Bowl of healthy fresh berries

Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone. It’s especially important when you have diabetes. One of the best ways to maintain healthy blood sugar is to stick to healthy carbs and limit foods with added sugar. That might have you wondering, “Can I eat dessert if I have diabetes?”

The truth is, having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to dessert. But some choices are definitely better for you than others — and portion control is key. Read on to learn how to choose and prepare healthier desserts when you have diabetes.

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Not All Sweets Are the Same

Sugar is a form of carbohydrate. Like all carbs, it will raise your blood sugar. Still, not all sugary foods act the same in your body. Some raise your blood sugar very quickly, while others digest slowly and have less of an impact on your blood sugar.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, reach for nature’s candy first — naturally sweet fruits. Whole fruits come packaged with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which provide a host of health benefits. Whole fruit also raises your blood sugar more slowly than sugar, so it’s a healthier form of carbohydrate for people with diabetes.

Other healthy carbs include whole grains like whole wheat, oats, or brown rice. They’re high in fiber so they’re also better for your blood sugar. If you want to experiment with baking diabetic-friendly desserts, try to incorporate these ingredients and fruit in your recipes.

Try swapping out some white flour for whole wheat to make banana bread. Or use oats and fresh fruit to make a cobbler. Black beans turn brownies into a surprisingly moist and delicious dessert.

Try to limit desserts like cakes, pies, cookies, or ice cream. They’re made with unhealthy carbs like white flour and regular sugar or similar sweeteners. These can raise your blood sugar very quickly. They also promote weight gain, which may worsen your diabetes.

You can have sugar with diabetes, but it’s important to eat it in moderation. If you crave cake or pie for dessert, save it for special occasions. And when you do eat dessert, split a portion or order one serving for the table if you’re eating out.

Dessert Ideas for Anyone With Diabetes

There are many safe and healthy desserts and sweet snacks for people with diabetes. Try these ideas to satisfy your sweet tooth:

  • Sliced strawberries with low-sugar Greek yogurt and chopped nuts.
  • Chia pudding (made with cow’s milk or a milk alternative) topped with blueberries.
  • Dark chocolate-covered frozen banana bites.
  • Chocolate frozen yogurt pops.
  • Low-sugar fruit crumble or cobbler.
  • Sugar-free flourless chocolate cake.

If you’re new to making low-sugar diabetes-friendly desserts, you’ll be surprised at how many delicious ideas are out there. Search on your favorite recipe sites and start experimenting.

About Sugar Substitutes

Sugar substitutes are a good way to cut back on added sugar, especially when baking desserts. They provide a sweet flavor without any sugar, carbs, or calories. You can use them to replace all or part of the sugar in sweets.

Examples of sugar substitutes include:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers these sweeteners safe to use, but it’s best to use them in moderation. They don’t affect your blood sugar, but there are questions about whether they promote insulin resistance. That might make it harder to manage your blood sugar down the road.

One of the best strategies to eat better with diabetes is to break the regular dessert habit. Relying on sugar substitutes won’t help you rein in your sweet tooth. Try to make a habit of eating fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Save those other sweets for a special treat.

Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. Effect of artificial sweeteners on insulin resistance among type-2 diabetes mellitus patients. LINK

About UPMC Nutrition Services

Nutrition is vital for maintaining your overall health. UPMC Nutrition Services offers comprehensive diet and nutrition counseling on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Our team provides medical nutrition therapy for chronic conditions such as celiac disease, cancer, and diabetes. UPMC’s network of registered dietitians is available to help guide all patients toward a healthier life.