Not Sacrificing the Joy of Sweets, Nor Health

June 11, 2010 in Diabetes Management, Diabetic Menu Item, Psychology of Food by Joyce Bunderson

The American Heart Association is taking its red heart and checkmark symbol (see below) off all desserts. There are five desserts still carrying the symbol; but they won’t be allowed to renew their certification. It’s all part of the heart association’s fight against sugar. I certainly support their effort to reduce sugar, but then again, I recognize the desire for sweet treats. My contention is that we can have health and a sense of indulgence in a dessert. How can we do it?

Today is Vic’s (Dr. Grandpa’s) birthday; about 7 years ago he was diagnosed with diabetes. He immediately upon diagnosis made some big changes by increasing his exercise program, reducing simple carbohydrate intake (white flour, sugar, juice and sweet drinks) and by eating lots more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The result? His blood sugar returned to normal within 3 months after he changed his behaviors, and he went off his Metformin within 5 months. It would seem to me, that if I fixed him a big sugar-laden birthday cake and ice cream dessert, it would be like presenting this diabetic poison to him while saying: “Let’s revel in self-indulgence today, let’s just not think about your health.” But there is another message I can send “Let’s revel in healthy indulgence using a delightful variation of the sweets you love so much”.

Because so many of us have lived in a culture that includes the enjoyment of desserts, I think that it would be a shame not to enjoy them from time to time. In our home, we don’t normally have desserts, but we (especially Vic) like sweet foods. The way that we have accomplished the enjoyment of sweets and kept Vic in the ‘no longer a diabetic’ category is to use an all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that I developed several years ago – Dr. Grandma’s Delight. Unlike some artificial sweeteners, it works great in baking that birthday cake!  It also works well in homemade ice cream. We want Vic to have many, many more birthdays.  Staying away from simple calorie-laden sugars helps with that goal. But I don’t want him to feel deprived. To this end, he gets it in more than desserts.  It is Delight that sweetens the pancakes and muffins he eats each week, not just his desserts.  And in any other meals that need added sweeteners, he almost always can count on the sweetness coming from Delight. We do not rule out sugar, especially if we need to caramelize nuts or some other goodie – but that is fairly rare.  When eating out it is hard to avoid sugar (but we do pretty well).  But at home, we fall waaay under the American Heart Association guidelines for keeping sugar intake low.

I’ve almost finished reading “Life and Death in Shanghai” by Nien Cheng; it’s a book about the Cultural Revolution in China. One of the passages tells of a time when Mao banned flowers and trees with blossoms – only apple blossoms (apples) and sunflowers (oil seeds) were tolerated because of their utilitarian benefits. Being a gardener and one who appreciates the beauty of Earth, I could scarcely imagine chopping down the trees that did not produce fruit, and shrubs and flowers that only produced beauty. It would be somewhat the same to lose the joy of eating sweets - a heartrending loss.

I like these two quotes about the enjoyment of eating:

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.” Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

"If a man be sensible and one fine morning, while he is lying in bed, count at the tips of his fingers how many things in this life truly will give him enjoyment, invariably he will find food is the first one." Lin Yutang (1895-1976)

Food is not only nutrition; it’s one of life’s joys. I truly believe in our company motto, “Good Health Can Be Yummy.” Thank goodness for the bounty, beauty and flavors of good food. We shall celebrate Vic’s life with some sweetness and Dr. Grandma will give the sweet foods a red heart with a check mark.

The Heart Association's symbol.

The Heart Association's symbol.

Naturally sweet fruit to top a 'birthday breakfast.'

Naturally sweet fruit to top a 'birthday breakfast.'

Non fat Greek Yogurt sweetened with Dr. Grandma's Delight.

Nonfat Greek Yogurt sweetened with Dr. Grandma's Delight.

Dr. Grandpa's birthday breakfast - it would be a great July 4th breakfast too.

Dr. Grandpa's birthday breakfast - it would be a great July 4th breakfast too.