Tips for Making Truly Sweet Thanksgiving Desserts

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If ever there was a holiday that you might look upon with mixed feelings, it’s Thanksgiving.  One the one hand, it can be a truly wonderful holiday, with lots of family and friends. But, let’s face it,  if you have diabetes there’s nothing that can so thoroughly ruin your glucose control as a table crammed with all that fabulous food—especially holiday desserts!

So, it’s important to approach your Thanksgiving meal with a positive attitude–and to play a role in your food options. Your diabetes diagnosis does not mean that you can’t enjoy some of your favorite holiday foods and successfully manage your blood sugar at the same time.  Start by checking out our Tips for Enjoying Thanksgiving with Diabetes (

And while you can’t eat an entire pecan pie, you can healthy and delicious Thanksgiving dessert alternatives.

The best place to start, if you can, is in the kitchen. Using some of the popular sugar alternatives are a great way to make small changes to your Thanksgiving dessert recipes that can make significant impacts on managing your blood sugar.

  • Aspartame (Equal): 200 times as sweet as sugar.  No effect on blood glucose levels.
  • Sucralose (Splenda): 600 times as sweet as sugar.  Contains about 1 g carb per packet or teaspoon and could affect blood glucose levels if you consume a large quantity at one time.
  • Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low): 300-500 times as sweet as sugar.  No effect on blood glucose levels.
  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett or Sweet One): 300 times as sweet as sugar.  No effect on blood glucose levels.

Artificial sweeteners each have an acceptable daily intake (ADI). This can help a person determine how much of each sweetener to consume. One of Joslin’s nutrition diabetes educators, Gillian Arathuzik, R.N., L.D.N., C.D.E. recommends using either Aspartame or Sucralose depending on a person’s taste preference, but still using each in moderation.

Happy holidays and we hope everyone has plenty to be thankful for this year.

Photo Credit: AlyssssylA

4 Responses to Tips for Making Truly Sweet Thanksgiving Desserts

  1. elaine ludewig says:

    What do you do when you are allergic to all of the above sweeteners?? I get terrible headaches and sick to my stomach when I use any of them.Normally I just use regular sugar and then only have a small slice or small amount of dessert.Any other suggestions welcomed.

    • Gillian Arathuzik, RD, CDE says:

      I am one of the dietitians and diabetes educators who works at the Joslin Diabetes Center and I wanted to respond to your question about what to do if you don’t tolerate artificial sweeteners. Interestingly, people with diabetes never need to consume products with artificial sweeteners if they don’t want to. Sugar itself only has 4gm carbohydrate per teaspoon and so if it is included in your carbohydrate allotment at a meal or snack, then it is not going to be harmful. The key to managing blood glucose levels is managing the amount of carbohydrate you take in not specifically the amount of sugar. You are doing well already with your plan to eat desserts that are made with sugar but only having very small quantities. If you are curious about your personal carbohydrate meal and snack goals, I would recommend you see a dietitan and/or diabetes educator for further help.

  2. Doris J Dickson says:

    I don’t use sweeteners… gave them up years ago.

    My technique is to eat foods that slow down rapidly digesting carbs first. Then, when you eat that small piece of piece, skyrocketing is less likely. With big meals, that means flip flopping insulin the way you’d normally think. In other words – I know that a big meal with alot of protein and fat will take longer to digest.

    That means I need some insulin up front (but not a large dose) but that big meal is likely to take a GOOD 8-12 hours to digest. That also means 1) checking blood sugar hourly and 2) taking small follow-up injections of insulin over the entire period until I can see the blood sugar curve has retreated.

    If you’re not taking insulin, you’re better off eating smaller portions – still protein first – and then walking it off. Then have another portion. Checking blood sugar VERY frequently will give you an idea of how you’re doing.

    There is no easy answer. It’s a balancing act and quite a bit of guessing since we can’t see inside our stomachs. And most importantly – test, retest and test again. Two or three times just isn’t going to cut it. And as I said, if you take insulin – SMALL doses throughout the day.

  3. Very nice post. I want to ask, if I use aspartame as my artificial sugar, how much the ideal dose to eat?

    Thanks for your post. Love it so much!

    You can visit my website about easy desserts at anytime. 🙂

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