Yep, you can have that cupcake—if you plan for it.
If you think you can’t have a slice of cake at your own birthday party after you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, think again. “Diabetics can definitely still enjoy dessert,” says nutritionist Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, “but they have to plan for it.”
If your family hooked you up with the German chocolate cake you love so much, you can healthfully fit it into your diet simply by budgeting for it during the rest of your day’s meals.
Let’s dig into the details: One serving of Duncan Hines prepared German chocolate cake contains 37 grams of carbohydrates (23 of those are from sugar). If your meal plan allows 40 grams of carbs per meal, you may have to say no to a side of pasta or rice at dinner to “save room” for that cake.
Another option: Shrink the portion size. If you cut that slice in half, you’d be down to just 18 grams of carbs, which would leave you a little more wiggle room for carbs during your main meal.
Since the first few bites always taste the best anyway, cut the brownies or cakes into smaller sizes, serve mini cupcakes instead of full-sized ones, or ask for kid’s size ice cream cone. If these aren’t options or you’re ordering from a menu at a restaurant, split the dessert with a friend (or two).
You could also choose a healthier dessert by baking with whole grains, using lower-fat substitutes for egg and oil, or adding fruit—either in the batter or as a topping. Find more tips for making healthier baked goods here.
One exception: If you’re having trouble managing your diabetes, you might need to avoid all desserts temporarily, according to Sandra Arévalo, RDN, a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. When working with patients with very high A1C levels, Arévalo says, “I want you to avoid these foods until we get your diabetes to a point where we can be more flexible with it.” (Here’s more info about what A1C tests can tell you about your diabetes management.)
“It is fine to have treats. It is fine to have cake and ice cream,” says Largeman-Roth, “but that has to be balanced out with the healthy stuff: the fruits, the veggies, the whole grains, the lean proteins.”
Frances Largeman-Roth is a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City.Sandra Arevalo
Sandra Arevalo is a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of nutrition services and community outreach at South Bronx Health Center.
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Diabetics can definitely still enjoy
dessert, but they have to plan for it.
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And if you're looking at the amount of
carbohydrates that you're taking in per
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meal, if you have a sweet,
that's going to kick out something else.
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If you've planned for 45 grams of
carbohydrate, well then that cake or
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that piece of pie at Thanksgiving
is going to take that up.
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So that means that you can't have the
pasta or the rice that perhaps would have
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also been offered at the meal.
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when foods have added sugars, what I
usually recommend to patients is that
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be aware that the portions
cannot be too high.
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The more you eat the foods
with added sugars,
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the higher your sugars are going to go.
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And you know having a taste of
a food here and there, like for
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example if you feel like ice cream,
it's okay, just share it with a friend.
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Or ask for ask for the kid's scoop,
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you don't need to be eating a whole
banana split to really enjoy it.
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So portion control is crucial.
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But when I have patients that are very
out of control, I have patients that, for
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example, have an A1C of 14.
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So I tell them, I want you, for a time,
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to avoid these foods until we get
your diabetes to a point that we can
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be more flexible with it.
It is fine to have treats, it is fine
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to have cake and ice-cream but that has to
be balanced out with the healthy stuff,
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the fruits, the veggies,
the whole grains, the lean proteins.
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So for my family our rule is that we can
have dessert Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
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Of course, there are special occasions.
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Special occasions should be celebrated,
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the celebration doesn't only
have to be around the food.
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Decadent german chocolate cake mix. Duncan Hines. (Accessed on January 17, 2018 at https://www.duncanhines.com/products/cakes/german-chocolate-decadent-cake-mix/.)
Fitting in sweets. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/holiday-meal-planning/making-sugar-count-during-the-holidays.html.)
Know your limit for added sugars. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/know-your-limit-for-added-sugars.html.)Types of carbohydrates. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/types-of-carbohydrates.html.)