lemon.

You might ask your friend what his restrictions are - is he doing fat free because of the heart attack and low carb because of the diabetes? If so animal fats might be out except for the turkey.

As an example when I took diabetes education classes the guidelines were that you divide your plate into 1/4s. Half was supposed to be veggies, 1/4 protein (not bigger than the palm of your hand) and 1/4 starch (not bigger than your fist and within your guidelines). Carbs per meal were recommended to be 45 -60 depending on the persons height / size and activity levels. We were advised that we could probably have a slice of pie at Thanksgiving but to wait for awhile if we'd had dinner carbs so our body could process some before getting hit with the dessert carbs.

General things that might help - having sauces & dressings separate so that he can choose whether to add to his food.

I tend to just have small portions of regular desserts. You could also try something like fruit with low fat yogurt where you serve yourself so that he can easily control how much fat / carbs he gets.
posted by oneear at 1:07 AM on November 15, 2011

Raspberries are one good fruit to have on hand. (My dad will often eat it with a small bit of cheese cake, yogurt, or flourless chocolate cake on special occasions, though for holidays it's more often the standard desert in a reduced portion size.)
posted by ejaned8 at 8:39 AM on November 15, 2011

Sweet potatoes are a nice side, as long as you don't do the candied version with marshmallows. Here is what I do: cook them whole, or peel and steam. Mash them with a small amount of butter, a bit of nutmeg to taste, salt to taste, and a massive amount of real vanilla. Depending on the quantity you are making, use several tablespoons. As in, up to 1/4 cup. Sprinkle some chopped nuts on top, and bake or broil. Costco is a good source for more reasonably priced good quality vanilla in large quantities.
posted by annsunny at 10:46 AM on November 15, 2011

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