The holidays are a time for being thankful. Although I am thankful for many things, this year I am especially thankful for pumpkin pie. I know this may sound out of place, but I regularly celebrate my health, my family, my career and everything really important in my life. Now I’m ready to be thankful for the delicious desserts of the season. Let me explain.
Several decades ago, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eight, right after Halloween. So, every year in early November, on the anniversary of this life altering occasion, I take time to reflect upon my life – managing diabetes every day – and all I have to be thankful for. First and foremost, I am always thankful for my health after all these years and for the support I’ve received from family, friends and colleagues. I’m thankful for advancements in diabetes management technology – insulin quality and blood glucose monitoring, for example. And, I’m thankful for the evolution of diabetes self-management – the lifestyle that has preserved my personal health and given me an inspired career helping others with diabetes. By the time Thanksgiving Day arrives, I’ve been focused on this thankfulness for weeks. This brings me back to pumpkin pie.
You see, one non-negotiable message I received as an eight-year-old hospitalized with type 1 diabetes in the late 1960’s was, “no more sugar” and therefore “no more sweets.” This meant no more pumpkin pie during the holidays. That was the status of the “diabetic diet” at the time, and it seemed extremely unfair. There was a low calorie sweetening option for people with diabetes called sucaryl (cyclamate), but it was only available at the local pharmacy and was not particularly “user friendly” for home use. This was eventually taken off the market completely in 1970.
Managing Diabetes Game-Changer: Sucralose for Sweetness
As time passed (without sweets), the view of carbohydrates for people with diabetes moved slightly away from prohibition toward moderation. It was, and still is, considered “responsible” to have an occasional sweet treat as part of a healthy plan for managing diabetes. The biggest game changer though, in my opinion, came in the late 1990’s when the U.S. FDA approved sucralose, SPLENDA®, as a low calorie sweetener. Sucralose is derived from sugar, but is 600 times sweeter than sugar, and can be a part of a healthy meal plan for people with or without diabetes. The safety of sucralose is well documented in over 100 studies from the past 20 years and supported by independent health authorities including The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Diabetes Association (use of sucralose is included in the 2017 Standard of Medical Care in Diabetes), American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, and Food Safety Regulatory Agencies from around the world (such as the FDA, Health Canada, European Food Safety Authority, Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare, and Food Safety of Australia/New Zealand). Most importantly to me personally and professionally, SPLENDA® doesn’t get metabolized as a carbohydrate and is quickly excreted, so it won’t raise blood sugar readings.
I use SPLENDA® Sweeteners in my morning oatmeal all year round. SPLENDA® Sweeteners are heat stable, so we can use it for cooking and baking. When I’m looking for dishes to serve during the holidays or at parties, I love using SPLENDA® Sweet Swaps to find taste-tested recipes that everyone will enjoy. For the fall, one of my favorite recipes is Sweet Potato Orange Cups, and my southern husband loves Sweet Potato Casserole and Apple and Squash Bake. Above all else, my go-to during the holidays is the “Happy Holiday” Pumpkin Pie which I am extremely thankful for.
This blog post is sponsored by SPLENDA® Brand but all opinions are my own.
Toby Smithson is a registered and licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Wellness. She serves in leadership roles for the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and is on the advisory board of Diabetic Living magazine. Toby is a former national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Smithson is the principal author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, October 2013), and writes regularly for U.S. News and World Report and Type2Diabetes.com. Toby often serves as an expert for print and online resources including local and national newspapers and magazines like USA Today, WebMD, Today’s Dietitian, Diabetes Forecast, Diabetic Living Magazine, Real Simple Magazine, Men’s Health, Dr. Oz Magazine, Prevention Magazine, and Every Day Health.com.
Toby has successfully managed her own type 1 diabetes since the age of 8, and in 2010 founded DiabetesEveryDay.com as an online technical and lifestyle support resource for people with diabetes, offering constant access to her unique professional and personal diabetes management insights, primarily through original video segments.
In 2009, she was awarded the Illinois Dietetic Association’s Outstanding Dietitian award and is past president of the Illinois Dietetic Association.