Here are some tips for people with diabetes to include dessert into your meal plan:
1. Use some—or all—of your meal's carbohydrate budget for dessert. This is the beauty of carbohydrate counting—the ability to use your carbohydrate allotment for any carbohydrate you choose. A typical carbohydrate allotment for one meal is 45-60 grams (3-4 servings). If you would like to have a slice of pumpkin pie with your meal, for example, incorporate the amount of carbohydrate in the slice of pie into your total carbohydrate budget for the meal. One slice of pumpkin pie (1/8 of an 8-inch pie) contains roughly 23 grams of carbohydrate (1 ½ servings). Simply adjust your intake at meal time to account for your upcoming dessert. In this example, you'd have 22-37 grams of carbohydrates (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 servings) remaining. You can now plan the rest of the carbohydrate foods to eat during your meal since you have already adjusted for dessert.
The following chart shows the average carbohydrate-count and proper serving size for some common sweets and desserts. Use it as a reference when selecting sweets, but always refer to package nutritional labels whenever possible for best accuracy.
2. Have dessert as one of your snacks. Most people with diabetes are able to enjoy 1-3 snacks throughout the day, spending 15 to 30 grams (1 to 2 servings) of carbohydrates on each snack. Instead of eating dessert with your meal, you could satisfy your sweet tooth during snack time by enjoying a dessert item that fits into your snack budget. Just remember to eat it at least 2 hours after your meal.
3. Use low- and non-calorie sweeteners wisely. Some people with diabetes prefer to rely on artificial sweeteners as a way to cut down on carbohydrate intake. If you enjoy desserts, candies or recipes made with these non-caloric sweeteners, that's fine. But don't forget to account for the carbohydrates that may still be in the food you are eating. Packaged cookies with "no added sugars," candies made with artificial sweeteners, or homemade cookies baked with stevia are NOT carbohydrate-free foods. Be sure to read labels and still account for the carbohydrates you are consuming, whether the foods contain sugar or not. You can even use the free recipe calculator at SparkRecipes.com to find out exactly how many calories and carbohydrates are in your homemade treats!
4. Step up your physical activity for the day. Because desserts add extra fat and calories as well as carbohydrates, consider incorporating some extra physical activity on, before, or after the days that you splurge on sweets. Exercising to burn more calories can help with weight management and blood sugar control.
5. As always, continue to monitor your blood sugar levels, especially when consuming foods high in sugar. You may notice that some carbohydrate-containing foods increase your levels more than others--even when you eat the same grams of carbohydrates. If your levels are slightly higher, work with your health professional or Certified Diabetes Educator to obtain an individualized plan. Your educator will be able to tweak your plan and provide additional food suggestions to meet your specific needs for optimal blood sugar control.