Living with diabetes series

Does Dessert Have a Place in the Diabetes Diet?

The short answer is yes. Read on for the long answer


Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

“Can a diabetes diet include desserts?”

This is a relevant question for diabetics, especially when we are right in the middle of the festival season.

If you think desserts have no entry into the diabetes diet, think again. Of course, you need to be more careful about what you eat but that doesn’t mean you must give up dessert. What you need to do is make better choices and explore new food to manage your diabetes. Not only will this keep you healthier, but also give you more options.

Also, the truth is, when denied one’s favorite foods, it is natural to feel tempted to binge occasionally and that is not ideal for blood sugar control. Enjoying sweets on a diabetes diet comes with a few precautions. Be mindful of these and indulge without feeling guilty.

A note on carbohydrates and the diabetes diet

A healthy diabetes diet is about balance: knowing what you are eating based on your nutritional recommendations, carbohydrate, sugar, and calorie content, making healthy choices, and exercising portion control — all while maintaining a healthy weight.

Even though desserts seem taboo for those with diabetes, what matters is the total number of carbohydrates in a meal or snack than the total amount of sugar. Basically, dessert can be part of your diet, but with some adjustments. Just keep these in mind before you reach for those sweets.

Going for dessert after dinner? Don’t eat carbohydrates in your meal

Even if you swap your sweet potato for that delicious dessert to keep your carbs balanced, you will miss out on the fiber and other nutrients that sweet potato gives you.

Avoid anything that’s made from refined flour or deep-fried. Also, don’t make dessert a staple part of your meal — enjoy it occasionally.

The most important thing to bear in mind, though, is this:

Sugar is not the only thing that affects your sugar levels. Think about what you need to avoid.

In general, carbohydrate control is crucial to managing diabetes.

Most food labels that list carbohydrates include sugar, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Also, added sugar can raise blood sugar levels. Desserts, such as pies, cakes, cookies, candy, puddings, and ice cream contain simple, added sugars: dextrose, fructose, lactose, malt syrup, corn syrup, sucrose, honey, agave nectar, or glucose. Even a tiny serving of these sugars can, unfortunately, raise your blood sugar levels.

What about artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are touted as zero-calorie and many desserts use these for sweetening, but because they are far sweeter than sugar, they are likely to increase your craving for sweets and that’s the last thing you need. While sugar substitutes may cut calories and carbohydrates, research shows that artificial sweeteners also interfere with and alter your gut bacteria, which in turn, affects your hunger the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

So, what do you do? Cut back on carbs in your meal to fit in dessert and choose a dessert that won't spike your blood sugar.

Exercise portion control

Portion control is another important point. Limit carbs to 45–60 grams per meal and keep track of this. The problem with baked goods and other sweets is even one piece exceeds that quota. So, take smaller portions. This way you will enjoy your dessert and also stay on track. If you are ordering food, ask for a mini or kid-size portion.

Go for a fruit instead of a sweet

Fruits are good for both diabetics and non-diabetics. They are filling, provide you with nutritious fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for stabilizing blood sugar and managing cholesterol.

Some ingredient swaps that work well for diabetes management

It’s Diwali and Indian cuisine excels in delicious dessert recipes. Milk sweets, burfis, Gulab jamuns, and laddus lead the pack. The good news is, many sweet shops considerately offer diabetes-friendly low-sugar sweets these days but as you know, sugar is not the only carb we are worried about.

If like me, you enjoy cooking, you can use diabetes-friendly substitutes. The advantage of homemade is there are no hidden ingredients.

Here are some diabetes-friendly swaps to help you enjoy the occasional dessert in your diabetes diet:

  • Substitute full-fat milk with low-fat milk.
  • Replace sugar with natural, low-GI sweeteners such as jaggery, dates, figs, raw honey, fruits, and cinnamon.
  • Dress desserts with fruits rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber to manage blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • Sprinkle chopped almonds and walnuts for some healthy fat.
  • Enjoy parfaits with diabetes-friendly fruits such as apples, papaya, guava, pomegranates, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, cherries, and oranges.
  • Craving cake? consider grated pumpkin, sweet potato, and oat flour.
  • Substitute all-purpose flour, use flour made from flax seeds, finger millet, and chickpeas. Millets are rich in fiber, minerals, and protein and are an ideal food for diabetes.

It is tempting to enjoy yourself especially during festival season, and eating a healthier and portion-controlled sweet can definitely be part of the diabetes diet.

The key to blood sugar control is to tweak your treats so that they can be part of your diet. Always talk to your doctor about any changes you make to your diet.

In a majority of people diagnosed with diabetes, the main problem is the lack of diabetes education. The Living with Type-2 Diabetes series will cover various aspects of the condition with tips and suggestions to manage it better.

In this series, so far:

The ABCs of Diabetes

Blood Pressure and Living with type 2 diabetes

Disclaimer: The information in this post is purely for educational purposes only and does not substitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your physician for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.

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Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles
Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

I enjoy writing about Self Improvement, Mindfulness, Meditation, Parenting, Health, Travel, Life, Books & showing my diabetes who’s boss.