Halloween can be a particularly difficult time for seniors with diabetes. The holiday has become synonymous with sugary candy and chocolates, and these often prove too tempting for many people. While indulging in some sugar on Halloween may seem harmless, it is especially important for diabetic seniors to avoid this. Holiday treats are often deluxe versions of traditional favorites and can be packed with even more sugar than ordinary candy. Too much sugar, especially when ingested over a short period of time, can dangerously increase blood glucose levels and may make medications less effective. Raised blood sugar levels can lead to blurred vision, headaches, and fatigue, none of which make for a happy Halloween.
Examining Alternatives to Regular Sugar: Stevia, Xylitol, and Coconut Sugar
The good news is that it is possible to enjoy Halloween sweets, even as a diabetic. The secret lies in incorporating natural sugar alternatives. Stevia, an herb, is 200 times sweeter than sugar and has zero calories. While research into stevia is ongoing, many studies have indicated that stevia raises blood glucose levels far less than eating the same amount of real sugar, and some studies have even suggested that it can help in stabilizing blood glucose and improving the body’s response to insulin. Stevia is available in both powdered and liquid forms, and there are numerous online recipes and cookbooks available that use stevia for cakes and candies.
Another natural sweetener, xylitol, is an excellent choice for diabetes-friendly sweets as it has no impact on blood glucose or insulin levels at all and has only 2.4 calories per gram. Xylitol is found naturally in many whole fruits. Like stevia, xylitol is easy to use in baking and dissolves quickly. It is most readily available in powdered form and can be substituted one for one in any recipe that calls for granulated sugar.
While it is the most caloric of the three, coconut sugar has a texture that is the most similar to table sugar, and it would be an excellent choice for Halloween cookies. Low in fructose, coconut sugar is lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, so it doesn’t raise blood glucose levels as much.
Ideas for Healthy, Low-Sugar Halloween Treats
Cookies, cakes, and other Halloween-themed baked goods are perhaps the easiest goodies that can be made sugar-free. Stevia, xylitol, and other natural sweeteners allow seniors to make simple substitutions within their favorite recipes, resulting in treats that taste just like their sugary counterparts without any of the guilt. Those interested in taking on something slightly more complicated could try making healthier versions of classic candy bars; for example, some online recipes for homemade Twix bars use whole dates as the sweetener.
Many seniors are probably short on time over Halloween, and they may wish to buy something already made. Fortunately, a number of gummy and hard candies are now made with stevia or xylitol and can be ordered online for fast delivery.
Wishing you a happy and healthy Halloween!