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How to Make Smart Dessert Decisions for Diabetics

Updated on October 10, 2017
stephhicks68 profile image

Stephanie Hicks has been a Type 1 diabetic for 15 years. She manages the disease with an insulin pump, doctor visits, diet, and exercise.

Are Sweets Off the Menu for Diabetics?

If you or a loved one has diabetes, you probably think that any sweet-tasting food is forbidden. It is true that items high in fat, low in fiber and with added sugar are best to be avoided or significantly limited. A diabetes diet requires monitoring of these variables, as well as considerations of age, weight, activity level, medications, and more.

The good news is that you can learn how to make smart dessert decisions for diabetics. With some ingredient adjustments and smart shopping, you will find that there are a variety of sweet-tasting treats that can be enjoyed (with doctor's permission, of course) even if you have diabetes. As with any indulgence, moderation and portion control is key.

I have had Type 1 diabetes since 2003. I'm an active, marathon-running mother of four, and I definitely allow myself the enjoyment of dessert from time to time. I will admit that when I was first diagnosed, I despaired - believing I could never again enjoy some of my favorite treats. Fortunately, I soon discovered a number of tasty diabetes recipes and learned how to make smart dessert decisions that allow me the occasional indulgence without the guilt or medical side effects.

**Before following any advice in this hub, be sure to consult your doctor and/or a certified nutritionist.

Not all desserts are created equal when it comes to diabetes
Not all desserts are created equal when it comes to diabetes | Source

Considerations for Choosing a Smart Dessert for Diabetics

In general, any sound diet decision for a person with diabetes will include as many of the following factors as possible:

  • High fiber (fresh fruits, whole grains, minimal processing)
  • Natural ingredients
  • Low added sugar (consider healthy and natural low-calorie sweeteners such as Stevia, Organic honey, blackstrap molasses, and Xylitol)
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • Baked, not fried
  • Low-fat
  • High in antioxidants (fresh fruit, dark chocolate in moderation)

In addition to these factors, your doctor or nutritionist can provide guidance with respect to your own calorie and carbohydrate needs based on personalized activity levels, weight, sleep and stress levels. Before indulging, it is always a good idea to test blood glucose levels so that any adjustments in medication (or in portion size) can be made before indulging.

Grilled fruit is an excellent dessert option for diabetics
Grilled fruit is an excellent dessert option for diabetics | Source

Diabetic Dessert Ideas

Desserts to Avoid if You are Diabetic

Desserts to avoid if you are diabetic, when possible, include:

  • Doughnuts, croissants
  • Sorbet
  • Cake, particularly with frosting
  • Pie, especially with two crusts and made with sugar
  • Most cookies, especially processed versions
  • Sweet sauces, including fudge, sugared fruit, butterscotch, caramel

Dessert Options for Diabetics

As a rule, it is smarter for a diabetic or his or her family to prepare their own dessert, rather than order off a restaurant menu or select from options at a party or buffet. I have found that, even when an item is billed as "sugar-free" or "low-fat," there may be hidden carbohydrates or other ingredients that can sabotage your health. When you bake or cook at home, you know exactly what ingredients are in your diabetic dessert, which gives you an upper hand in calculating the amount of medication/insulin will be required to prevent a blood sugar spike.

Among many dessert options for diabetics, consider the following:

  • Fresh sliced berries with low-fat whipped topping, if desired
  • Grilled fruit - drizzle with honey if desired
  • Fruit salad - fresh yogurt dressing makes this more of a treat
  • 1-2 squares of dark chocolate (1-2 oz.)
  • Sugar-free pudding (top with fresh fruit!)
  • Sugar-free jello
  • Sugar-free or low-sugar ice cream - note that sorbet is much higher in sugar than dairy-based frozen dessert options
  • Fruit cobblers or crisps - these pie-like desserts lack a crust, which makes them healthier and lower in calories and carbohydrates (use sugar-free sweeteners if possible)
  • Homemade oatmeal cookies with honey instead of granulated sugar
  • Whole wheat muffins, preferably with fresh fruit or veggies (blueberries, carrots, raspberries, etc.)

Even with healthy desserts, be sure to watch portion sizes. It is advisable to limit treats to not more than once a day, and preferably only two to three times a week.

Diabetics must monitor blood glucose levels to determine if dessert is appropriate
Diabetics must monitor blood glucose levels to determine if dessert is appropriate | Source

Thoughts About Dessert from a Diabetic

I will never forget the day that I was diagnosed with diabetes. My husband helped himself to a heaping bowl of peanut butter chocolate ice cream, while I looked on enviously. Let's just say that it didn't end well.

The good news is that, more than a decade into living with the disease, I really have lost a craving for sweets (in full disclosure, I still crave salty items that should be limited, such as potato chips). Perhaps it is because I feel so awful when I eat sugary items, no matter how much insulin I give myself. I cannot remember the last time I had pancakes or cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but I do love my lower carbohydrate breakfast fare with eggs and sauteed veggies.

In some respects, I think it is similar to my early pregnancy when my body rebelled against coffee and wine. Pay attention to how your own body reacts when you eat certain foods, and it will probably guide you in a sound direction. If not, then make a goal of eating "clean" for a month and then discover how much better you will feel from an energy and overall wellness standpoint!

Diabetics: What Kind of Dessert do you Most Crave?

See results

© 2013 Stephanie Hicks


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great ideas here for desserts on How to Make Smart Dessert Decisions for Diabetics, I so agree without ideas, and I don't crave desserts.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Alicia! Best to you, Steph

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This hub will be very useful for diabetics and for people who want to eat healthier desserts! Thanks for sharing the information, Steph.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks! I agree that it doesn't take much to satisfy a sweet tooth. And most definitely, any person can benefit from a diabetic diet.

      Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing! Cheers, Steph

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Great information for diabetics, but I also think this is good advice for anyone. Eating less sugar and processed desserts is much better for the body. I crave chocolate more than anything. As you say, when I do have to have it, I have a square or two of dark chocolate. Sharing and voted up!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you Prasetio and RC - diabetes can be devastating if not diagnosed and managed effectively. I appreciate your read and comments. Best to you, Steph

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks for another great resource, Steph! I do not have diabetes, but I know how important it is to get this information out there for those who do need it.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. I think most of us know that Diabetic is a one of dangerous disease beside cancer. My friend, you come up with solutions. Thanks for writing and sharing with us. Voted up :-)


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks truthfornow,

      There really are so many low-sugar options for dessert that anyone can enjoy, whether they have diabetes or not. We are having sliced strawberries with a little bit of whipped cream over low-sugar Angel Food Cake tonight. Delicious!

      Cheers, Steph

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I think these ideas are good for those without diabetics too because eating too much sugar is not a good thing. I love the idea of grilled fruit.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Jackie,

      Yes, non-diabetics can definitely benefit from following a diabetic diet. Whole grains and legumes like lentils and barley are excellent additions to your meal planning. Keep up your great health! Best, Stephanie

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Roberta, I totally agree that everyone can improve their health by following a diabetic diet that is lower in sugar, fat and high in fiber, whole grains, etc.

      Yes, high fiber oat flour is a good option for use in dessert crusts. Cinnamon also has a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels in diabetics. The key of course is moderation when it comes to even "healthy" desserts.

      Thanks for the read and the pin. Best to you, Steph

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Fantastic, and I will mark this. Not diabetic but always good to watch. Lentil and barley are two things to cook up every few days and throw in salads, soups, etc to help prevent diabetes. So no doubt good for it too. Voting up.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      This is such good advice for making dessert decisions for diabetics, but also for those who aren't because we are all eating too much sugar. Helpful, too, if we have a guest who is diabetic.

      Reports say that using high-fiber, low-carb oat flour may be a help in stabilizing blood sugar levels and I wonder if diabetics could safely use it for dessert crusts.

      Pinning to my Ways w/ Food: Desserts board.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks kashmir - I enjoy writing diabetes articles, and hope that they are helpful for people looking for additional information, particularly from a diabetic. Cheers, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you Bill! I heard from a colleague who said she and her husband found my diabetes articles via a Google search and they found the advice helpful. So, I thought I should write a few more! Enjoy your weekend too. Best, Steph

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very informative article with all great useful ideas and suggestion within this well written hub. Well done !

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Important information, Stephanie. You keep doing a huge service for diabetics with these articles. Well done!

      Have a great weekend!


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Bob! I totally agree. With the changes in my diet over a decade ago, I cannot say that I really miss the sweets any longer. Now, a decent cup of coffee... that is what I truly enjoy after a meal.

      Best to you, Steph

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 4 years ago from New Brunswick

      I used to love desserts, especially anything chocolate. Now, I can take them or leave them. It took time to get to this point and when I want something sweet, it is usually a piece of fresh fruit. I bake sugar free oatmeal cookies now and then but my desire for them has waned. I like the FRESHness of fruit but do not overdo it. Good information here, thanks.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi peachpurple - you make an excellent point. If I had to choose between saving my limbs and having a piece of cake, I know what decision I would make! Best to you and your mom, Steph

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      my mom is the type 2 diabetic. She has her coffee without sugar, no cakes or sweet cakes, just plain crackers and high fiber for her diet. When the sugar level is high, her legs will start to rot so her doctor advice her to stop sugar food. Maybe I could make sugarless cake for her! Honey should be okay. Voted up

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Zanaworld,

      I hope you find this hub useful! I should have mentioned that the suggestions are helpful for diabetics and other people following a similar diet.

      Best to you in your fasting month and I'm looking forward to reading some of your hubs, as well. Cheers, Steph

    • zanaworld profile image

      SA Shameel 4 years ago from Bangalore

      The deserts are indeed off my menu. But my wife and daughter try their best to bring in some desert suited to my diet and health.

      This hubpage came at a right time. Being the fasting month of Ramdhan (Ramzan), we might some of the suggests from this hub to feast my sweet tooth.

      Thank you for putting very wonderful and sweet hub. Also it seems you have written many diabetic related hubpages. Hope to read them all during my free time. Marking you as my follower. Voting up this hub as well and marking this as useful.