A Note On Sweet Valentine Eating; Even With Diabetes

by Libby Quigley, RD

If you have been diagnosed as having or at-risk for diabetes, it may be hard to believe that the words “diabetes” and “sweets” can go together, but they can.

Part of what makes it hard is that you have been exposed to years of “eat me” messages from the mass media. These messages have urged you to rely on, even prefer, processed, often highly sweetened, foods. And that means you are likely to have developed eating habits that are hard to break. Add in buffets, parties and dinners, and it can be difficult to control your sugar levels.

But don’t despair! There are ways to still enjoy dining – including the sweets – especially for special occasions like Valentine’s Day. As a registered dietitian, I have found that these quick tips can help people indulge a sweet tooth while still eating healthfully:

Plan Your Meals for the Week
Don’t just obsess on one day or meal. Plan a menu showing what you will be eating for the three days before and after a special day or event. When you are at a party, focus on family and friends more than the food. When choosing foods to eat, choose foods that you really like and keep portions small. Don’t waste calories on foods that are important to you or that you can eat any day of the year.

Include foods in your menu that will help satisfy your sweet tooth. You may even try some that have been prepared with a sugar substitute.(Note: I work with an all-natural sugar alternative that can be used in all types of cooking, hot and cold, without spiking glycemic levels. It’s called Valta™ SugarBlend.)

Redo the family favorites
Substitute a healthier ingredient that won’t affect taste. For example, make a relish or cookies with a sugar alternative. If you’re going to someone else’s home for a meal, volunteer to make your favorite, so you can prepare the dish in a way that makes it healthful for you—and others—to eat.

Watch serving sizes
Make your choices count. You could enjoy just one medium slice of apple pie (equaling about 63 carbs) OR get the same number of carbs in 1/2 cup of stuffing + 1/2 cup of green beans + 1/2 cup mashed potatoes, a few slices of turkey, some gravy, and salad with a little dressing.

Don’t skip meals
Your body needs to be fortified regularly. You may be tempted to “save up” calories to use for dessert by skipping a meal, but that is not a good idea – especially for those with diabetes. “Starving” can cause your blood sugar to drop dangerously, a condition called “hyperglycemia”. So make sure you eat a healthy breakfast. It is also a good idea to carry a between-meal snack—especially if you are traveling—in case you need a boost before meal-time.

Don’t forget water
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Plain old H2O is the best for staying hydrated and cleansing your system. The Mayo Clinic recommends that men aim for about thirteen 8-oz glasses, for women about 9. Check with your doctor, though, just in case there is a reason for you to modify your intake.

And beyond water…
Try changing to club soda and naturally flavored sparkling waters. They have no sugar, are low in carbohydrates and do not spike sugar levels. In coffee, use low-fat milk instead of flavored creamers.

As far as toasting, if you are going to drink something alcoholic, always do it with food, never on an empty stomach. The American Diabetes Association has some specific guidelines as to what and how much men and women can generally indulge in when it comes to alcoholic beverages.

Start with guidelines like these, and then get more individualized guidelines if you have medical conditions, such as diabetes. Your dietitian or diabetes educator can be wonderful resources.

The bottom line
Healthful eating can allow you to appreciate the occasion without worrying over food.
Elizabeth Quigley R.D. is a registered dietitian and nutrition instructor based in Palm Desert, California. She is a consultant to Valta™ SugarBlend, the first all-natural sugar alternative. Now available at Dierbergs.