Calming the Cooks

Nothing panics a holiday kitchen full of cooks like the word “diabetes”.



Diabetic and visiting family or friends this Thanksgiving? I’ve been there.

It’s time once again to devise the best way to prevent panic in our hosts. The sharing of food and drink is a deeply rooted cultural rite, and old habits die hard. If your family is like mine, you might have family members that become a little obsessed with the preparation of holiday meals.

Unfortunately, the stress level of these passionate cooks often goes through the roof when they start worrying about my diabetic diet. I can see it in their eyes. Even though I’ve explained many times that I can take care of myself, their urge to feed family on this holiday of congenial gluttony is too strong.

Even my mother can’t avoid it, and she knew more than most about my diet since she’d actually helped edit my book about it. For some reason, it was as if it were a brand new issue as she began to prepare food for the big dinner last Thanksgiving.

My first approach at times like these is to ask the cook to ignore my diet restrictions and cook whatever they want, any way they want. I point out that there’s always more than enough acceptable food laid out in the normal course of events to keep me happy. Nuts, vegetables, turkey (as long as it’s not deep-fried), salads, and fruit are all on my approved list. It’s my responsibility to pass by the mashed and sweet potatoes, pasta, fried goodies, and pumpkin pies.

Unfortunately, saying “Don’t worry about it” doesn’t work with my mom or, for that matter, just about anybody else. So when they insist on suggestions to accommodate me, I always have a few at the ready, like using whole wheat flour if possible, trying a batch of cookies with less sugar, grilling meat vs. stewing, and using olive oil instead of butter. That makes them feel better.

Another great accomodation people can make for folks with diabetes is adjusting the time of day of the meal, but it’s not always possible with all the conflicting schedules of family members, not to mention the traffic and turkey prep. Instead, my solution often is to eat a good meal early and just snack at the big meal. It’s no big deal, and besides, it makes me a great conversationalist at a meal that is all about bringing family together.

thnkstk_170083054_happy_family_thanksgiving_300pxLast Thanksgiving’s dinner at my mom’s turned out fine, despite her worries. We ate at 6, which was early enough for me, and nobody seemed to mind that my plate was piled high with turkey and green vegetables instead of mashed potatoes. If anyone noticed I skipped the pumpkin pie, they didn’t say anything about it.

Thankfully, my mother finally accepted my claim that there was plenty of food I could eat and she now has let the matter rest. Diabetes may have to have a seat at the Thanksgiving table, but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece.

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Diagnosed at age 49 with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), Russell Stamets is technically Type 1, but in practice he’s more of an honorary Type 2, managing his health with diet and lifestyle. You can usually find him aboard his home and primary stress reduction remedy, a 44-foot sailboat currently moored in Annapolis, Maryland.