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Enjoying Sweets When You Have Diabetes

Strategies for Taking the Worry Out of Diabetic Dessert Decisions


Updated May 06, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Enjoying Sweets When You Have Diabetes

Diabetes? Be mindful of sweets you eat.

Oppenheim Bernhard / Getty Images

Sweet, meal-capping treats are always tempting. But when you have type 2 diabetes, sweets are more than just extra calories. You also have to think about how the foods you eat will impact your blood sugar.

This can be especially difficult when faced with the added challenge of interpreting the sometimes misleading marketing information that accompanies products targeted at consumers with diabetes, just like you.

Always remember that sugar is only one type of carbohydrate. Be mindful of the total amount of carbohydrate in all of the foods that you eat. Note that carbohydrates are present in many foods, but they are most plentiful in foods that start out as grains, fruits or milk.

Most foods that we think of as sweets contain a concentrated amount of sugar - the simplest form of carbohydrate - in a relatively small portion size. That is why sweets can have such a big impact on blood sugar levels after just a few bites.

It is possible to enjoy something sweet when you have diabetes. You just need to be smart about it. Consider these strategies for taking the worry out of diabetic dessert decisions.

Be Label Savvy

Marketing that targets type 2 diabetics often contains the following phrases:

  • sugar-free
  • no sugar added
  • reduced sugar
  • dietetic

While these phrases may mean that the dessert is a better option for you, note that they do not mean that the sweet is considered a 'free food'. So, don't mindlessly munch. Take a closer look at the carbs in the product before you buy, and choose something that will have the least impact. Be mindful of serving sizes, too. Carbs may seem low, but labels list amounts per serving -- there may be two or more servings in a package, for example.

Get Back to Nature

Most desserts tend to be highly processed and often prepared with added sugar. The end-product usually looks nothing like what the original carbohydrate source looked like. But when you have type 2 diabetes, the best dessert options are the least processed.

So instead of limiting your dessert options to traditional sweets, broaden your definition to include raw or baked fruit. Raw fruit tends to be low in fat, high in fiber, and naturally sweet. Baking raw fruit concentrates the natural fruit sugars, producing an even sweeter taste while retaining the other wholesome qualities of the fruit. Fruit that is in season tends to be tasty, reasonably priced, and easy to "dress up" with simple ingredients.

Here are some dessert ideas using fresh fruit. Seasonal fresh fruit can be substituted in all recipes. Keeping in mind your diabetic meal planning needs, all recipes are approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate per serving:

Fancy Fruit Salad (Serves 1):

Ingredients: ¼ cup each cantaloupe, pineapple, raspberries, and strawberries. 2 fresh mint leaves.

Preparation: Dice and measure ingredients. Mix lightly & serve.

Balsamic Strawberries (Serves 1):

Ingredients: 1 cup strawberries and 1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar

Preparation: Slice Strawberries. Sprinkle vinegar over berries & serve.

Baked Pears (Serves 2):

Ingredients: 1 large ripe pear, 1/8 cup apple juice and 1/4 tsp cinnamon.

Preparation: Preheat oven to 350°. Slice pear in half lengthwise. Remove core. Pour apple juice into a small baking dish. Place sliced pear in dish, peel-side down. Sprinkle with cinnamon, cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes & serve warm.

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