By the Seat of My Pants

Tweaking and adjusting to make diabetes-friendly holiday dishes.

RachelBy Rachel Baumgartel

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!


December 2007 — Long before I developed type 2 diabetes, I developed a love of baking. It started with helping my father bake bread – allowing the water to reach the right temperature for the yeast to grow, kneading and letting the dough rise, the anticipation of consuming fresh homemade bread. Later, I started baking desserts, mostly cheesecakes and pies.

Usually I shared my creations with friends and family, so as not to put the burden of eating it all on just me and Greg. Although he has always allowed himself treats now and then with proper insulin correction, he does not have the sweet tooth that I do. (Perhaps developing type 1 diabetes at the age of eleven has something to do with it, he has explained to me.)

But when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I put away the stand mixer and shoved the sugar and flour to the back of the cabinet. If I couldn't enjoy dessert without guilt, then nobody would enjoy my baking. I discovered after awhile how flawed this thought process was. I had always baked for a crowd before, so there was no danger in me eating too much cheesecake. So I moved forward and shared my goodies once again.

Just as we both discovered with changing ingredients in cooking dinner, there are substitutions and adjustments that can be made to any dessert recipe. Artificial and natural sweeteners can be used in place of sugar and brown sugar, whole wheat flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour in some recipes. As for my own baking, I try not to use too much artificial sweetener. Instead, I cut down on the overall amount of sugar and then use a mix of sweetener and sugar.

Recently, I found myself in the midst of a conundrum. Seven people would be taking part at the Thanksgiving dinner we were attending at Greg's parents' house. In addition to two side dishes, I would be making a cranberry dessert to contrast the pumpkin pie someone else was making. And there was another hitch – Greg and I were not the only people with diabetes in the group. It was time to scour the Internet for the perfect recipe.

Only I didn't find that perfect recipe by the time we went grocery shopping for the big day. Some were too much work in addition to the side dishes I was making, some had too much emphasis on artificial sweeteners, some had carbohydrate counts that were too high. I settled for adding a bag of cranberries to the shopping cart and hoped that I would find a recipe in the next three days.

Then my favorite diabetes-related publication arrived in the mail on Tuesday, complete with a cranberry dessert recipe. Although I did not have all the ingredients listed, I figured I could improvise by looking for a similar mainstream recipe and combining elements of both. I had never flown by the seat of my pants on a dessert recipe before other than tweaking the sugar and flour content, so this was both exciting and scary.

As the dessert was cooling, it smelled heavenly. Greg and I decided we had to try small bites that had stuck to the pan to make sure it was edible. Why, yes, it was delicious – it was all we could do to keep our hands off more. Rave reviews followed the next evening as well.

And to think, I once thought diabetes meant I would never bake again.

Read more of Rachel's columns.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: June 03, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...
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