Secrets To Enjoy Life With Healthy Diabetic Desserts

Christine Zalnieraite

2021 Nov 05

8 min read

That sweet delectable treat at the end of your meal! Desserts are those little pleasures that brighten your day, but as a person with diabetes, you may feel like a child being penalized, having to miss out on dessert. With a few little healthy tweaks, we’re going to share how you can still enjoy your dessert. And no, you don’t have to switch to savory desserts just to avoid sugar. Let’s look into the topic a bit more in detail.

Having diabetes means that your body does not use sugars (obtained from food and drink) as energy efficient. The extent of the body’s inability to absorb sugars and then convert them into energy will vary from one individual to another. This is why your doctor tells you to minimize sugar intake and carbohydrates– broken down into sugars.

Guidelines for diabetes-friendly desserts:

Following a particular diet suited to people with diabetes is what’s recommended. However, having a customized meal plan pulled together by a registered nutritionist or certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) will be even better. 

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the bottom line is to watch your carbohydrate, sugar and overall calorie intake. Diabetes is a condition that is not determined simply by eliminating sugar from your diet. It’s a bit more complex, and decades of studies have shown that maintaining healthy body weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising or living an active lifestyle, etc., are the best ways to avoid, delay progression, and in some cases, even reverse diabetes.

So, before we begin to look at what desserts you can gladly have – that are capable of satisfying that sweet tooth, let’s look at what’s really off-limits to a person with diabetes.

Worst desserts for a person with diabetes:

Typical dessert snacks that you may find yourself craving are:

  • Cookies
  • Cake 
  • Pie
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Doughnuts
  • Chocolate covered peanuts
  • Pretzels
  • Coffee with cream
  • Candies
  • Energy drinks
  • Canned fruit
  • Bottled fruit juice
  • Soft drinks
  • Alcohols
  • Chips & Nachos
  • Ice cream 
  • Pastries
  • Jams & Jellies

Most of these typical desserts are packed with refined sugar or made with processed grains (or carbohydrates) that are stripped of most of their nutrient value. Desserts like canned fruit come disguised as a healthy dessert, but unfortunately, tends to have a high sugar content to preserve the fruit and its taste. In fact, even some packaged dry fruits – like raisins, dates, apricots, figs, cranberries and others – famed for their nutrient value, are soaked in sugar syrup to hasten the dehydration process and also enhance their taste by offsetting their inherent tartness.

On the flip side, the diabetic condition is one that requires your diet to be balanced. If you can find the right balance, reduce sugar intake during other meals and ensure that you’re getting plenty of good vitamins, minerals and fiber, then you can get a small or kid-sized portion of your favorite dessert occasionally. 

The key is to stay balanced. There’s no need to deprive yourself to the extent that you’re tempted to binge on your favorite treats – sending your blood sugar levels soaring!  

Role of artificial sweeteners in diabetic desserts:

Now that you know what to stay away from, you’ll be wondering about artificial sweeteners and desserts sold and labelled as being diabetes-friendly. Sugar-free cookies, sugar free jam and many other products commonly found at the supermarket, are still sweet. The reason is that they use artificial sweeteners – aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame and others. Artificial sweeteners are also sold for personal use so you can pop it into your coffee or herbal tea, and other homemade sweet recipes.  

These desserts and sugar substitutes are zero-calorie additives to your recipe. And it’s ok to use once in a while. However regular use can have some harmful effects according to numerous studies.  

Almost all long term studies on the effects of artificial sweeteners reveal that the way artificial sweeteners are digested are different the way natural sugars are digested. Common effects of consuming artificial sweeteners on a regular basis are:

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  • Change the good gut bacteria into harmful bacteria, leading to ill health
  • The brain cannot use artificial sugars as energy. They influence the brain in such a way that the brain begins to crave more artificial sweeteners. 
  • They increase hunger, and promote weight gain 
  • Blood sugar levels become imbalanced and some artificial sweeteners can contribute to the progression of diabetic condition. i.e. it can promote insulin resistance in the body.
  • Some studies show a connection between cancer and artificial sweeteners.

 Although individual predispositions and long-term studies vary in their conclusions about the effects of artificial sweeteners, it’s best not to consume them on a daily basis. Using them in the occasional dessert is what we recommend.

Best desserts for people with diabetes:   

People with diabetes usually choose one diet as recommended by their registered nutritionist or dietitian. Naturally, the desserts you put together must also be in line with your chosen diet plan. You can make things easy, plan ahead, do some meal planning with your dietitian and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the palatability and energy levels you’ll experience as a result of following your recommended meal plans.  

Desserts based on the DASH diet

The DASH diet meant originally for the management of hypertension or high blood pressure, has been proven to be effective in the management of diabetes too. The American Diabetes Association recommends the DASH diet for those with hypertension, cholesterol and also diabetes.

The DASH diet is good for the whole family, regardless of whether they have or do not have diabetes. It is focused on building a balanced intake of nutrients including healthy proteins, healthy fats, minimal amounts of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibre and staying hydrated.

Try these Desserts based on the DASH diet:

  • Yogurt with fresh strawberries
  • Tahini and almond cookies with whole wheat
  • Strawberries, blueberries, food cake bites on a skewer with cheesecake and yogurt dip

Is cheesecake okay for people with diabetes? Cheesecake may sound low on carbs but it actually packs in a ton of carbs owing to the refined flour used in it. But replacing refined flour with almond flour makes for a low carb and healthy cheesecake. Replace sugar with fruit puree and you’ll be good to go.

Desserts based on the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet similar to the DASH diet is low on carbs and high in healthy fats, lean proteins, and chock full of fresh produce, lentils and fruits. This diet is famed for bringing blood glycemic index under control. The reduced risk of heart disease and weight control are major factors that contribute to being a great option for people with diabetes.  

Try these Desserts based on the Mediterranean diet:

  • Gluten-free lemon cake: made with almond flour and polenta
  • Banana Chocolate chip mint ice-cream: made with bananas, coconut cream
  • Chocolate avocado pudding: made with coconut milk, raw cacao powder and hazelnuts.

Is coconut milk good for people with diabetes? Coconut milk, flesh and water are great sources of minerals, vitamins, and omega-6 fatty acids. They do contain saturated fats which is recommended to be taken in lower quantities by the ADA. However, the nutrient-packed, high fibre, low glycemic load coconut milk is good for those with diabetes to take in moderation up to two-three times a week. Work with your dietitian and doctor, to see how your body responds to this diet, and then decide on whether you want to continue with this diet for a longer term. 

Desserts based on the Keto diet

The Keto diet has been recommended in order to improve insulin sensitivity in the body. With up to 40% of the world’s population being considered as obese, and obesity being one of the contributing factors of diabetes, it’s no wonder that the keto or low carbohydrate diet helps in controlling weight and offers better blood sugar control for those with diabetes. 

With the keto diet, carbohydrates are largely replaced by healthy fats. Thus, the body begins to utilize fats for energy instead of carbohydrates – that way, the level of sugars in the blood remains consistent and under control. The diet has shown improved insulin sensitivity in some patients. Thus improving the diabetic condition.

Try these Desserts based on the Keto diet:

  • Chocolate Greek yogurt ice-cream: made with protein powder, almond milk, greek yogurt and cocoa
  • Raspberry pumpkin muffins: made with coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca starch, pumpkin puree, coconut oil, egg yolks, and raspberries.
  • Strawberry lemonade popsicles: made with strawberries, lemon juice, oats flour, and cottage cheese.

At the end of the day!

When you want to end your day on a sweet note, all you need to remember is to stick to your recommended diet. Moderation is the name of the game, when you’re dealing with diabetes. So, there’s hope! You don’t have to deprive yourself of your sweet treats, you don’t have to live on the memory of your favorite desserts. Just strategize your eating plan to suit your palate. Regardless of what diet you’re on, there are healthy and safe alternatives to put together tasty desserts that you can indulge in on a regular basis. Your nutritionist should be able to give you healthy options. And when you’re on the road to healthy eating, you can always grab a kid sized portion of those off-limits treats, occasionally and still stay within your recommended diet plan. The key is to keep your body healthy and satisfied at the same time. 

Written by

Christine Zalnieraite

Christine is a registered and licensed dietitian (RD, LD) with more than eight years of professional experience. Christine is an expert in dietetics that includes human nutrition and the regulation of the proper individual diet. She alters patient's nutrition based on their medical condition and individual needs. Education: Master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Food Safety and two Bachelors of Science - Bachelor in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, and Human Nutrition and Food Safety. Also, she continues to deepen her knowledge in Ph.D. studies of Medical Science and Dietetics.

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