3 Recipes for a Happy T1D Thanksgiving

Lourdes 2 low-res_300pxAt first glance, Thanksgiving can feel like a culinary minefield for people with Type 1 diabetes. The thinking is that you have to either use a truckload of insulin to cover for the carb fest of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pie, or you have to avoid it altogether. Worse, people with diabetes can feel like the odd person out during the festivities; well-meaning relatives might have trouble resisting the urge to police the Thanksgiving dinner plate of someone with diabetes, which can get real awkward real quick.

Noted chef Lourdes Castro advocates for a different way of thinking about Thanksgiving with diabetes, one that feels more like a win-win for everyone involved. Thanksgiving actually already is predisposed to be more accessible for people with Type 1 diabetes than many other traditional meals, as the centerpiece of the meal is a baked source of protein, says Castro, a cookbook author, dietician, and adjunct professor. Also, the American diet is shifting to be more in line with the optimal diet for people with diabetes, she adds, with more protein and fresh vegetables and less empty carbs.

“I think ‘diabetes-friendly food’ is healthy food that anyone can and should be eating,” Castro says.

Castro is partnering with Novo Nordisk to help the diabetes supply company to relaunch its Cornerstones4Care initiative, which helps provide educational information for people with Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. As part of the initiative, Castro has released a free downloadable bilingual cookbook. You can view a few of the cookbook’s recipes below.

In an interview with Insulin Nation, Castro suggested a few Thanksgiving eating tips that can help you enjoy Thanksgiving while keeping your blood glucose levels in check. They include:

-Don’t come to a holiday party hungry.
-Eat moderately and stay hydrated before the big meal, instead of “banking” your carbs in anticipation.
-Find ways to get the taste of some of your favorite dish with fewer carbs. For example, put caramelized squash on top of a watercress salad (see below).
-Find ways to make carb dishes with high-intensity taste, so you get maximum flavor in a smaller portion (see the “Dark Chocolate Espresso Tart” below).

Bringing your own dish is also a time-honored Thanksgiving strategy for people with Type 1 diabetes, but Castro says you don’t necessarily need to put a “diabetes-friendly” label on the dish, if you don’t want. Good food is good food.

“Everyone now wants to be eating healthier and fresher,” she says. “Once people taste the dish, then you can add that it’s diabetes-friendly later.”

 Caramelized Calabaza Squash and Watercress Salad

Salad low-res_300pxMakes 6 1-cup portions
Total carbohydrates per serving 10.2g

This salad delivers a punch of flavor along with a burst of color. Golden calabaza squash, which is very popular year-round in the Caribbean, is roasted until it turns sweet and buttery soft. Then it’s tossed with peppery watercress to add both flavor and bulk without a load of calories. The salad is hearty enough to save for leftovers, if there are any!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

11⁄2 pounds calabaza squash or any type of winter squash like kabocha, butternut, or acorn, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
3 cups watercress or arugula
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Roast the squash

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Place the squash on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over it. Sprinkle the vegetables with the salt, season with black pepper, and toss well. Spread the squash out on the pan so there is only a single layer of vegetables. Use a second pan if necessary.

Roast the squash for 30 minutes or until they have turned a deep golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Toss the salad

Place the watercress in a large bowl and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the vinegar.Toss well. Add the roasted squash to the bowl and tossagain until well combined.

Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy!


 Garlic-Infused Pork Tenderloin with Onion Citrus Mojo

Pork low-res_300pxServes 6
Total carbohydrates per serving 7.3g

Cuban roast pork gets much of its flavor from the garlicky mojo (sauce) that’s used as both a marinade and sauce. Combining garlic and spices with zesty oranges and limes gives this pork tenderloin a special aromatic and fruity flavor. The pork tenderloin is marinated, seared, and roasted in the tangy sauce, giving it a bright and summery taste. It’s a quick and easy meal, but fancy enough for company. Don’t forget to serve extra marinade on the side to add that extra splash of flavor.

Prep time: 20 minutes (+30 minutes to marinate)
Cook time: 40 minutes


15 cloves garlic (about 1 head), peeled
11⁄4 teaspoons salt
1 large onion, sliced
1⁄4 cup orange juice
1⁄4 cup lime juice (from 2–3 limes)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds pork tenderloin

Create garlic paste

Place the garlic cloves in a mortar and lightly crush with the pestle. If you don’t have a pestle, create one with a cup and the back of a wooden spoon or any other long tool with a blunt end. Sprinkle 1⁄4 teaspoon salt over the crushed garlic and mash into a paste.

Prepare marinade

Transfer the garlic paste to a large resealable plastic bag and add the remaining salt, onion, orange juice, lime juice, oregano, cumin, and olive oil and mix well.

Pierce the flesh of the pork all over with the tip of a sharp knife, and place the meat in the bag, making sure to coat the pork well with the marinade. Press out as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it. The pork can be marinated in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes but up to 24 hours.

Cook pork and simmer sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place a nonstick oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the pork tenderloins from the marinade, taking care to leave behind as many bits of onions and garlic as possible. Reserve the marinade.

Sear the pork until golden brown on all 4 sides. Transfer the pan to the oven, and roast for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork registers 145°F.

Meanwhile, place the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 2 minutes before lowering to a simmer. Continue cooking on low until the pork is ready to serve.


When the pork is ready, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Drizzle some of the sauce over the pork, and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Tart

Tart low-res_300pxMakes one 11-inch tart
Serves 12 (2-inch slices)
Total carbohydrates per serving 22.4g

This recipe proves that healthy recipes can be decadent and delicious. Everyone needs a rich and luscious chocolate dessert recipe in their repertoire, and this diabetes-friendly one should hold that place for you. You will be amazed at how much chocolaty goodness you will get in exchange for only 154 calories and 22.4g of carbohydrates—and so will everybody else! Coffee production is as important to Brazil as chocolate production is to Venezuela. This dessert marries both.

Prep time: 20 minutes (+2 hours chilling time after baking)
Cook time: 25 minutes


5 ounces dark chocolate (60%) chips (about 3⁄4 cup)
1⁄2 cup almonds
2 eggs, separated
1 egg white
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso
1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the crust

Melt the chocolate in the microwave by heating in 30-second intervals and stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Set aside.

Grind the almonds finely in a food processor and stir into the melted chocolate. Stir until fully incorporated. Spread the chocolate almond mixture evenly on the bottom of a tart or pie pan. Set aside.

Prepare the filling

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, instant espresso, and cocoa. The mixture will be dry and crumbly. Set aside.

Beat all 3 egg whites until you reach soft peaks. Stir a quarter of the whipped egg whites into the crumbly chocolate mixture. The mixture will absorb the egg white and become moist. Continue by folding in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter over the chocolate almond crust and smooth it out evenly.

Bake and cool

Bake the tart for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating the tart for a couple of hours or until completely chilled (this will help firm up the tart).

Serve and enjoy!

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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