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Low-Sugar Holiday Sweets

Posted 11/29/2017 by UHBlog

Don’t let the sugar blues get you down during the holidays. We can help.

Tarts topped with berries

There is no way to sugarcoat it: If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, the holidays can be a minefield. From office parties and family gatherings to New Year’s buffets, rich, heavy, delicious foods – lots of it – abound.

But there are ways to meet this challenge head on, without depriving yourself of holiday favorites or slipping into bad eating habits.

“During the extended holiday season, balance and moderation are key to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Jamieson-Petonic. “If you want holiday sweets, enjoy them after eating a full meal that contains protein and fat. Count the carbohydrates in the sweets as part of your holiday meal.”

When Jamieson-Petonic meets with clients she gives them a carbohydrate budget indicating how many grams to consume at each meal.

“As long as they stay within this budget, they're usually fine,” she says. “When we talk about diabetes or pre-diabetes, we do not discuss sugar. We discuss the role of total carbohydrates on blood sugar levels.”

One easy way to balance your carbohydrate budget at holiday time is by adding lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to your plate and to bring a healthy dish or two to a gathering to substitute for a not-so-healthy option. For example, you can skip the mayonnaise-rich artichoke dip if you bring a plate of cut-up veggies and a yogurt dip, a platter of whole wheat crackers and a salsa bowl or a festive tray of cut-up apples or pears and low-fat cheese.

Since protein and fat have little impact on blood sugar, Jamieson-Petonic also recommends these food choices for holiday snacking:

  • Natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread or whole wheat crackers
  • Low-fat cheese or cottage cheese
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Low carbohydrate yogurt (less than 15 grams per serving)
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk

During the holidays when dinnertime is sometimes delayed, Jamieson-Petonic recommends eating a small snack at your usual mealtime. Then, eat a little less when dinner is served.

“Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast or go to a party ravenous,” she says. “You will be so hungry you will grab everything in sight and make poor food choices, which you will soon regret.”

As to holiday toasts and open bars, enjoy alcohol in moderation.

“Alcohol is not digested like food and quickly enters the bloodstream,” she says. “This can cause blood sugar levels to spike or crash, which is not recommended for people with pre-diabetes or diabetes. The goal is to consume a meal with carbohydrate and protein (in order) to provide a gradual rise and decrease in blood sugar levels for consistent energy levels. I suggest having your alcoholic beverage with a meal, when proteins and fats can buffer your blood sugar levels.”

Be sure to get holiday exercise – either by walking away from the table after a meal or doing things to keep your activity levels high during this time of year.

“Exercise can help keep your sugar levels stable and manage stress, too,” Jamieson-Petonic says. “Get moving with family and friends by taking a walk after a holiday meal or by ramping up your regular exercise program. The holidays are only great if you're in good health to enjoy them.”

For a treat everyone can enjoy, try one of Jamieson-Petonic’s favorite cocoa recipes or a special dessert that uses less sugar.

Date Spiced Cocoa

Serves 2

  • 1 1/2 cups favorite milk or milk alternative
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch cayenne
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. In blender, add all ingredients and puree until smooth.
  2. Heat mixture on stove or in microwave, until almost boiling.
  3. Pour into mugs and enjoy.

Adapted from Dawn Jackson Blattner blog

Frozen Espresso Peppermint Bombe

Serves 10

  • 4 cups light chocolate ice cream, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 3/4 cup finely crushed chocolate graham crackers (10 squares)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 8-ounce container frozen light whipped dessert topping
  • 4 small peppermint or sugar-free peppermint hard candies, crushed
  • Coarsely ground coffee beans (optional)
  1. Line a 1-quart bowl with plastic wrap. Freeze 30 minutes.
  2. For filling: In a bowl, stir together softened ice cream and peppermint extract until just combined. Spoon into prepared bowl, packing firmly. Cover and freeze four hours or until firm.
  3. In bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until evenly coated. Sprinkle over ice cream; press to pack very firmly. Cover and freeze 24 hours or until firm.
  4. In a bowl dissolve espresso powder in water. Gently fold espresso into whipped topping until just combined. Be careful not to over mix; there may be some streaks left. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  5. Unmold bombe onto a serving platter, loosening with a thin spatula, if necessary. Remove and discard plastic wrap.
  6. Spoon espresso mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Quickly pipe. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints and, if desired, ground coffee beans. Return to freezer at least 1 hour before serving.

Source: Diabetic Living

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, M.Ed., RDN, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Jamieson-Petonic or any other health care professional online.

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