Making Dessert Work in a Diabetes Diet

Can a diabetes diet include desserts? The answer is a happy yes, with some adjustments.

Diabetes Care|Jul.09, 2018


You may think a diabetic diet is stripped of anything sweet, but that couldn't be farther from reality. While you do need to be more considerate of what you eat, you certainly don't have to give up dessert to accommodate your diagnosis. Instead, it's all about picking better options and exploring new food for diabetes management. And in the process, you not only become healthier, but you expand the list of what you enjoy eating.

Let's start exploring.

Carbs Are a Concern

The first step is to consider what you actually need to avoid, as sugar isn't the only thing that affects your sugar levels. Carbohydrate control in general is crucial for diabetes management. Most food labels with "carbohydrates" include sugar, complex carbohydrates and fibre. Added sugar can raise blood sugar levels and hence, should be avoided in a diabetes diet. Desserts, such as pies, cakes, cookies, candy, puddings and ice cream contain simple, added sugars: dextrose, fructose, lactose, malt syrup, corn syrup, sucrose, honey, agave nectar or glucose. Even a tiny serving of these sugars can, unfortunately, raise your blood sugar levels.

Artificial sweetener isn't a perfect solution, either. Some desserts contain artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. While sugar substitutes may cut calories and carbohydrates, research shows they can alter healthy gut bacteria that affect your hunger and blood sugar regulation. Moreover, because artificial sweeteners are far sweeter than sugar, you'll most likely end up craving more sweets.

So, what's a safer bet? Cut back on the carbohydrates in your meal to accommodate dessert, and then, choose a dessert that won't significantly disrupt your glucose management.

Ingredient Swaps Work Well for Diabetes Management

Indian desserts span an incredibly delicious range, with milk sweets, burfis and laddus leading the pack. Many Indian sweet shops offer low-sugar sweets these days, though as you know, sugar is not the only carb concern.

The advantage with homemade desserts, however, is there are no hidden ingredients. These diabetes-friendly swaps can make the occasional dessert an acceptable part of your diabetes management:

  • Substitute full-fat milk with low-fat milk.
  • Replace sugar with natural, low-GI sweeteners such as jaggery, dates, figs, raw honey, fruits and cinnamon.
  • Dress desserts with fruits rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre to manage blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • Opt for parfaits with diabetes-friendly fruits such as apples, papaya, guava, pomegranates, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, cherries and oranges.
  • If craving cake, consider grated pumpkin, sweet potato and oat flour.

A Diabetic Take on Popular Desserts

Popular desserts can be easily reconfigured to beget the diabetes-friendly version. Try some of these:

Phirni: A delicious pudding typically made with rice and sugar can be made low-calorie with oats, apple and jaggery, which is rich in antioxidants, selenium and zinc. Sprinkle chopped almonds and walnuts for some healthy fat.

Date and nut burfi: Make it the perfect fibre-rich food for diabetes without raising your blood sugar by using dates and nuts.

Rabdi: This mouth-watering, full-fat milk dessert can be made with low-fat milk. Thicken it with unpeeled, sweet apples rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, flavonoids and phytonutrients that prevent diabetes complications. Flavour with cardamom and nutmeg.

Smoothies: Besides crushing dessert cravings, smoothies also make a great snack between meals. Try a smoothie with jamun and figs, which can help manage diabetes. Sweeten with dates.

Gajar ka halwa: Another popular favourite is the carrot halwa. Instead of using artificial sweeteners and sugar, choose dates or jaggery.

Laddus: Laddus, a staple in most households, can be made with ingredients like roasted broken wheat, flax seeds, finger millet or flour made from ragi, chickpea, jowar or bajra, plus coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds. Season it with cardamom and sweeten with jaggery or dates. Millets are rich in fibre, minerals and protein and are an ideal food for diabetes.

Basundi: Use low-fat milk or paneer, cardamom, a sugar substitute like stevia, freshly grated apple, almonds and pistachios.

Kheer: Whip up this traditional, richly textured sweet with grated bottle gourd, such as doodhi or lauki, and skimmed milk, jaggery, cardamom powder and chia seeds.

Malpua: Make this yummy pancake with ragi, whole wheat or oats atta. This dessert is usually deep-fried, but it can be tossed on a nonstick pan to cut down the oil. Top with date syrup.

A Diabetes Dessert All-Star

As someone with diabetes, this is one of my personal dessert favourites. This apple-and-cinnamon recipe is easy to make, low in calories and delicious without added sugar.

Apple brings natural sugar along with dietary fibre, and the cinnamon may improve your blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. Using dates as sweetener adds dietary fibre, iron, antioxidants and other nutrients, such as vitamins, potassium and magnesium, all of which may improve your body's metabolism.

You will need:

  • 4 apples, cored and sliced with the peel on
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour or oat flour
  • ¼ cup chopped dates
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup cooking oil of your choice (coconut oil tastes great)
  • ½ cup buttermilk

To make it, preheat your oven to 180ºC. In a saucepan, combine the apples, water, cinnamon and dates and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the apples are soft, making the mixture thick. Pour the mixture into a baking dish. Combine the wheat or oat flour, baking powder and oil, and mix well. Add the buttermilk to make it moist. Now add this flour mix over the apple mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the topping turns golden brown. Enjoy warm.

Relish your desserts guilt-free with an eye on portions to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Celebrate festivals with family and friends and satisfy that sweet tooth, guilt-free.


Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.