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Operation dessert storm: Sweets not off-limits for people with diabetes

Operation dessert storm: Sweets not off-limits for people with diabetes

People with diabetes can have desserts, provided they are prepared in a diabetes-friendly manner and consumed in moderation, say experts

People with diabetes can have sweets and desserts only if they’re part of a healthy meal plan

When Rewati Rau (41), a New Delhi-based writer and entrepreneur, got diagnosed with prediabetes, she realized that her daily habit of having dessert after dinner was the reason for her high blood glucose levels. She decided to cut down on sweets to avoid becoming one of the 101 million people in the country with diabetes.

Besides reducing the portion size of her meals, she gave up on sugar and desserts completely for a week, but soon realized that these restrictions made her crave sweets even more. She sought professional help, and her dietician suggested that she could indulge in some healthy, low-sugar desserts that were low in calories and could be easily made at home during the weekend. So, she started enjoying healthy desserts like paneer kheer, carrot cake and lauki halwa. “I realized that altering the ingredients for desserts makes a lot of difference in the calorie count. I also started to do some mild workouts,” says Rau.

Consume desserts, but in moderation

According to an article published by the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes can have sweets and desserts only if they’re part of a healthy meal plan.

According to Dr A Sharda, consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist at Manipal Hospital, Millers Road, Bangalore, people with diabetes can have desserts once in a while, but they should balance their carbohydrate intake.

People with diabetes should not have sweets right after their meals. If one must have something sweet, they should skip the rice or the roti and only have a small portion of the dessert along with other healthy and fibrous vegetable preparations.

“If you want to reduce your sugar craving, it is a good idea to have some fruit two hours after breakfast or lunch. Walking for 15 minutes after having a diabetes-friendly dessert would also help in burning the extra calories,” says Dr Sharda.

Timing is key

Mumbai-based dietitian Nidhi Joshi says it is best to have sweets and desserts in the afternoon and then go easy on the carbs at night. She suggests having protein-rich besan cheela (chickpea flour pancake) or chicken for dinner (instead of carbs) on the days you indulge in desserts. In addition, squeezing in some extra exercise or walking a longer distance on those days can help burn the extra calories.

Avoid dairy and gluten

While Delhi-based nutritionist Ishi Khosla allows people with diabetes to have diabetes-friendly desserts in moderation, she advises them to go dairy- and gluten-free. “Many people have health issues because they have lactose and gluten intolerances but are not aware of them,” she says. She further adds that those with diabetes should prepare desserts without milk and wheat, as they can lead to inflammation of the gut and cause digestive issues.

She recommends preparing desserts with healthy fats like ghee as well as nuts (like almonds, walnuts, etc.) and seeds, which are rich in fiber.

Opt for natural sugars

“Natural sugars found in dried fruits like apricots, dates and figs are better than refined sugars,” says Khosla. Other alternatives to refined sugar can include shakkar (unrefined brown sugar) or khand (raw sugar).

Preparations like banana burfi and nut burfi made using ghee and seeds instead of refined sugar can make for nice teatime snacks along with sugar-free tea.

In addition, dark chocolate consumed in moderation is a good option to beat your cravings. However, you should be mindful of the portion size.

Healthier alternatives for preparing desserts

Joshi recommends opting for healthier alternatives like natural and unrefined ingredients for preparing sweets and desserts, which include:

  • Instead of rice kheer, one can prepare paneer kheer with almond milk (or low-fat milk) and raisins to replace the refined sugar.
  • Apple pancakes can be made with apples, jaggery and whole wheat flour instead of refined sugar and maida.
  • Cooking oats and grated apples with a little water or almond milk is a quicky and easy dessert option to satisfy one’s sugar cravings.

“If you are looking for some energy-filled snacks, stocking up on laddus made from dates, dry figs or nuts is a wise choice,” suggests Joshi.

A fibrous vegetable like bottle gourd can also be used to prepare appetizing desserts. Bottle gourd kheer can be made by peeling and grating the vegetable and then softening it by boiling it in water. It can then be boiled in 250 ml of milk till it reduces and thickens. “You can add dates, figs and half a teaspoon of jaggery to it, along with some nuts and raisins,” says Joshi.


  • People with diabetes can prepare desserts using natural and healthy ingredients instead of refined sugars and flour to cut down on calories.
  • It is best to have sweets and desserts in the afternoon and cut down on carbs at night.
  • While people with diabetes can have desserts in moderation, they should go dairy- and gluten-free.
  • Those with diabetes should squeeze in some extra exercise or walk a longer distance on those days they consume desserts to help burn the extra calories.

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