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Diabetes and Sweets: A Very Delicate Balance

Some think diabetes and sweets don’t mix, but with the appropriate balance, they can still be included in your diabetes meal plan.  The key is moderation.  “To ensure adequate nutritional intake and not be indulgent in any one area, you want to balance intake,” says Amanda Kirpitch, a Nutrition Educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Misconceptions of Diabetes and Sugar

The idea that you must completely avoid sugar in your diabetes meal plan is one of the biggest misconceptions in diabetes management.  Another is that you should only eat foods sweetened with sugar substitutes.  While low-calorie sweeteners can act as a good substitute, Kirpitch says that often, foods with no sugar-added don’t noticeably differ in total carbohydrate than in a regularly sweetened product.  And, in the end, it’s the carbs that count.

Balancing Sweets into your Diabetes Meal Plan

Although it is possible to include sweets in your diabetes meal plan, they shouldn’t play a big role.  Sweets aren’t necessary to include, because they lack nutrition, but it is nice to treat yourself every once in a while.

When you decide to indulge a little, substitute sweets for other carbohydrates in your meal, so you don’t have huge spikes in your blood glucose levels.  You can also swap a carb-containing food for something with fewer carbs.

Healthy Alternatives

A more nutritional option is to find healthy alternatives that fit into your diabetes meal plan and still satisfy your sweet tooth.  Some people enjoy fruit as a substitute.  Other options can include:

  • Low-fat ice cream or yogurt
  • Low-fat, low-sugar pudding
  • Sugar-free Popsicles
  • Sugar-free Jell-O

Be aware of portion sizes, and try to stick to foods low in fat and calories.  Remember, in the end, you are trying to maintain a healthy diet just like everyone else.

To learn more about how to develop a nutritious diabetes meal plan that's just right for you, make an appointment with a Joslin dietitian by calling (617) 732-2400.


Nutrition & Meal Planning offers guidance and tips on what a diabetes meal plan should look like; carb counting; tips for cooking and baking; meal replacement and much more.

Click here, to purchase a copy of Nutrition & Meal Planning.

Page last updated: October 14, 2019