Monthly Archives: November 2011

Holiday Snacking with Diabetes

Being told you have diabetes is  rough, but figuring out how to manage it through diet can seem overwhelming.  The holidays is a major hurtle to get through when you are starting out and every food may seem taboo, especially sweets.   A holiday sweet may now seem to be a thing of the past. I’m here to tell you though that eating that pumpkin cookie, or pecan pie is no longer considered cheating but a choice!

Snacks are an important part of the meal plan for all people with diabetes.   Snacks help to stabilize blood glucose levels that can be erratic
due to insulin already working in the body, exercise and stress. They are also key to preventing hypoglycemia, which can be a scary event.   People with diabetes can eat some sugar as long as it is worked into their meal plan just you would with eating any carbohydrate food item.  Because sweets don’t contain the essential vitamins and minerals found in healthier carbohydrate food items and may be higher in fat, it would make sense to save a holiday treat as a special treat.

To have the sweet at your meal simply cut back on the other carbohydrate (CHO) foods at that meal.  The key is keeping the amount of carbohydrates the same. An example is swapping the cookie for the slice of bread.  Read the label on the cookie package.  First determine serving size, and then total CHO. The total CHO tells you how much is in one serving.  If you eat more than one serving you have to increase the amount of CHO that you count.  One serving of CHO is 15 gm, therefore if the cookie has 17 gm you eat one cookie.  Keep in mind, sweets contain fat so they will be higher in calories than that piece of fruit you substituted with.  Bottom line – enjoy the holidays with that piece of pumpkin pie.

Signature  Joanne Slyter, dietitian, Westminster, CO


Up Periscope – hCG Diet is Resurfacing

Bells and whistles went off in me over this past month after attending 3 different events where  friends told me about their interest in trying the hCG diet.  They shared success stories of friends who were on it and lost a great amount of weight.  I had hoped this diet had died out in the 70’s but somehow it has managed to kick start itself back into the public eye. The icing on the cake was seeing a booth display at a bridal conference encouraging brides to shed weight to look fabulous in their gowns.  No health professional amidst the group to talk to.

The human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) diet was first developed in the 1950s based on research by A.T. Simeons.  His plan consisted of a three to six week 500 calorie fat-free diet, accompanied by a daily injection of 125 International Unit (IU) of hCG.  The new homeopathic version is made into a sublingual mixture which is administered under the tongue.  It is taken 6 times a day.

hCG is a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women.  In theory, the hCG hormone is supposed to suppress hunger and trigger your body’s use of fat for fuel.  That would lead to rapid weight loss without hunger and loss of fat from the most common problem areas (thighs, hips, and stomach).  These claim are impressive, but the science tells a little more questionable story.

In Simeon’s day, hCG was a newly discovered peptide hormone found in pregnancy and thought to cause the release of fat from the adipocytes or fat cells in the body so that other cells could burn it to produce other forms of energy.  More recently, researchers say that it does not cause the breakdown of fat, but might actually stimulate the secretion of another hormone, leptin, which causes the formation of more fat cells.

This new research shows that hCG’s role in pregnancy was likely misunderstood for many years.  These studies indicate that it actually promotes the storage of fat in the pregnant mother, not the release of fat for energy as previously thought.  Several other studies have found that the fat redistribution and weight loss observed by Simeon was likely due to another hormone altogether, human placental lactogen, making the entire premise of the diet plan flawed from the beginning.

A comprehensive review of 16 published studies concluded that individuals who were on a 500-calorie diet lost the same amount of weight as those on the diet who also took the hCG injections.  The end result of this analysis found that there is no benefit to using hCG as a dietary supplement.

The severe calorie restriction, not the hCG supplement, is responsible for the weight loss.  It is not safe to follow any very low calorie diet (a diet with fewer than 1200 calories) without medical supervision.

The hCG diet used to be available only in doctor’s offices.  Today you can buy hCG injections, drops and skin products on the Internet and find booths displayed at conferences.  Warning, these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Just like taking any product you need to understand the risks.  hCG is known to cause many severe side-effects which include blood clots, headaches, restless leg syndrome, constipation, hair thinning and feelings of pregnancy (including generalized swelling, breast tenderness and water retention, even in men!)

In women, it can also cause a rare but life threatening side-effect known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which predisposes the dieter to severe weight gain, blood clots and kidney failure.

The American Society of Bariatric Physicians does not recommend hCG as a weight-loss aid.  And it’s not really safe to do the fat-free 500-kcal diet. A person cannot meet his or her daily nutritional requirements with less than 1200 calories.

Failure to meet one’s basic nutritional needs for any extended period of time can lead to many unpleasant and dangerous side-effects, including nausea, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, hair loss and even gallstones.  Plus, once you resume a normal diet, without any improved eating or exercise habits, the weight will most likely return very quickly and gain back more than you originally started out with.

This is a fad diet that will run its course and then fade back into the sunset for another decade.  There is no convincing scientific evidence that the diet works.  Ask your doctor or a dietitian for the evidence, not just testimonials, when seeking assistance for achieving a healthy weight.

Signature  Joanne Slyter, Westminster, CO  Interest in fad diets



A Pumpkin Frenzy


Tradition is strong in our household during the holidays.  It rang true this last weekend when my daughter took our Halloween pumpkins (plural for cooking frenzy), cooked them down, and baked for three days straight making various desserts.  We still have pumpkin mix left after one pumpkin spice cake, three  pumpkin pies, two pumpkin breads, and loads of pumpkin cookies.  I heard the rest becomes pumpkin butter.  OK, so can tradition survive when healthy eating and waistlines come into play?  The answer is a resounding YES.

There are simple tips you can follow that can make your holiday foods healthier.

  • Cranberries – Choose whole cranberries over jellied cranberry sauce and juice.  Make a fresh, orange cranberry relish and get added benefit from the vitamin C in oranges.  Dried cranberries are a great snack or can be added to salads.
  • Pecans – Either raw or roasted, pecans make a great snack in moderation.  Be aware that a small handful contains about 200 calories.
  • Pumpkins – Eat only the pumpkin portion of the pie and leave the crust to enjoy the pumpkin dessert without extra fat and calories.  Make a lower-fat pumpkin pie by using an egg substitute and evaporated skim milk.  Pureed pumpkin lends itself to healthy cooking by replacing the fat in baked goods.
  • Turkey – Choose a fresh turkey that has not been injected with a sodium-based solution that increases the salt content.  Natural turkeys contain no artificial flavors, food coloring, chemical preservatives, or other artificial ingredients.  Check the ingredient statement.
  • Whole-Grain Stuffing – Rather than cooking stuffing inside of the turkey, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish in the oven.  If you add the drippings from the turkey, be sure to skim the fat off the top of the drippings before using.  This can be done easily by letting the drippings cool in the refrigerator or freezer.  You can also add ice cubes, which the fat will stick to for easy remove.  Rather than adding meat of giblets, replace half or all the meat with dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, or apricots.
  • Yams/Sweet Potatoes – Candied yams can be high in sugar and fat.  Bake with a bit of brown sugar and whip with orange juice rather than butter.  Try a baked sweet potato or yam and eat the skin for the most nutritional benefits.

Strategies to manage your intake and waistline during this tempting season are also vital.

  • Don’t serve family meals family-style.  Keep pots and dishes away from the table to help avoid seconds.
  • Eat more of the salads and green veggies at a dinner party and make the meat a side dish.
  • Ask for sparkling water and lime instead of beer and wine.  Remember that alcohol has empty calories and lots of them!
  • Physical activity is a good way to burn calories. Shopping at the mall is great exercise.  Park away from the entrance and walk with stomach muscles tight throughout your shopping spree.

In our household, we will continue enjoying the holiday cooking.  Nothing says we have to eat all the goodies that presently sit in the refrigerator but have many holiday activities to attend where we can share our treats with others.  It’s time to have fun. Have a wonderful Holiday Season!!

Signature  Joanne Slyter, dietitian, Westminster, CO