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Holiday Baking with Diabetes

By: Aizya Ali, RDN, LD Megan Huff - Dietetic Intern with Emory University

November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled blood sugar. In Georgia, about 1 million (12.4% of the population) have diabetes with 230,000 undiagnosed. Read more about what diabetes is from our previous blog post. With the holidays approaching, maintaining healthy behaviors can seem impossible. No need to fear, your favorite nutrition experts are here!  We are here to support you whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or are just concerned with managing your blood sugar levels.

Carb Wars, May the Force be with You

Feel like you need to be a Jedi with a lightsaber in tow to fight the temptation to eat carbohydrates? Fortunately, cake isn’t from the Dark Side. Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, meaning they provide a large portion of our daily energy.  Our other macronutrients are protein and fat.  We need all three to properly fuel the body.  However, the carbohydrates have the biggest impact on our blood sugars, so they can feel intimidating to add.

Use the following tips to manage carbohydrate-rich foods with confidence:

  • Emphasize whole grains over refined grains
    • Buckwheat, amaranth, rye, barley, wheat, and millet are all whole grains. Examples of refined grains include white rice and white flour.
    • Whole grains are rich in fiber and nutrients which slows food absorption and will prevent a large spike in your blood sugar.
    • Incorporate for a hearty start to your day! Oats are 100% whole-grain and provide heart-healthy fat.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages added sugars and concentrated sweets
    • Soda, juice, and sweet tea will spike your blood sugar quickly, so you will want to be mindful on how you include these.
    • Consider diluting 100% fruit juice with water or enhancing naturally flavored seltzer water with herbs and fresh fruit. Unsweetened apple cider and citrus teas are just right for sipping by the fireside.
  • Always pair carbohydrates with protein and fat
    • You know what they say…three macronutrients are better than one! A good rule of thumb: pair all three macronutrients for a meal, and for a snack pair a carbohydrate with at least one of the other macronutrients. With this guide in mind, a balanced meal may be herb roasted turkey (protein), cornbread dressing (carbohydrate), and green beans with browned butter almondine (almonds= fat). The protein and fat sources will yield increased satiety, longer-lasting energy, and reduced rise in blood sugar levels.
  • Use the Plate Method to determine proper portions at social gatherings
    • Nervous about how to fix your plate? One-fourth of the plate should be carbohydrates for optimal balance.

Holiday Cheer: Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice!

Holiday parties, potlucks, and cookie swaps are right around the corner. You got 99 problems, but dessert ain’t one! It is okay to enjoy, just be mindful of your portion size and the balance with other food groups throughout the day. Pro tip: If you like baking, you can bring a to events to share with everyone; that way you will not feel left out and you are in control of and know what is in the dessert.

How Do I Make A Dessert Diabetes-Friendly?

  1. Use whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose Wheat flour retains the bran and the germ which contains protein and fiber that help sugar to be absorbed more slowly which is less likely to spike your blood sugar. If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, you can try almond flour, coconut flour, and oat flour.
  2. Consider mixing in vegetables (shredded zucchini or carrots) or legumes (black beans, chickpeas) into brownie, cookie, or sweet bread batters toincrease the fiber in your dessert!
  3. Use extracts (vanilla, almond, peppermint) to enhance flavor and sweetness without adding sugar.
  4. Use dark chocolate, cacao nibs, unsweetened cacao/cocoa powder. These usually have less sugar than milk chocolate. I know…I know…intimidated by the bitterness? Well, life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get. You just might like it! Another option is to try only substituting half of your milk chocolate with dark chocolate to see if you are comfortable with the taste. If you still aren’t impressed, add in heart-healthy nuts or seeds instead of the dark chocolate.
  5. Use spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, anise, and ginger to add complexity to your sweet treats.
  6. Use fruits like mashed ripe banana, unsweetened applesauce, prunes, or dates for increased sweetness without adding sugar. These foods contain fiber and vitamins with the sugar. That’s a pretty sweet deal!



Why did the young boy put sugar under his pillow? So, he would have sweet dreams.

When it comes to holiday baking, sugar is the main ingredient to be mindful of. Let’s talk about sugar alternatives in baking!


Honey is a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. It is 25-50% sweeter than sugar so you can use less (use ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp of honey in place of 1 cup of sugar).


Stevia comes from the stevia plant. It tastes 200x sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and 1-4g of carbs. It can be used to replace about 75% of the sugar in recipes.

Monk Fruit

Monk fruit comes from the monk fruit gourd and is 200x sweeter than sugar with 0 kcal and 1g sugar in a packet. It’s recommended to replace only half of sugar with monk fruit extract when baking.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive, meaning they don’t provide calories or sugars. They are made by humans and do not come from nature.

  • Sucralose (Splenda) is 600x sweeter than sugar; when using sucralose in large amounts, as with baking, it does contain 48 kcal and 12g of carbohydrates. It is heat-stable, making it perfect for baking, and you can use it to replace all of the white sugar in a recipe.
  • Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low) is 200x sweeter than sugar, is heat-stable, and can replace sugar in baking.
  • Aspartame is heat sensitive and should not be used for baking.

Whew, That Was A Sugar Rush! So, What is the Best Option?

The artificial sweeteners are your best option as they have the least amount of carbohydrates and sugar and therefore will have the least impact on your blood sugar levels. However, all foods and ingredients can be incorporated into a diabetes friendly diet.  You do not have to avoid the other entirely, as long as you use them in moderation and smaller amounts.  Checking your blood sugars 1 hour after a meal can also help you to see the impact of the foods you are eating and can help you to fine tune what the right portion looks like for you!

Now that you have these tips in your toolkit, it’s time to get baking! Happy Holidays!

Recipe: Chickpea Blondies

Recipe Courtesy of Jazmin Tyler


  • 1 can chickpeas (drained)
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blend everything together in a blender, besides the chocolate chips.
  3. Pour the mixture into the pan. Swirl in the chocolate chips.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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