I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. What a great holiday dedicated to family enjoyment, conversation and togetherness, with still so little commercial interference! It helps that my family does a tremendous Thanksgiving meal, coordinated largely by my mother who makes sure everything is delicious and beautiful! It has always been, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the whole year.

But I must say that when James was diagnosed, I met that first Thanksgiving with dread. Remember that I was now accustomed to measuring or weighing every morsel of food that he eats. Initially, that was easiest when he ate something out of a premeasured bag or package. Yes, we probably ate more processed food in the days and weeks post-diagnosis than in the years prior to! The idea of dishes covering the table, prepared by others and served family style, was a little daunting to say the least. However, since that very first holiday meal, we’ve incorporated some strategies that have helped return Thanksgiving to its favored status.

In the day to day, we maintain our strategy of weighing and measuring foods. It’s become second nature for me to make sure James is getting a full 8 ounces of milk by using a measuring cup. Home-baked goods are no longer off limits with the help of a food scale. Knowing the number of carbs per ounce of common foods with the use of a carb-counting book means that fruits and vegetables can be consumed in massive quantities! Measuring every single day gives me more than just good numbers in the short term. It also helps me to be able to accurately gauge food better when I DON’T have all of my tricks and tools around. And these moments include some of the most enjoyable times in our lives—when we’re eating out, for example, or during large meals with relatives in the case of Thanksgiving. I feel much more confident looking at a half-cup of mashed potatoes on a plate when I’ve measured a half-cup of mashed potatoes dozens upon dozens of times at home. I’ve gotten used to “feeling” bread and can now make some pretty good guesses as to the carb content of rolls and other baked goods. It isn’t perfect, but it makes the meal seem less cumbersome, and I’m actually surprised at how good I’ve gotten at guessing!

That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with toting a few measuring cups to the Thanksgiving table. While I leave my food scale at home, I’ve been known to have James sit next to me and use a half-cup to measure out his once- or twice-yearly portion of sparkling cider. When first diagnosed, we were advised to stay away from juices and sodas as they raise blood sugar so precipitously. We still generally do this, but make exceptions on big days. It helps me to KNOW that James got 15 carb grams worth of the sweet liquid stuff, and it doesn’t seem to be too intrusive to have a measuring cup at my place setting.

With so many different kinds of foods consumed, even with precautions, post-meal numbers can be a little off sometimes. I attribute this as much to unusual circumstances—excitement, cousins to play and wrestle with—as I do to estimating the food incorrectly. This is another instance where James’ particular presentation of diabetes must be taken into account. (Every kid is different; for example, it’s my understanding that Kaitlyn is more sensitive to carbs and much less sensitive to blood sugar changes due to activity—or perhaps she’s just less rambunctious—than James.) As it is, I just make sure to have James in a good range well prior to Thanksgiving dinner and plan to monitor his blood sugar levels throughout the day and adjust his insulin. We have yet to have a negative experience on Thanksgiving!

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

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