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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.

Orange Cranberry Sauce Mojito Recipe for Thanksgiving Eve

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Orange Cranberry Sauce Mojito Recipe

It’s Thanksgiving Eve! What does that mean? Well for some of us, it’s one of the biggest party nights of the year. For those of us with a two year old at home and a second baby due to make his arrival in T-minus 5 days like me, it means staying home, wearing stretchy pants and watching a made-for-TV movie. Sure I can’t sip on a cocktail this Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want you to have a chance to celebrate! It is Thanksgiving after all and I am so thankful for each one of you that takes the time to read my blog, comment, and let me know how you are doing with your health goals throughout the year.


So I wanted to celebrate you. I enlisted my intern Kelly for the very tough job of taste testing a variety of holiday cocktail recipes to find the perfect refreshing, yet not too high calorie, mixture that your taste buds will love. I know it was a dirty job, but someone had to do it, right Kelly? After painstakingly sipping on cocktails over the course of this past week, I think she came up with an amazing combination- The Orange-Cranberry Sauce Mojito. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it tastes like Thanksgiving in a glass (so I am told- I have to wait a few more days before I can test it out for myself).

Orange Cranberry Sauce Mojito

Whether you are celebrating this Thanksgiving with family and friends or relaxing on your own, why not sip on this mojito while reflecting back on all you are thankful for this past year. What are your cocktails to enjoy as you celebrate the holiday season?

Orange-Cranberry Sauce Mojito
Servings: 2
  • 4 tbsp whole cranberry sauce
  • 8-10 each mint leaves
  • 4 each orange slices
  • 3 ounce rum
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 4 ounce sparkling club soda
  • ice
  1. Divide ingredients among two glasses. Put cranberry sauce, mint leaves, and orange slices at the bottom. Muddle ingredients and mix well.

  2.  Add rum and mix. Add ice, orange juice and club soda. Gently stir.

  3. Garnish with orange and mint and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per serving: 178 calories, 16 g CHO, 1 g PRO, 16 g sugar 

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.

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Smoothie

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Cinnamon Sweet Potato Smoothie


Now that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler, I have been in the mood for some fall comfort foods. A fan favorite in my house is certainly the sweet potato. My son and husband have yet to meet a spud they didn’t love 😉 As much as I also love sweet potatoes, I find myself lacking creativity when preparing them. I pretty much either bake them or mash them. Occasionally when I am very motivated I will also cook up some sweet potato pancakes as well, but baking and mashing are my go-to choices. Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweet potato no matter how it is prepared, but I have wanted to get a little more creative.


For some reason, this entire pregnancy, I have just wanted smoothies everyday. It doesn’t matter how cold it gets in the morning, a smoothie still sounds amazing right now. So why not put two of the things I love together? Enter the Sweet Potato Smoothie! I feel like this time of year pumpkin gets so much love, yet no one really talks about the poor little sweet potato as much. So I’m out to change that. Get ready to treat your taste buds. This creamy, filling smoothie packs in all the flavors of fall and is sure to be a hit with your whole family. It is definitely a hit over here!

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Smoothie
Servings: 1
  • 1/4 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 each banana frozen or add ice with banana
  • 3/4 cup water
  1. Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water for smoother consistency. Top with chopped pistachios or your favorite toppings! 

Recipe Notes

Nutrition per serving: 230 Calories, 55g CHO, 0g Fat, 9g Protein, 70mg sodium, 28g sugar 








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