Your Diabetes-Friendly Holiday Toolkit by Linda Gassenheimer

Stumped on what to cook for Thanksgiving? We've got you covered! This all-in-one handbook has everything you need to prepare a diabetes-friendly Thanksgiving feast on a budget, including recipes, a grocery list, a game-plan, tips for building a healthier Thanksgiving plate, and ideas for leftovers. Our healthier Thanksgiving has one-third the calories, carbs, and fat of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, and at less than $10 a serving, it's easy on your budget, too.

Your Diabetes-Friendly Holiday Toolkit


Our menu includes healthier versions of Thanksgiving classics. All of the recipes have been modified to make ten servings—perfect for a crowd, or a small family gathering with plenty of leftovers. 

Herb Roasted Turkey

Save time (and calories!) by roasting only the turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. The breast meat has less fat than the dark meat, which cuts down on saturated fat. 


Herbed Bread Stuffing

No need to cut out stuffing for your holiday meal. Enjoy this bread stuffing and still keep your carbohydrate count down. The vegetables, fresh herbs, and apple add flavor and help fill out the serving. 


Better Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple. The potato is the star of this comfort food side dish, but a nonstarchy vegetable plays a surprising supporting role. The result is light, luscious, and diabetes-friendly.


Green Beans with Cranberries and Hazelnuts

Here’s a lighter take on a traditional creamy green bean casserole. This recipe has only 4 grams of carbohydrates per serving. The hazelnuts give a crunchy texture and the dried cranberries add a colorful touch.


Winter Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Blue cheese, pomegranates, and hazelnuts add interesting flavor and crunch to this salad, making it deliciously easy to add more vegetables to your holiday plate. Adding a salad to your Thanksgiving menu makes it easier to fill half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables. 


This list contains not only all of the ingredients needed, but also the amounts you will need for the recipe. That way, if you already have some of the ingredients on hand, you’ll be able to tell if you have enough or need to buy more. This is especially helpful for spices and bottled sauces.
In addition, the shopping list is organized according to supermarket department. With large supermarkets, it can be annoying to realize that you forgot something in the dairy department when you’re in the produce section. This list should help, and may even cut down the amount of time you spend in the market.

Download the grocery list

The cost for this meal is $8.90 per person. The estimated prices of ingredients are based on national food store prices and will vary according to area. This number will give you an idea of what the meal will cost. Also, keep an eye out for sales!

Join Diabetes Food Hub for free to unlock our meal planner and grocery list tools!


Preparing a Thanksgiving feast may seem stressful, but there's plenty you can do before the big day to set yourself up for success. Making dishes ahead of time helps spread the work over more than just one day, and can free up precious stove and oven space. Here is a step-by-step game plan:

Weekend before Thanksgiving

  • Set the table: If you have the space, set your table. You won’t have to think about it during the week while preparing the rest of the meal.
  • Serving platters and utensils: Set out serving platters along with serving utensils. I even place a note on each platter describing what food goes on that platter. Note: This will include the baking dishes for the Herbed Bread Stuffing and Better Mashed Potatoes that will be made in advance (see below). On the day, you won’t have to stop and look for the right platters and if friends or family are helping, they will know where everything should go.


  • Shop for all ingredients.
  • If using a frozen turkey, leave it in the fridge to thaw.


  • Arrange flowers or table decorations.


  • Make Herbed Roasted Stuffing, cool, wrap well, and refrigerate.
  • Make Better Mashed Potatoes, cool, wrap well, and refrigerate.

3 hours before serving

  • Remove Herbed Bread Stuffing and Better Mashed Potatoes from refrigerator to come to room temperature before warming. Note: If stuffing looks dry, add a little chicken broth. 

  • Set out fillo shells on a foil lined baking sheet. Mix ingredients for Pumpkin Pie-lets in a bowl and set aside. 

2 1/2-hours before serving 

  • Prepare and roast Herb-Roasted Turkey

  • Fill Pumpkin Pie-lets and place in oven, 10-15 minutes. Remove and set on counter to cool. Serve after the main course. If you have only one oven, place these on the shelf below the turkey.

2 hours before serving

  • While turkey is in the oven, make vinaigrette for Winter Salad and set aside.

  • Arrange Winter Salad greens on a serving platter or bowl. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, blue cheese, and pistachios, and set aside.

  • Make sauce for Green Beans (hazelnuts, cranberries, olive oil) and set aside.

30 minutes before serving

  • Place Herbed Bread Stuffing and Better Mashed Potatoes in 350 oven to warm through. The turkey should be ready by then. If not, and you have only one oven, place these on a shelf below the turkey.

  • Warm them for about 30 minutes. Hint: to tell if these dishes are warmed through, stick the point of a knife into the middle of the dish and remove the knife. The metal should be warm to the touch.

20 minutes before serving 

  • Sprinkle the dressing on the Winter Salad.

  • Make Green Beans and top with the sauce 

  • Carve the turkey and place on serving platter. 

After main course

  • Top each Pumpkin Pie-let with a teaspoon of whipped topping and serve.


By choosing healthier recipes, loading up on nonstarchy vegetables, and keeping portion sizes in check, our Thanksgiving plate has about one-third of the calories, carbs, and fat of a traditional Thanksgiving meal!

       Our Diabetes-Friendly Meal           vs.        Traditional Thanksgiving Meal*

*Traditional Thanksgiving meal consisting of turkey w/ gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, dinner roll, pumpkin pie

To build a healthier Thanksgiving plate, use the plate method:

  1. Start with a reasonably sized plate (about 9 inches) to keep your portion sizes in check. Mentally divide the plate in half, and fill one half with nonstarchy vegetables like greens beans, salad, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. 
  2. Divide the other half into two quarters. Fill one quarter with lean protein foods such as turkey or ham (or beans, lentils, and meat substitutes if you're having a plant-based Thanksgiving).
  3. The last quarter is for carbohydrate-rich foods. This includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, acorn or butternut squash, and sweets like pumpkin pie. Limiting your carb selections to this one section of your plate is an easy way to keep your total carbs for the meal in check. 

Related: Tips for Surviving You First Holiday Season with Diabetes


Even with the smaller breast cut in our turkey recipe, there’s going to be plenty left over. Try these recipes to get more mileage out of your Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Turkey & Barley Soup

Warm up with this hearty, broth-based soup. You can even make your own turkey stock from the turkey bones for an rich flavored soup.

Crunchy Coleslaw Turkey Sandwich

Try this light sandwich instead of the traditional leftover turkey sandwich.


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