Fitting in Summer Treats

It's prime party season! From graduation parties, to cookouts, to family picnics – all are sure to have a spread of tempting desserts. This is one thing that makes special events and parties so tough if you have diabetes or if you are trying to lose weight. You want to enjoy yourself and not feel deprived. On the other hand, you don't want to disrupt your blood glucose control or derail your health efforts. What's the best way to handle this obstacle? Is it possible to avoid the guilt that often comes with indulging in these sweet treats?

The good news is, there is a place for sweets and desserts in your meal plan. You can still enjoy these treats on special occasions without feeling guilty. You'll just need to make some adjustments to the other foods you eat. The key is to be mindful of portions, plan ahead, and use the substitution method we describe below.

Plan Ahead and Substitute!

It is certainly possible to enjoy a serving of dessert and still control blood glucose. The key is to keep the total amount of carbohydrate the same as what you'd usually have at meal time. To do this, simply cut back on other carbohydrate foods to "free up" some carbohydrate for dessert. Let's look at an example of how this would work in a real-life situation.

Imagine you are at a summer cookout. If you use the diabetes plate method to plan meals, your plate might look like this:

  • 4 ounces barbequed chicken (1/4 of your plate)
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli salad (1/2 of your plate)
  • 1/2 cup potato salad plus 1/2 ear grilled corn (1/4 of your plate)
  • 1/2 cup fruit salad (on the side)

To fit in a 1/2 cup serving of our Red, White and Blue Pudding Trifle, a great summer picnic dessert, just cut back on one of the other carbohydrate foods in the meal above. The potato salad, the corn, or the fruit salad all are carbohydrate foods. Swap in a serving of the trifle for any of these.

You could also just have smaller portions of two carbohydrate foods so you still get to have a taste of everything. For example, have just 1/4 cup potato salad and 1/4 cup of fruit, and still enjoy a serving of trifle. It's all about trying to keep the amount of total carbs about the same as any other day. Make it work for you!

Perhaps you use carbohydrate counting to plan your meals. If you usually have around 60 grams at dinner, your plate might look something like this:

  • 1 turkey burger with cheese, mustard, and tomato, and a bun (about 30 grams of carbohydrate)
  • 1 cup cucumber tomato salad
  • 1/2 cup baked beans (about 20 grams of carbohydrate)
  • 1/2 ear grilled corn (about 10 grams of carbohydrate)

Consider that a cupcake, 1/2 cup of fruit cobbler or 1 cup frozen yogurt each have around 30 grams of carbohydrate. To fit any of these in, you could skip the bun on your burger, or skip both the baked beans and grilled corn to "free up" carbohydrate to enjoy for dessert.

Here are some more dessert portions and approximate carb amounts that will be helpful to remember for special events:

  • 1 fruit juice popsicle (3 oz) – 15 grams carbohydrate
  • 1/2 cup ice cream – 15 grams carbohydrate
  • 1/2 cup frozen yogurt – 15 grams carbohydrate
  • 2 small chocolate chip cookies (2 1/4 inches across) – 15 grams carbohydrate
  • 1 piece fruit pie (1/6 of 8-inch pie) – 45 grams carbohydrate
  • ½ cup fruit cobbler – 30-45 grams carbohydrate
  • 1 small, unfrosted brownie (1 1/4-inch square) – 15 grams carbohydrate
  • 1 small piece frosted cake (2-inch square) – 30 grams carbohydrate
  • 1 frosted cupcake – 30 grams carbohydrate

When possible, curb your sweet tooth with something that includes some nutritious ingredients like fresh fruit, low-fat dairy or whole grains. For example:

  • 1/2 cup grilled fruit
  • 1/3 cup of apple, pear, or berry crisp made with fresh fruit
  • 1/3 cup sugar-free pudding made with skim milk and topped with fresh berries and chopped nuts
  • 2 small chocolate-covered strawberries

Summer Treats Recipe Ideas

We have lots of tasty dessert recipes here on Recipes for Healthy Living that you can fit into your diabetes meal plan. Find the best one for your summer occasion:

Looking for more information? You can read more about diabetes and sugar by visiting our Sugar and Desserts page on