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July 01, 2021 / Alena Kharlamenko, MS, RD, CDN

Dessert for Prediabetes: Guide to Desserts If You're Prediabetic

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If you have prediabetes, “what to eat for dessert,” is likely a common thought you might have. Luckily, we have a solution for you.

First, know that you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugars are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diabetes. More specifically, prediabetes is usually diagnosed when fasting blood sugars are between 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl and/or an HbA1C between 5.7% to 6.4%.

Prediabetes happens when cells in your body don’t respond to insulin in the way they should, so glucose (sugar) remains in the blood rather than being used by the cells for energy. If left untreated, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes.

While there are a few factors you can’t control—like family history and age—making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle can greatly reduce the occurrence of prediabetes, or keep it from developing into type 2 diabetes. When people want to start eating healthier to maintain good blood sugar control, they might be told to reduce their intake of carbohydrates and sugar.

So, the question that comes into play: Can people with prediabetes eat dessert, or do they have to forgo sweet treats altogether? The good news is that you can still enjoy dessert, you may just need to take more factors into consideration.

Here you’ll find a comprehensive guide for all you need to know about dessert for prediabetes, including 15 healthy and delicious prediabetes desserts you can enjoy that are all found on the PlateJoy app.

Types of Sugars to Look For

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, and carbohydrates can raise your blood sugar. Sugar has a more significant effect on blood sugar than complex carbs such as rice, pasta, or oatmeal because sugar is more rapidly absorbed by the body. It’s important to maintain good blood sugar control for the prevention and management of prediabetes and diabetes. There’s even a close link between blood sugar levels and weight loss.

Not all sugars are created equal, and different types have varying effects on blood sugar. The various types of sugars include natural sugars, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols.

Some people gravitate toward natural sugars in the hopes of consuming “healthier” sugar, but both natural and added sugars may raise your blood sugar the same amount. An exception is if the sweetener has any fat, protein, or fiber—such as fruits (dates, bananas, applesauce)—that slow down absorption.

Examples of natural sugars include:

*Monk fruit is a natural sugar that does not raise blood sugar levels and may even exhibit antidiabetic effects. Stevia an alternative sweetener that’s sweeter than sugar and has been shown to have no impact on blood sugar, insulin levels, or HbA1c.

Added sugars, or sweeteners which are commonly found in food and drinks, offer little to no nutritional value and raise blood sugar instantly. Examples include:

Artificial sweeteners have been used by many people with prediabetes and diabetes in an effort to maintain blood sugar control, but research suggests that they may disrupt your gut microbiome and actually raise blood sugar despite having little to no carbohydrates.

Examples of artificial sweeteners include:

Sugar alcohols are a low-calorie sweetener that has a lesser effect on blood sugar than other carbs. They are typically used as sweetener alternatives for those who are prediabetic or diabetic.

Examples of sugar alcohols include:

How to Read Nutrition Labels on Desserts for Prediabetes

Learning how to read nutrition labels can help you understand how much a dessert, or any food, will affect your blood sugar levels. You don’t have to read the entire label, but the following factors may help you understand what and how much dessert you can eat without raising your blood sugar levels too much.

Have you ever wondered how to lower blood sugar naturally? Limiting your added sugar intake is one of the best ways to achieve this, but exactly how much added sugar should you eat in a day?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting your added sugar intake to 25 to 36 grams per day. That’s about six to nine teaspoons per day. For reference, the average American adult eats 77 grams of sugar daily, most of which comes from soft drinks.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, then that amounts to less than 50 grams (or 200 calories) of added sugar daily.

If you have prediabetes or diabetes, however, you may be advised to limit your sugar intake (added or total) even more. Your doctor may recommend an individualized plan for how many carbohydrates, sugars, and added sugars you should consume daily.

When you are eating foods high in added or total sugar, consider eating them with a fiber or protein source to slow down the absorption of sugar. Because of how rapidly sugar is absorbed in the bloodstream, it can cause a blood sugar spike when eaten in excess or by itself, which can be detrimental to your overall blood sugar control if it occurs often.

15 Desserts for Prediabetes

We’ve rounded up 15 dessert recipes that are low in carbohydrates and light on sugar, but still taste indulgent enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.

1. Butter pecan keto cookies

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The aroma of warm, buttery, and nutty cookies makes these butter pecan keto cookies irresistible. Instead of sugar, these cookies are sweetened with erythritol. One cookie provides 4 grams of carbs and 1 gram of sugar.

2. Cocoa dusted almonds

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These cocoa-dusted almonds double as a snack and healthy desserts for prediabetes. This three-ingredient dessert sweetened with erythritol has 7 grams of carbs and 2 grams of sugar per serving.

3. Chocolate macadamia squares

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No sweeteners are added in these chocolate macadamia squares. The sweet, nutty flavor comes from the dark chocolate, macadamia nuts, and almond butter. These squares make a healthy dessert for prediabetes with only 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of added sugar per serving.

4. Ginger oat snaps

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If you’re a fan of ginger snaps, then this lower-carb version was made for you. Lightly sweetened with maple syrup, this recipe provides 11 grams of carbs, 4 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of added sugar per cookie.

5. Chocolate walnut bites

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Bite into these chocolate walnut bites if you’re in the mood for a chocolate-y and nutty dessert. Since this recipe includes walnuts and pumpkin seeds, it provides fiber, protein, and healthy fat. These nutrients slow down the absorption of sugar and carbs, leading to a slower rise in blood sugar. Each bite provides 8 grams of carbs, 4 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of added sugar.

6. Keto strawberry shortcakes

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These keto-friendly strawberry shortcakes are sweetened with erythritol instead of sugar. This fruity and creamy prediabetes dessert provides 4 grams of carbs, 3 grams of sugar, and no added sugars per serving.

7. Tiramisu mousse

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Tiramisu is known for its rich and creamy indulgent flavor, and this recipe for tiramisu mousse is no different...except that each serving only has 4 grams of carbs, 3 grams of sugar, and no added sugars. The sweetness comes from the erythritol instead of sugar.

8. Homemade chocolate truffles

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There’s no need to pay up for decadent truffles when you can make your own chocolate truffles at home . This recipe is perfect for people with prediabetes who love chocolate. Each serving provides 8 grams of carbs, 4 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of added sugar.

9. Blueberry vanilla smoothie

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Smoothies are versatile because they can be served for dessert, breakfast, or as a snack. Blueberries serve as a natural sweetener but also add fiber to this recipe. A serving of this blueberry vanilla smoothie provides 12 grams of carbs, 4 grams of sugar, and no added sugar.

10. Trail mix with macadamias, sunflower seeds and coconut flakes

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Macadamia nuts and coconut flakes add so much flavor to this low-carb trail mix that you won’t even notice that there’s no sweetener added. This recipe is great when you want a healthy dessert for prediabetes ready in a pinch. Each serving provides 6 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugar, and no added sugar.

11. Keto chocolate chip cookies

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Having prediabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy chocolate chip cookies. If you’re looking for a low-carb alternative to the original, you’ll want to try these keto chocolate chip cookies. Sweetened with stevia extract, each cookie provides 7 grams of carbs, 3 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of added sugar

12. Coconut almond macaroons

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Crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside, these coconut almond macaroons are a great prediabetes dessert. They’re made with stevia instead of sugar, dropping the sugar content significantly compared to the original. Each macaroon provides 6 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugar, and no added sugar.

13. Strawberry granita with coconut cream

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For a sweet and refreshing dessert, try this strawberry granita topped with coconut cream. This recipe is naturally sweetened with strawberries, requiring no additional sweetener. Each serving provides 11 grams of carbs, 5 grams of sugar, and no added sugar.

14. Tri-color berry and coconut parfaits

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If you’re looking for a great dessert for prediabetes, look no further—this tri-color berry and coconut parfait is for you. Fruity, creamy, and delicious, this recipe is sweetened with strawberries, blueberries, and stevia extract. Each parfait provides 12 grams of carbs, 5 grams of sugar, and no added sugar.

15. Cheesecake stuffed strawberries

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These cheesecake stuffed strawberries are a party pleaser—whether it’s a party of 1 or 20. They’re sweetened with stevia extract, so there’s no added sugar. Each serving provides 8 grams of carbs and 5 grams of sugar.

The Takeaway

Just because you have prediabetes does not mean you have to avoid desserts. Eating low-sugar and low-carb desserts will have a lesser impact on your blood sugar than sugary sweets, but both can fit in a healthy prediabetes diet plan. Think about the big picture when it comes to managing your blood sugar. The overall quality of your diet, how manageable it is to sustain, and consistency are more important than cutting sweet treats entirely and having a perfect diet. PlateJoy Health has a variety of helpful tools—from meal planning to easy recipes—to help you achieve your healthy lifestyle goals.

Alena Kharlamenko, MS, RD, CDN
Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant @ Alena Menko Nutrition

Alena Kharlamenko is the founder of Alena Menko Nutrition, a food and nutrition blog where she publishes healthful, plant-forward recipes and makes nutrition approachable with easily digestible information. She’s also passionate about gut health and is a Monash FODMAP-Trained Dietitian. When she's not cooking up a storm in the kitchen or behind her computer, she can be found exploring the vast culinary scene of NYC, traveling around the world, or hiking and spending time in nature. You can find Alena on Instagram @thebalancedbite or on Facebook @AlenaMenkoNutrition.


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