Pros: Delicious results; creative approaches; wonderful tips
Cons: Some recipes still seem to have rather high sugar content
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of Jane Wesman Public Relations, Inc.
Also published at Epinions.com.
First disclaimer: while I have a minor family history of diabetes and do have to watch the sugar content of what I eat, I’m not diabetic. I can’t give you the experienced diabetic’s view on carb exchanges, sugar grams, and so on.
Second disclaimer: I can’t stand the taste of artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, so I can’t adequately judge those recipes that use it in this book. However, I like the fact that the recipes use it along with real sugar to reduce grams of sugar in a recipe, while still using real sugar to achieve a more satisfying flavor. I think that’s a very smart approach to a difficult problem. Also, while Splenda shows up in quite a few recipes in this book, it certainly doesn’t show up in all of them; there are plenty of recipes that use other approaches to reducing sugar.
I plan to give my copy of this book to a friend whose daughter is diabetic (and has a real sweet tooth) when I’m done with it. Hopefully I’ll be able to convince her to drop by and leave a comment giving her and her daughter’s take on this book as well so you’ll get a diabetic’s-eye view!
Author Jackie Mills, MS, RD, starts off with a number of tips regarding the baking and eating of diabetic desserts. These range from the effect that some substitutions will have on diabetic desserts (baked goods made with Splenda don’t retain moisture as well as those made with sugar, for example) to ways to cheat your taste buds (brushing a bit of a sweetener overtop of a muffin or similar dessert is a great way to make it taste sweeter while using less sugar than if you added it directly). Not all of these are obvious details or tricks, and they’re very handy ideas to have on hand.
As far as I can tell from looking through and trying out these recipes, they each take one or more of a handful of approaches to reducing their sugar and carb content:
- Some recipes are just plain less sweet than their usual counterparts. Some bran-berry muffins that we tried took this approach. They were wonderfully flavorful, however, and we didn’t find that we missed the extra sugar at all, particularly after we had one or two and got used to it.
- Some recipes substitute Splenda (artificial sweetener) for part of the sugar content. If, like me, you can’t stand artificial sugars, these recipes aren’t particularly useful, but I daresay more people will enjoy them than not. I think it’s particularly insightful that the recipes don’t substitute Splenda for the entirety of the recipe’s sugar.
- Some recipes use fruit as a sweetener—sliced, pureed, or diced. The extra flavor of this type of sweetening often makes it more satisfying despite being less directly sweet, and the extra fiber tends to cause it to raise blood sugar less quickly.
- Recipes also try to include whole grains instead of processed grains where appropriate (another measure that will slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream), and are low in fat since diabetics tend to be prone to heart disease.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this cookbook, and until I found out that our friend with the diabetic daughter was excited about the idea of trying out such a cookbook, I kind of kept avoiding it. As much as I could really use some good low-fat, low-sugar dessert recipes, I know how hard it can be to make those taste good, particularly to someone like me, with a die-hard sweet-tooth.
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried. These are delicious recipes. The afore-mentioned muffins were surprisingly good, and a rice pudding turned out to be quite delicious. Since we didn’t want to totally ignore the recipes made with Splenda yet I couldn’t actually bring myself to try something with the artificial sweetener in it, we made a coconut cream pie from the book, making it exactly as instructed but using only real sugar (thus allowing us to see how the author’s ideas for making a flavorful, low-fat cream pie would work out). Let me tell you, I was bowled over. Pie crusts can be a real sticking point in terms of fat and carb content, and Mills neatly sidestepped this by creating a stunning, quick, delicious crust out of phyllo dough and cooking spray. The coconut filling is ultra-smooth, creamy, flavorful, and delicious despite being low in fat. I have no doubt that if I didn’t dislike Splenda, the low-sugar version of this pie would have me dancing in the aisles at my good fortune.
The recipes are neatly laid out with reasonably large type and easy to read. Direction steps are neatly numbered and separated. Each recipe includes exchange counts as well as full nutrition information.
There are a few recipes that startled me a bit with their sugar gram counts (the berry tartlets with honey cream come with 23g of sugar per serving—more than a serving of my favorite Breyer’s ice cream). However, I imagine that even the most die-hard diabetic will want the occasional small sugary treat, and at least this book provides recipes that maximize the flavor, nutrition, and low-fatness of such treats.
The book includes a couple of decent photos in the middle, but it’s basically photo-free.