Including sweets in your meal planning

Sweets count as carbohydrates in your meal plan. The trick is substituting small portions of sweets for other carbohydrates — such as bread, tortillas, rice, crackers, cereal, fruit, juice, milk, yogurt or potatoes — in your meals. To allow room for sweets as part of a meal, you have two options:

  • Replace some of the carbohydrates in your meal with sweets.
  • Swap a high carb-containing food in your meal for something with fewer carbohydrates and eat the remaining carbohydrates as sweets.

Let’s say your typical dinner is a grilled chicken breast, a medium potato, a slice of whole-grain bread, a vegetable salad and fresh fruit. If you’d like a frosted cupcake after your meal, look for ways to keep the total carbohydrate count in the meal the same. Trade your slice of bread and the fresh fruit for the cupcake or replace the potato with a low-carbohydrate vegetable such as broccoli. Adding the cupcake after this meal keeps the total carbohydrate count the same.

To make sure you’re making even trades, read food labels carefully. Look for the total carbohydrate in each food, which tells you how much carbohydrate is in one serving of the food.

As part of diabetes nutrition, artificial sweeteners can offer the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Artificial sweeteners may help you reduce calories and stick to a healthy meal plan — especially when used instead of sugar in coffee and tea, on cereal or in baked goods. In fact, artificial sweeteners are considered free foods because they contain very few calories and don’t count as a carbohydrate, a fat or any other food in your meal plan.

Examples of artificial sweeteners include: Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunett), Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low), Sucralose (Splenda). Artificial sweeteners don’t necessarily offer a free pass for sweets.

Keep an eye out for calories and carbs. Many products made with artificial sweeteners, such as baked goods and artificially sweetened yogurt or pudding, still contain calories and carbohydrates that can affect your blood sugar level.

Sugar alcohols are not calorie-free. Sugar alcohols, another type of reduced-calorie sweetener, are often used in sugar-free candies, chewing gum and desserts. Check product labels for words such as “isomalt,” “maltitol,” “mannitol,” “sorbitol” and “xylitol.” Sugar-free foods containing sugar alcohols still have calories. Also, in some people, sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea.

Two naturally derived sweeteners, stevia (Truvia, Pure Via) and agave nectar (Wholesome Sweeteners, Madhava) offer another option when it comes to sweetening your food. Keep in mind that the sugar-to-sweetener ratio is different for each product, so you may need to experiment until you find the taste you like. Also, agave nectar isn’t calorie- or carbohydrate-free, so it shouldn’t be considered for weight loss, but it has a lower glycemic index than does sugar, so it won’t affect your glucose level as much.

Eating out at a restaurant

If you have an eating plan for your diabetes this does not mean that you cannot go out to eat. Your meal at a restaurant can be part of your eating plan if you are well aware of what you need. Here you find some suggestions about how to ease the process of going to a restaurant and to stay committed to your eating plan:

Research restaurant menus

When available online check a restaurant’s menu, and ethe nutrition facts if available.

Keep portion sizes in check

Generally speaking you should eat moderately. So try to avoid big portions:Choose the smallest meal size if the restaurant offers options, for example a lunch-sized entree. Share meals with a dining partner. Request a take-home container

Consider avoiding “all you can eat” buffets. They make it difficult to resist and moderate your meal.

Make substitutions

Don’t settle for what comes with your sandwich or meal but customize it according to your needs. For example avoid French fries in favor of grilled vegetables. Do not be afraid to ask.

Watch the extras

Keep in mind that extras, bacon bits, croutons and fried chips, can sabotage diabetes nutrition goals by quickly increasing a meal’s calorie and carbohydrate count.

Even healthier additions — including fat-free salad dressing, barbecue sauce and fat-free mayonnaise — have calories. But you can enjoy small servings of these without adjusting your meal plan. Ask for them on the side to further control how much of them you eat.

Speak with the chef

Food preparation is also something to consider. Avoid breaded and fried food. Instead request that your food be:

  • Broiled
  • Roasted
  • Grilled

Don’t feel like you’re stepping out of line if you request healthier options or substitutions. You’re simply doing what it takes to stay committed to your meal plan.

Watch what you drink

Remember that calories come from drinks as well. So avoid high-calorie drinks. Instead of soda try following: diet soda, water, unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or mineral water. Remember also that alcohol may be highly problematic. If your diabetes is under control and your doctor agrees, an occasional alcoholic drink with a meal is fine. But alcohol is rich in empty calories and can lead to diabetes complications. When choosing alcohol, choose options with fewer calories and carbohydrates such as:

  • Light beer
  • Dry wines

Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man and one drink a day if you’re a woman.

Eat on time

Your meal schedule is important to maintain steady blood sugar levels — especially if you are taking medications or insulin.

If you’re eating out with others, follow these tips: Schedule the gathering at your usual mealtime.To avoid waiting for a table, make a reservation or try to avoid times when the restaurant is busiest.If you can’t avoid eating later than usual, snack on a fruit or starch serving at your usual mealtime.

Save room for dessert

Remember that dessert isn’t necessarily off-limits. Sweets count as carbohydrates in your meal plan. If you’d like dessert, compensate by reducing the amount of other carbohydrates — such as bread, tortillas, rice, milk or potatoes — in your meal.

Remember the ground rules

Whether you’re eating at home or eating out, remember the principles of diabetes nutrition. Eat a variety of healthy foods. Limit the amount of fat and salt in your diet. Keep portion sizes in check. And above all, follow the nutrition guidelines established by your doctor or registered dietitian.