Eating Dessert with Diabetes: The Healthy Way to Indulge

Yep, you can have that cupcake—if you plan for it.

Loading the player...

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.”