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The Great Thanksgiving Buffet Disaster

Jan Chait

December 3, 2008

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you manage to keep your blood glucose in a relatively decent range? I sure didn’t and, as of Friday morning, still haven’t managed to get it back down to where I like it. At this point, I’d be happy with anything below 200 mg/dl. (Picture me heaving a big sigh here.) Ah, well. I will get there (and did get down to the 90s later Friday). As I write this, my own insulin resistance from having Type 2 diabetes is combining with dietary-fat-induced insulin resistance to give me a double whammy.

I had a couple of problems: We went out, so I didn’t know what I was eating; and it was a buffet and I was, by golly, going to get my money’s worth. The latter gained even more importance since we had two teenagers with us, one of whom is a picky eater and the other of whom had just had his braces adjusted the day before and was pretty much limited to mashed potatoes — although I noticed that he managed to chew dessert. Somebody had to make up for those who weren’t eating their share!

A third “excuse” was that we were late getting there, so I had to eat fast before the buffet closed. It had to do with having a granddaughter with a learner’s permit. She wanted to drive on the interstate and, since traffic is light on Thanksgiving Day, it was a good time for her to practice driving faster than city speeds.

Well, I goofed. While the place we were going to is west of my house, I normally just take the city streets in that direction. I’m more accustomed to driving east from the interstate entrance near my house. So I directed her onto the wrong ramp. We should have gone from Exit 11 to Exit 7. Instead, we went from Exit 11 to Exit 23, turned around, and went to Exit 7.

“How come the one time you listen to me and do what I say,” I asked her, “is when I’m wrong?”

In the meantime, the rest of the family was waiting at the hotel that was hosting the buffet, wondering where we were — as I berated myself for having left my cell phone at home. Instead of taking her purse, Granddaughter had slipped her driver’s permit into a pocket, so she didn’t have her phone with her, either.

Oh, the scowls we were greeted with when we finally met up with the rest of the family! While I didn’t think about it at the time, it later occurred to me that thoughts more dire than that we might have gone in the wrong direction on the interstate were on their minds.

But let’s get back to feasts and blood glucose levels. I can count on less than one hand the number of times I haven’t prepared Thanksgiving dinner. That includes doing that “over the river and through the woods” thing, too, since I seem to be the family’s chief cook. I’m kewl with that, as long as somebody else is the chief bottle-washer.

One time I didn’t cook was because I’d just given birth. Thanksgiving dinner that year was in the hospital. Another was because there were only two of us that year, this year was because I’d gotten back from Germany at 2 AM on Tuesday and was jet-lagged, and another year it seemed like a good idea at the time to take everybody out.

When you have diabetes, the best thing to do (as far as I’m concerned) is to prepare the food yourself. That way, you at least know what’s in it. Who knows what’s hidden in the food you get when you eat out? Having worked in a restaurant kitchen or two, I will let you in on one secret: Fat makes anything taste better, and restaurants tend to lay it on.

At my house, you get baked sweet potatoes instead of that candied stuff with marshmallows on top. I make fresh green beans instead of green bean casserole. (One of my Thanksgiving traditions is to prepare the beans while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.) The turkey is flavored with herbs and roasted on the grill (it tastes better and it frees up the oven for other foods). Red potatoes that have been cubed and simmered until almost cooked — then drained and browned in olive oil and rosemary with a squirt of lemon juice at the end — are pretty darned good.

Oh, sure, there are noodles and dressing and other such goodies, but you can afford to eat a bit of those things, especially when you’re not consuming (or even being confronted with) candied yams, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes. But, hey, make your own favorite “treats.” I’m not overly fond of mashed potatoes and don’t care for dressing at all. Noodles and that stuff with marshmallows and pineapple are more my downfall.

I also failed to follow my own advice on eating at buffets. Like, eat your regular meals and then have a little snack before you go so you won’t be hungry enough to dump the whole schmear down your throat. Check out all of the offerings before you start piling up your plate. Have a nice plate of salad washed down with a glass of water before you dig into the rest of the meal.

Take a walk after dinner. Research from Indiana University says that a walk counteracts the effects of eating fatty foods on your arteries. The exercise helps bring your blood glucose levels down, too.

But, above all, if you took a “diabetes holiday,” don’t kick yourself. I suspect we all fall off the wagon at times. What matters most is that we pick ourselves up and climb back on.



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