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How to Help Manage the Holiday Sweet Tooth

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On average, Americans consume about 20 teaspoons of added caloric sweeteners daily.1 This is two to three times the recommendation from the American Heart Association, which suggests that most women consume no more than 100 calories of added sugar (about 6 teaspoons) per day, and most men consume no more than 150 calories of added sugar (about 9 teaspoons) per day.2 Increased intake of added sugars can have a negative impact on health, including decreasing HDL-cholesterol levels and elevating triglyceride levels.3

Reducing your intake of added sugars can be a struggle, especially during the holidays if you find yourself constantly surrounded by sweet temptations. However, food cravings themselves may be brought on by the meal choices you make. One study compared brain activity following consumption of a high glycemic index meal, such as a meal rich in added sugars and refined grains, to consumption of a low glycemic index meal. Eating a high glycemic index meal resulted in lower blood glucose and increased hunger, and stimulated the regions of the brain associated with reward and cravings in the late postprandial period, which could impact food choices at the next meal.4This finding points to the possible value of reducing the glycemic load of meals in an effort to help increase satiety and reduce overall cravings. The good news is, working to lower the glycemic index through simple substitutions, such as swapping brown rice for white rice, may be a tool to help manage the spikes and dips in blood sugar that may occur from more refined, starchy carbs.

Researchers are also exploring the role of added sugars in leptin resistance.5Leptin, a hormone released by fat cells, helps signal the brain to decrease food consumption and increase energy expenditure. Leptin resistance has been referred to as the hallmark of obesity.6 A recent study found a significant correlation between plasma leptin levels and carbohydrate cravings.7 This may be especially valuable information for those with diabetes or prediabetes, as insulin resistance has been associated with leptin resistance.8

To help curb cravings this holiday season, one strategy may be to reduce the overall glycemic load of their meal choices, while simultaneously working to reduce the intake of added sugars. This combination may help fight cravings, as well as manage hunger. As mentioned earlier, certain meal swaps may help reduce the glycemic load and limit added sugars without sacrificing flavor. For instance, find whole grain alternatives to common refined grain choices such as whole grain pasta over white pasta or steal cut oats over instant oatmeal. Added sugars can also be reduced by making simple swaps, such as seltzer for soda, 100% juice for fruit juice, and unsweetened teas for sweetened varieties. 

Making a few easy swaps to meals and snacks may help boost satiety, rather than stimulate cravings. When cravings are diminished, the goals of improved blood glucose management and reduced body weight may become easier to work towards, and our overall health may be enhanced.


1. American Heart Association. 19 May 2014. Frequently Asked Questions About Sugar. Retrieved from

2. Johnson R, et al. Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health. A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. 2009. Accessed November 10, 2015.

3. Welsh JA, et al. Caloric sweetener consumption and dyslipidemia among US adults. JAMA. 2010 Apr 21;303(15):1490-7. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.449.

4. Lennerz BS, et al. Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep;98(3):641-7. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.064113.

5. Shapiro A, et al. Prevention and reversal of diet-induced leptin resistance with a sugar-free diet despite high fat content. Br J Nutr. 2011 Aug;106(3):390-7. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100033X. Full text accessible at

6. Lustig RH, et al. Obesity, leptin resistance, and the effects of insulin reduction. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Oct;28(10):1344-8.

7. Licinio J, Negrao AB, Wong ML. Plasma leptin concentrations are highly correlated to emotional states throughout the day. Transl Psychiatry. 2014 Oct 28;4:e475. doi: 10.1038/tp.2014.115.

8. Fischer S, et al. Insulin-resistant patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have higher serum leptin levels independently of body fat mass. Acta Diabetol. 2002 Sep;39(3):105-10.

Successfully Managing Diabetes Throughout the Holiday Season

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Truvia Image

It’s that time of year again. The holiday season is upon us, and with all of the festivities can come the seemingly inescapable holiday weight gain, or so you may think. Although a research study found perceived weight gain throughout the holidays to average around 3.5 pounds, in reality, actual weight gain during the holiday season averaged just under 1 pound.² However, the same study found that individuals who started the holiday season at an overweight or obese Body Mass Index (BMI) gained more weight than those with a BMI of <25.³ This is concerning for people who suffer from type 2 diabetes, as excess weight is thought to be a significant contributor to insulin resistance.⁴


Although the holidays might seem like the time of year when dietary moderation is the last thing on anyone’s mind, it can actually be a great time to focus on simple nutrition strategies that can help set you up for a lifetime of well-managed blood glucose levels. By identifying factors that may lead to holiday weight gain, and using simple tips, you can enjoy a healthier holiday season without deprivation or possible negative health consequences.


Mindfulness Is Key

One factor in holiday weight gain may be the abundance of food offerings within arm’s reach anywhere you turn. From candy dishes at work to cookie platters at home, the temptation can be hard to resist. For individuals with diabetes, overindulging in holiday classics can be especially damaging. Mindless eating of carbohydrate-rich foods may lead to increases in blood glucose levels, which may pose health problems in the short and long-term. To help prevent dangerous spikes in blood glucose, we need to focus on minimizing temptation and practice mindful eating strategies. Research shows that by simply placing goodies in opaque colored containers instead of transparent glassware, consumption can be decreased significantly.⁵ Research also shows that daily food journaling can be an effective strategy to increase awareness of food consumption and help support weight loss efforts.⁶


Encourage Simple Recipe Swaps

Many holiday dishes are packed full of refined carbohydrates and added sugars, which can pose great challenges when it comes to effective blood glucose control. While you may be aware of these consequences, you may find it hard to alter a traditional holiday recipe. By choosing ingredient substitutions that improve health while maintaining the taste and texture of the original version, you might just be swayed to tweak Grandma’s apple pie recipe. Try some of the following simple swaps to help holiday favorites have less of an impact on blood glucose levels:


  • When preparing recipes that call for all-purpose flour, a rich source of refined carbohydrates, try substituting one half of the flour for 100% whole-wheat flour. This swap helps to increase the fiber content and may help lower the glycemic load of the recipe.


  • Substitute one ounce of baking chocolate with 3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder to cut 105 calories from the recipe.


Becoming more mindful of food choices and adjusting favorite holiday recipes to reduce the overall caloric value can help you build healthier habits any time of the year!

[1]Boden G, et al. Excessive caloric intake acutely causes oxidative stress, GLUT4 carbonylation, and insulin resistance in healthy men. Sci Transl Med. 2015 Sep 9;7(304):304re7. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac4765.

²Yanovski, JA, et al. A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. N Engl J Med 2000; 342:861-867.

³Yanovski, JA, et al.

⁴NIDDK. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. NIH Publication No. 14-4893. June 2014. Retrieved from

Wansink B1Painter JELee YK. The office candy dish: proximity’s influence on estimated and actual consumption. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 May;30(5):871-5.

⁶Hollis, J. (2008) News release, Kaiser Permanente. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August Vol 35.

Why Juice is NOT Off-Limits for People with Diabetes

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I have partnered with Sunsweet PlumSmart Light and Amaz!n Prune Light to bring this content to you. Although I have been compensated for this post, all opinions are my own.

A well balanced breakfast for diabetes management

If you are like most of my clients, from the day you heard the words “you have diabetes,” you have probably felt like the list of foods and drinks you need to avoid is a mile long. Trying to keep a list of “good foods” and “bad foods” in your head is not only exhausting, but it can also be unnecessary and even unhealthy. To manage diabetes, you need to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet. That means that very few foods or beverages need to be completely off limits. Sure, portion control and moderation are key, but the same can be said about any food that any of us eat, whether we have diabetes or not. Telling yourself you can never have a certain food or drink can backfire. As soon as you tell yourself you can never have something, guess what you want way more than you ever did before? Telling yourself a food or drink is completely off limits causes feelings of deprivation, which lead to cravings, and eventually may even lead to binge eating. As we kick off National Diabetes Month this November, my mission is to show you how you can still eat and drink what you love while successfully managing diabetes.


One big myth I hear from my clients time and time again is that juice is a complete no-no for anyone with diabetes. Most individuals that I meet with who have diabetes think that juice needs to be reserved only for times when blood glucose levels are crashing. But that’s actually not the case. If you love juice, you don’t have to feel like it is completely off limits. Sure, water should always be the go-to beverage for people with diabetes, but small amounts of juice can still be included as part of a healthy diabetes meal plan. The key is knowing how to choose the right juice and the best portion for your own individual health needs.


Not all juice is created equal

Some brands of juice are a better choice for those with diabetes than others. Two brands I like to recommend are PlumSmart Light and Amaz!n Prune Light. I prefer these varieties since they contain fewer calories and sugar compared to full sugar beverages. Less sugar and less carbohydrates per serving means that these juices still provide great flavor without having as large of an impact on blood glucose levels. For instance, per serving Amaz!n Prune Light contains only 100 calories and 8 grams of sugar and is good for helping to regulate digestion. PlumSmart Light provides a good way to get in your daily fiber contains with only 60 calories per serving and 60% less sugar and calories than other leading juice cocktails.

Why juice can be part of your diabetes meal plan

How to Work Juice Into Your Meal Plan

Four Tips for Incorporating Juice Into Your Diet

How to Choose The Right Juice For You

When you are choosing a beverage, it’s not just calories and grams of sugar that matter. Fiber matters too. Fiber helps to slow digestion, allowing you to feel full longer and allowing blood glucose levels to rise and fall more gradually. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can be helpful in managing blood glucose levels as well as cholesterol levels. There is a misconception that fruit juice contains very little to no fiber at all, but that isn’t true for all juices. Both PlumSmart Light and Amaz!n Prune Light contain fiber from the fruit of the plum, which can be a helpful way to boost your overall daily fiber intake. A high fiber diet is essential to good health. Taking in enough fiber each day can help promote weight maintenance and blood sugar control, in addition to digestive health. So how much juice is okay to have when you have diabetes? When choosing a fiber containing juice, such as PlumSmart Light and Amaz!n Prune Light, you can determine the appropriate portion of juice based on your carbohydrate counting goals. If you are allowed 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal, an 8 ounce serving of PlumSmart Light or a 4-ounce serving of Amaz!n Prune Light could be balanced into a meal containing 30 grams of other carbohydrates.


Boosting Hydration with Flavor

Having juice on hand can also be beneficial in helping you to reach your daily hydration goals. If you struggle to drink enough water each day, adding a hint of flavor to your glass may help you to consume more. Staying hydrated is essential when it comes to managing diabetes. Even slight dehydration can cause your energy levels to drop. And as I am sure you know, it is a lot harder to be motivated to eat well, prepare healthy foods, or exercise when you are tired. In addition, dehydration can cause higher blood glucose levels. As blood glucose levels rise, you can become even more dehydrated as your kidneys try to flush out the excess glucose by producing more urine. Making sure to drink at least eight glasses of water per day (64 ounces total) is key to keeping energy levels up and blood glucose levels down.


If you struggle to drink plain water, why not try adding 2-3 tablespoons of PlumSmart Light or Amaz!n Prune Light to an eight-ounce glass of water for a hint of sweetness. This is a great way to boost the flavor of your drink while consuming minimal amounts of carbohydrates. You can even take it a step further and freeze the juice in an ice cube tray. Then simply add 2-3 cubes per glass for a refreshing beverage that will stay chilled and flavored while you drink.


As you celebrate National Diabetes Month this November, remember that following a diabetes meal plan means that you are eating a well-balanced, nutrient rich diet- a diet that everyone could benefit from regardless of if they have diabetes or not. Don’t set yourself up for feelings of frustration and deprivation by focusing on “yes” and “no” foods, but instead, understand how can you balance the foods and drinks you love into a healthy meal plan.

Have Fun with Your Food this Halloween!

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The Halloween countdown is on!

With only a few days left until Halloween, why not get into the spirit by treating yourself and your family with healthy ‘treats’ that are more fun to eat than any candy! It’s amazing how much nutrition you can pack into your family when their food becomes artwork. And don’t worry, I have very limited artistic abilities, so if I can pull this off, you can too! All of these ‘food art’ ideas took less than five minutes to create and were a major hit. Please make sure to share your favorite ways of having fun with your food too 🙂 


Banana Ghost, Cheesy Pumpkin, and Peanut Butter & Apple Witch

Peanut butter & apple witch, cheesy pumpkin, and banana ghost

Peanut butter & apple witch, cheesy pumpkin, and banana ghost

High Protein Ghosts with Antioxidant Packed Pumpkins

Cottage cheese ghost with clementine pumpkin

Cottage cheese ghost with clementine pumpkin

Stuffed Pepper Jack-o-Latern

A carved jack-o-lantern bell pepper stuffed with scrambled eggs

A carved jack-o-lantern bell pepper stuffed with scrambled eggs

Peanut Butter Ghostly Graveyard

A peanut butter 'ghost' sandwich on whole grain bread

A peanut butter ‘ghost’ sandwich on whole grain bread


Yes, it’s a little but of work. But it’s also a lot of fun! And just look at the reaction it gets 🙂

He just loves to be surprised with food art!

He just loves to be surprised with food art!

Not only did he love it, but he ate it too!

Not only did he love it, but he ate it too!


What food art creations do you and your family love?

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