Think you can’t satisfy your sweet tooth and stick to your diabetes eating plan at the same time? As a Certified Diabetes Educator, a nutritionist, and a person who loves dessert, I hope you’ll think again! Here are some of my favorite ways to have your cake and eat it too.
Start with fruit. Perhaps fruit isn’t your first choice for a sweet treat, but you can’t argue that it’s packed with health-boosting nutrition. If a bowl of plain strawberries or a drip-down-your-arm juicy peach doesn’t feel “dessert-y” enough, create a luscious fruit-based dessert by adding other ingredients, such as these personal favorites, below. One caveat, however, remember to count the carbohydrates in both the fruit and what you add to it.
- Dip strawberries, orange slices, or dried apricots into melted dark chocolate.
- Grill peach or nectarine halves. Fill the center with a dollop of jam.
- Swap ice cream with berries for berries with ice cream. Even in restaurants, you can ask to reverse the traditional ice cream sundae proportions and enjoy a larger serving of fruit with just a couple of spoonfuls of ice cream. Or skip the ice cream altogether and try fruit with a drizzle of chocolate or unsweetened whipped cream. You might find you enjoy the sweet flavors so much you don’t miss the ice cream.
Give yourself a treat allowance. Think about choosing desserts and other extras the same way you choose items with a department store gift card. Your gift card allows you to purchase anything – clothes, shoes, appliances, and more. You can go home with anything you want, but you cannot leave with everything you want because your card has a limit. Use the same thought process with your treat choices, considering calories, carbs, saturated fat, and sodium to help you choose the things you really want in the proper amounts.
Compare. Don’t assume. There are lots of misleading products out there. Sorbet has less fat and fewer calories than ice cream, but it has more sugar. Reduced-carb ice cream has less carbohydrate than low-fat ice cream, but it’s usually packed with saturated fat – sometimes with as much as half your day’s limit in a single ice cream bar or serving! And sugar-free cookies are often no different in total carbohydrates, fats, or calories than regular cookies. When shopping, read labels carefully. In ice cream shops, ask for the nutrition information. For restaurants, consider carrying a pocket calorie and carb counter, such as CalorieKing1, or downloading an app, like GoMeals™, to your smartphone.
“Healthify” your recipes. That’s my own special term for not giving up your homemade favorites, but rather just tweaking them some. That way, you’re able to select more healthful ingredients, continue or create delicious family traditions and, as an added bonus, fill your home with mouth-watering aromas. Here are some great ways to bring delicious and nutritious into one sweet treat.
- Reduce sugar by one-third of what the recipe calls for. You may need to experiment with this approach, but in most recipes, you won’t even notice the missing sugar. If you like, you can add vanilla extract or cinnamon, both of which intensify the sweet taste of the sugar you do add.
- Replace white flour with white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour, which adds fiber to your dessert.
- Try making a “crustless” pie – the fruity or chocolate-y filling is often just as tasty without the crust, and removing the crust removes many carbs per serving.
- Oil adds both fat and moistness to many baked goods. Try replacing some of the oil with fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt for a rich flavor with less fat.
- In baked goods, reduce saturated fat-packed butter with healthier fats. Replace one-half cup butter with one-half cup mashed avocado or experiment with fruit or vegetable purees. Some of my favorites: bananas, applesauce, prunes, or pumpkin. This works especially well in dense sweet breads and muffins.
- Boost the fiber in brownies and chocolate cakes by swapping some of the flour for drained, rinsed, and pureed black beans. It may sound strange, but give it a try – you may be surprised at the taste!
- Cut saturated fat by using evaporated skim milk or fat-free half and half, not whole milk or cream.
Diminutive Desserts. Part of eating healthfully is consuming proper portions, something many dessert-lovers may find difficult. But baking offers some excellent methods for controlling serving size, such as using mini-cupcake tins and forming small cookies. My favorite trick is to store leftover desserts in individual servings. For example, I cut up a full cake and wrap each slice separately before freezing. For cookies, I separate baggies with two cookies each. Even when cooking for guests, I enjoy keeping portions in check with a chic presentation. Serve fruit and whipped topping parfaits in martini glasses, pudding or mousse in shot glasses, ice cream in miniature chocolate cups, and berries with chocolate shavings in tiny phyllo cups. Dazzling, delicious, and diabetes-friendlier!
No matter which dessert you choose, I urge you to sit down and enjoy it! Eat from a plate or a bowl, and not from a napkin, straight from your hand, or from the tub of ice cream. Give yourself permission to eat that treat, then slow down, and savor it.
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.
1CalorieKing is a registered trademark of CalorieKing Wellness Solutions, Inc.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience