Diabetes-Friendly Desserts

If you're like most people, you crave something sweet after a meal. But if you're a diabetic, grabbing a cookie or a slice of cake certainly isn't a good idea. Fortunately, with some careful planning and consideration, you can enjoy a delicious dessert with the best of them. 

While it was once thought that diabetics should avoid all sugar, it's now known that by managing the type and amount of carbohydrates they eat, they can keep their glucose level in its target zone, while safely working in sweets. This is the stance taken by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and echoed by Lauren Antonucci, a nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with Nutrition Energy in New York City. We enlisted her help in finding out how to ensure your desserts are diabetic-friendly.


When baking at home, abide by these three basic rules:

  • Halve the sugar
  • Substitute whole-wheat flour for regular flour
  • Use trans fat-free margarine

The first lowers the fat content, and the latter two are key in improving overall health. "And you won't dramatically change texture or flavor," explains Antonucci.

Also consider using natural, caloric sweeteners including honey, brown sugar, and molasses. They're good options because they can supplement or be added to foods: honey with apples, brown sugar to oatmeal, and molasses in muffins.

Eating Out

"This is where people often make the wrong decision," says Antonucci. You might order sorbet because it's low in fat and has a fruity taste, while forgetting that it's much higher in sugar. In that case, ask your waiter for something like low-fat ice cream."

But is that really your best restaurant option? Not according to Antonucci. "Pumpkin or sweet potato pie are prepared with fiber-rich vegetables that taste good."

And the worst option? "Anything that's pure sugar or high in cholesterol," she says. Look right past the cheesecake and pecan pie.

Artificial Sweeteners

These include low-calorie sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, which you might recognize as their respective trademark names of Equal® and Splenda®. Stevia, derived from the Stevia plant, is popular for diabetics because it contains no carbohydrates or calories. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't approved it as an artificial sweetener, it can be purchased as a dietary supplement. "I generally try to keep people using them as little as possible," says Antonucci.


Another way diabetics can integrate sweets into their diet is by substituting them for carbohydrates. Consider lunchtime. If you want a turkey sandwich and two cookies, opting for low-calorie bread helps limit your carb intake. That's okay, as long as you remember not to sacrifice overall health for your sweet tooth. And that is the fine line for diabetics and desserts.

"Ideally, you should choose a nutritious bread," says Antonucci. "But if you want three servings of carbs for dinner a few times a week-and two of them are good ones, such as beans and fruit-you can have the cookies. And if you make them yourself, that's even better.