You Can Still Have Treats With Macular Degeneration

Last updated: September 2019

Someone I know with macular degeneration lamented recently, "Why doesn't chocolate cake fix anything especially my eyes?" She said that no one ever recommends chocolate cake. We never hear, "Take 2 slices and call me in the morning."

Giving up guilty pleasures?

It got me thinking about whether we have to give up those 'guilty pleasures' to have a healthy diet. Give up chocolate cake? Must we? For the purpose of this article, healthy means following the guidelines of the Mediterranean way of eating which has been shown to help prevent AMD or slow it down if you have it. It's also shown to help our brains and our hearts.

Making dietary changes

With the increase in awareness of how food affects our health, there are a lot of recipes to elevate our favorite food to "healthy" status. For instance, I found several recipes for healthy chocolate cake. They use good things such as honey, Greek yogurt, whole wheat flour, and cacao powder. Add some walnut pieces and some blueberries to the icing and you have a healthy treat.

Healthier versions of treats

I even found a recipe for healthy chocolate donuts that uses flaxseed flour for eggs, whole wheat pastry flour, cacao powder, and almond or coconut milk. Drizzle some unsweetened dark chocolate on them. Sounds great to me!

I have always loved ice cream. Growing up we regularly had a bowl at night which was made with whole milk, heavy cream, and sugar with chocolate, cherries, or strawberries mixed in. Makes my arteries clog just thinking about it.

How do you make it healthy? Of course, you can make your own using ingredients such as skim milk or Greek yogurt and stevia.  If you are like me and can't be bothered, check out the number of entries in the so-called healthy frozen treat cases. Low carb, added protein, dairy free, gluten free - the options are somewhat overwhelming!

Read the labels

This is where you need to read the labels. Low calorie does NOT mean healthy or low calorie. One of the trends these days is the frozen yogurt or ice cream where you can eat the whole pint and not blow your entire day's calories and carbs. One that I've tried is from the company Enlightened. Pretty yummy, but I just found out a few things about the one I've had several times - mint chocolate chip:

  • It says '80 calories' on the front, but when you read the label, it says 'serving size 1/2 cup, number of servings 4.' Whoops! What is 4 times 80? Not too bad, but I clearly misunderstood.
  • I read the list of ingredients which includes 16 grams of sugar from cane sugar and tapioca syrup, a so-called 'natural sweetener' I've never heard of nor can I pronounce, cream (probably where the 2 grams of saturated fat comes from) and other ingredients that I'm suspicious of.

It's not hard to make healthy ice cream or healthy frozen yogurt at home. There were several recipes that used Greek yogurt, honey, and frozen fruit. That's it. You can use an ice cream maker, but you can also mix the ingredients and put it in the freezer.

Making healthier choices

There are some things we should not have to give up.  There are ways to take our favorite foods and make them healthier. We can substitute healthy ingredients for ones we've been using. Regarding healthy treats, find recipes that use:

  • The sweetener stevia, honey, or maple syrup instead of sugar
  • Low fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of cream or milk
  • Whole wheat pastry flour or flax seed flour instead of white flour
  • Cacao powder or cocoa powder instead of chocolate with added sugar
  • Coconut oil or avocado instead of a vegetable oil

There is no reason we can't enjoy a healthy treat once in a while. With the stress of having a diagnosis of macular degeneration, indulging in treats that we've come to love is one way to lift our spirits.

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