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Cool Desserts

Diabetes-friendlier frozen treats

I scream, you scream – summer just seems to scream for cool, even icy, treats! Heading to the ice cream shop or licking a frozen pop can be refreshing ways to cool off as the temperatures rise. But can people living with diabetes eat these treats? My answer is almost always “absolutely!” Here are five ways I help my clients make frozen desserts diabetes-friendlier, while sticking to their meal plans.

Go low

Start by choosing low-sugar and low-fat treats: A mere one-half cup of premium vanilla ice cream contains an average of 266 calories, 24 grams of carbohydrate, and a hefty 11 grams of saturated fat. That’s the amount of saturated fat you’d get by eating four and one-half pats of butter! Save calories and about 10 grams of carbohydrate by choosing ice cream with no added sugar. If you’re feeling nostalgic, imagine yourself at an old-fashioned soda shop. Drop a small scoop of fat-free vanilla ice cream in a glass and cover it with sugar-free root beer.

Beware the “health halo”

Many frozen treats sound like they’re better for you than they really are. Don’t be duped by sweets labeled “low-carb.” First, there is no real definition of “low-carb” as it applies to food packaging, so your dessert might be packing more carbohydrates than you expect. (Get tips for reading food labels here.) Second, the low-carb label doesn’t say anything about the calories or unhealthful fats in the product. I’ve seen “low-carb” ice cream bars serve up as much as 11 grams of saturated fat. There’s that four and one-half pats of butter again! Sorbet and frozen Greek yogurt often wear halos, too. Nonfat Greek yogurt, after all, is creamy and rich without the actual cream, and it’s a great source of protein. But when Greek yogurt is transformed into a frozen dessert, almost anything can happen. Calories and fat in a half-cup serving can have a wide range, so please read the label! Extra tip: Watch out for added sugar too, as there is often a lot in frozen yogurt and sorbet.

Focus on fruit

Americans often fall short of eating enough fruit; in fact, we consume just 42 percent of the recommended daily amount. As I tell my clients, fruit is so naturally sweet that it makes a wonderfully refreshing dessert, but always make sure to include the carbs in your meal plan. (Find out more about low-carb fruits here.) Here are a few of my favorite fruity ideas:

  • Flip it! Instead of topping frozen yogurt or ice cream with a sprinkling of fruit, top fruit with a spoonful of these frozen desserts.
  • Thread grapes onto skewers and freeze.
  • Turn fresh or no-sugar-added canned peaches into sorbet by first freezing the fruit and then pureeing it with lemon juice and vanilla extract to taste.
  • Make a watermelon pop by pureeing melon, and adding lemon juice or mint as desired. Then pour the mixture into ice pop molds.
  • Get fancy with fruit pops. Fill your molds with sliced kiwi, fresh berries, and melon puree or your favorite juice. Then freeze.
  • After freezing a banana, puree it with either a tablespoon of peanut butter or a bit of chocolate syrup.

Put the freeze on portions

Make portion control easier with pre-portioned treats such as ice cream bars, sandwiches, cups, and frozen fruit bars. (Get more portion control ideas here.) In ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, order the child’s size. But beware! If nutrition information is posted, it typically lists the nutrients and calories per one-half cup serving; but even the small-sized containers in frozen yogurt shops usually hold at least a full cup. If serving yourself, be careful not to overfill your container (consider getting a scale or using a measuring cup just to make sure). At home you can create fun, whimsical mini-sized desserts. For example, prepare tiny ice cream sandwiches with reduced-fat ice cream and vanilla wafers. Or pipe Greek yogurt medallions onto a metal pan, and pop them into the freezer for about an hour. They are mini-sized, but full of maxi-flavor!

Be smart with add-ins

If you’ve chosen a proper portion of frozen goodness to fit into your meal plan, now take care when choosing toppings. Here are the facts on a few favorites.



Carbohydrate (g)

Saturated Fat (g)

Walnuts, 1 Tbsp., chopped 47 1 0.5
Chocolate syrup, 1 Tbsp. 54 13 0.1
Mashed sandwich cookie, 1 89 13 1.3
Butterscotch chips, 1 Tbsp. 80 9 3.5
Rainbow sprinkles, 1 Tbsp. 60 9 0

As always, seek the advice of your healthcare team and monitor your blood glucose often when trying new foods or changing your diet. Enjoy this summery season!

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE*, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications, including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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