Do you have a sweet tooth, but think living with diabetes means you are doomed to a life without dessert? Not necessarily so! When eaten as a part of a healthy meal plan, people living with diabetes may enjoy sweets. Just as there is no one “diabetes diet,” I don’t believe there are “forbidden” foods (though we’d all benefit from controlling portions and moderating sugar and fat). As summer approaches, here are some easy and delicious low-carb ways to satisfy that sweet tooth while keeping your health a top priority. It is important to check with your doctor to ensure different desserts will fit into your meal plan.
Fruit – nature’s sweet treat
First, and perhaps most obvious, is fruit. What could be better than savoring fresh, seasonal summer fruits? Not only is fruit itself sweet, but it is also naturally gluten-free and full of fiber, which may help you better maintain your weight and blood sugar. One fun way to make a special presentation with fruit is by making kabobs. Simply skewer your favorite fruits – such as grapes, watermelon, and berries – and stick them in a pineapple for guests to sample. Serve with fruit dip for a fun low-carb treat. Check out our low-carb fruit slideshow for good portion ideas.
Nonfat sugar-free yogurt – frozen or refrigerated – partners exceptionally well with fruit and offers lots of serving and flavor options. Layer nonfat yogurt with berries and sprinkle with nuts for a fabulous gluten-free parfait. You can also blend your favorite fruit with yogurt, nonfat milk, and ice for a delicious gluten-free smoothie on a hot summer day. Interested in gluten-free baking? Click here for ideas.
Sneaky sugar-free substitutes
Another way to lower the carb and calorie count of tasty desserts may be the simple substitution of sugar-free foods in place of regular ones. For example, sugar-free pudding mixes come in a wide variety of flavors – from chocolate to cheesecake – making it easy to lower the sugar and carbohydrates with seemingly endless dessert possibilities!
Trifles can also be a great choice for all those summer gatherings, as they serve a crowd, can be made ahead of time, and look lovely on the table. I make crowd-friendly trifles layered with sugar-free pudding, nonfat whipped topping, and various add-ins such as angel food cake, ladyfingers, sugar-free chocolate syrup, and fruit. Try mixing reduced-fat cream cheese and nonfat whipped topping for an extra creamy layer. You can get creative, too: Try layers of sugar-free banana pudding, nonfat whipped topping, bananas, sugar-free chocolate syrup, and angel food cake, topped with crushed vanilla wafers for a tempting banana split trifle. I promise no one will know you used low-sugar alternatives! Do remember to account for the carbs and calories of the add-ins.
Fruit pies and cobblers are some of my summertime favorites, but crusts can be loaded with carbs and calories. Time to be creative! Cut down by only using the crust to top the cobbler or pie, instead of having the extra layer on the bottom as well. Another option is to replace a graham cracker crust with crushed sugar-free cookies, and mix in a little fruit juice to substitute for the sugar.
Nuts – naturally nutritious and gluten-free
Nuts tend to be higher in fat and calories so don’t go “nuts” eating too many! However they are naturally gluten-free and can be a tasty option when eaten in moderation. Portion out nuts with a small amount of chocolate chips to make a quick summer snack. My tip? Keep the mix refrigerated in individual servings to keep the chocolate from melting. Read more about why nuts may be a good addition to your diet.
Refreshing frozen desserts
Frozen desserts are another refreshing option as the days get warmer. I like to make treats ahead of time to have on hand. I mix nonfat frozen yogurt, fruit, and whipped topping, then freeze, either in a bowl or in individual containers.
You can also make your own frozen fruit bars with fresh fruit and juice, but always remember to add those carbs into your meal plan. One last tip: Flavor extracts are excellent sugar-free additions to up flavor without added fat, sugar, or calories. Try adding almond flavoring to the whipped topping mixture for extra flavor appeal!
Holly Clegg, cookbook author and spokesperson, has helped people prepare healthier everyday meals through her best-selling trim&TERRIFIC® cookbook series, including trim&TERRIFIC™ Diabetic Cooking with the American Diabetes Association. Holly has appeared on Fox & Friends, NBC Weekend Today, QVC, The 700 Club, USA Today, and The Huffington Post. She also has a phone application, Mobile Rush-Hour Recipes and writes at The Healthy Cooking Blog. Clegg 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.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience