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.