The dictionary defines a sugar plum as a small round or oval piece of sugary candy. But for most of us, visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads conjures up a far vaster array of sweet holiday treats. From cakes, cookies, and pies, to sugar-laced seasonal beverages, and yes, plenty of sweet confections, the holiday season is arguably the sweetest time of the year – and the most difficult when one is trying to keep carbohydrates and calories in check.
For those with diabetes the holiday season is especially challenging, as carbohydrates, including sugar, have the greatest impact on blood glucose levels. The good news is that sugar is not completely off limits for those with diabetes. Studies have found that blood sugar rises no higher in response to sugar than it does many other carbohydrate-rich foods such as white bread, rice, or potatoes. Thus, the current dietary recommendations set forth by the American Diabetes Association state that it is the total amount of carbohydrates consumed that is most important, not the type.
While this means those with diabetes can eliminate other carbohydrates to allow for an occasional yuletide treat, sugary holiday goodies can also easily break any carbohydrate budget. Fortunately, just a few simple adjustments can keep visions of sugar plums from becoming dietary nightmares.
- Think before you drink. Switch out sugary coffee, tea, and hot chocolate drinks along with eggnog and sweet cocktails for those with less sugar. Sugar-free syrups such as gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and peppermint are available to create homemade coffee drinks and Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride and Candy Cane Lane are just two of the many holiday hot tea blends to be found. At holiday parties, nix the ‘nog and sweet cocktails in favor of a glass of wine, cocktails made without sugar, or sparkling water. (Check with your physician regarding alcohol consumption. One to two drinks is usually acceptable with a meal for those with diabetes.)
- Keep sugar-free gum or mints on hand to help avoid temptations. Sweet peppermint gum is a great holiday choice.
- Swap out sugar-laden fudge for a piece or two of quality dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and is relatively low in added sugar. Two dark chocolate squares or five dark chocolate kisses is equivalent to one carbohydrate exchange. When buying sugar-free chocolates be sure to read the label for the carbohydrate content. Subtract one-half of the grams of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrate to determine the net carbs. Limit consumption of sugar-free candies to avoid gastric distress.
- When baking reduce the amount of sugar called for by 25%, switch to a sugar substitute baking blend (such as Splenda Sugar Blend for baking), or look for recipes that have been formulated with no-calorie sugar substitutes to further reduce carbohydrates.
Chocolate Peppermint Meringue Cookies
Studded with both chocolate and peppermint, these meringues are the stuff sugar plum dreams are made of. Better yet, because meringue cookies do not require flour, they are lower in carbohydrates than most cookies. (Do not eliminate the sugar entirely as the cookies will not dry out properly).
3 large egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons Splenda Sugar for Baking or 6 tablespoons EACH Splenda granulated and granulated sugar
6 tablespoons mini-chocolate chips
3 tablespoons crushed sugar-free peppermint candies (about 6)
1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
2. Line a cookie sheet with either parchment or foil.
3. Place egg whites in a grease free bowl. Add cream of tartar and beat until frothy. Slowly beat in Splenda Sugar for Baking or Splenda granular and sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until egg whites are stiff. Fold in chocolate chips and peppermint with a spatula or spoon.
4. Drop the cookie mixture using a tablespoon onto cookie sheet, lifting the spoon to create rounded mounds. Do not spread batter.
5. Place in oven and bake one hour or until dry to touch and easy to remove from pan.
Serves 24 (1 cookie)
Calories 30; Fat 1 gram (0 saturated); Carbohydrate 6 grams (sugar 8 grams); Fiber 0 grams; Protein 1 gram; Sodium 30 milligrams
Diabetic Exchange = 1/2 Other Carbohydrate
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