Desserts for diabetics: Just in time for the holidays

Clarion Ledger 11:26 PM, Nov. 14, 2011, Written by Shanderia K. Posey

Dr. Wayne Woo, endocrinologist and diabetes educator of the Diabetes and Endocrine Institute in Flowood, creates diabetic-friendly desserts for his patients such as this oreo chocolate fantasy cheesecake. He serves the desserts during nutrition classes at his clinic throughout the year / to The Clarion-Ledger

Controlling blood sugar during the holidays may be a feat for some diabetics, but it doesn’t have to take extraordinary efforts.

Dr. Wayne Woo, an endocrinologist and certified diabetes educator, says some diabetics deal with the holidays all wrong.

Dr. Wayne Woo

“They think it’s a depressing time or ignore it. They think, ‘I can’t eat anything,’ ” says Woo. “We want to teach that’s a myth.”

Throughout the year, Woo holds nutrition classes for his patients teaching and serving them alternatives to high-carb, high-fat and sugary foods from recipes he, along with his wife, Pat, have created.

Just in time for the holidays, a class titled “Celebrate the Holidays with Joe” will be held at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at Woo’s clinic – Diabetes and Endocrine Institute in Flowood – and is open to the public. During the event, Woo will serve food and teach participants how to prepare meals healthier.

At past holiday events, Woo has given attendees tips on cooking turkey, serving more vegetables instead of starchy foods and replacing holiday classics such as pumpkin pie and pecan pie with his own recipes for pecan bourbon cheesecake and pecan pound cake.

“The bourbon brings out the flavor,” in the cheesecake, he says.

His diabetic-friendly desserts may include Splenda, low-fat cream cheese and less butter. Instead of a scoop of ice cream on top, he advises patients to try nonfat Cool Whip topping.

Along with alternatives to food, Woo says patients should exercise during the holidays and check blood sugar constantly.

When it comes to holiday parties and other gatherings, always plan ahead. He suggests calling the hostess to find out what’s on the menu so you know what you’re dealing with before you arrive. Once at a party, limit portion sizes, avoid drinks that are often loaded with sugar and say, “No” or “I’m watching my weight” when offered things you know you shouldn’t have.

Having a snack before a meal will help prevent overindulging on a heavy, holiday meal, too. He suggests keeping meals balanced with the right amount of protein and vegetables and limit starchy rice, pasta and butterbeans, for example.

If you just have to have a classic starchy food such as cornbread dressing, seek an alternative. Pat Woo revamped the dish using tofu instead of bread and folks came back for seconds during a class.

Being creative is what Beth Biedenharn of Madison does for her daughter Gracie, 7, who has type 1 diabetes.

They take a tiny apple, peel it, and sprinkle it with cinnamon and Truvia for a sweet treat.

“She loves that,” Biedenharn says.

Gracie was diagnosed in 2008, and her mom admits her new diet has been an adjustment.

“I feel like I had a crash course three years ago. You totally think different about what you’re eating. What’s nice is so much is available now with artificial sweeteners.”

As for the holidays, Biedenharn may tweak some dishes, but they will have the typical holiday menu. The whole family concentrates on eating proper portion size.

“My child loves turkey and vegetables. She has everything just like everybody else. It is actually healthier for everyone.”

Biedenharn says the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi is a great resource for how to eat healthy. Mississippi ranks second in the nation with diabetes prevalence.

The advice diabetes educators give for navigating tempting meals during the holidays is advice that can help the masses.

But even with all the information, Woo emphasizes the holidays aren’t really about food.

“I want patients to stay positive and focus on their health. This is a time for family and fun. You can stay on track.”