Ice cream can be a delicious treat, but people with diabetes need to be particularly careful about which ice cream they eat.
People with type 2 diabetes have more to think about than simply ruining their diet with ice cream. Their main concerns are about how ice cream will affect their blood sugar levels, since controlling this is critical to managing diabetes.
While people with diabetes can include ice cream as part of their healthful diet, it is important for them to make informed decisions about what ice creams they should eat.
Contents of this article:
Understanding ice cream sugar servings
Most ice cream has a lot of added sugar, making it something a person with diabetes should avoid. Because of this, one of the first things they should consider when choosing an ice cream is the sugar content.
People with diabetes need to understand how their ice cream indulgence fits into their overall diet plan. Here are a few facts for people with diabetes to consider:
- Every 4 grams (g) of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. The more sugar that is in the ice cream, the more carbohydrates it has.
- An ice cream serving with 15 g of carbohydrates is equal to 1 serving of carbohydrates. Any carbohydrates in ice cream will count towards the total carbohydrate goal for the day, which will be different for each person.
- Protein and fat found in ice cream can help slow absorption of sugar. Choosing an ice cream higher in protein and fat may be preferable to choosing a lower fat option.
- A suitable portion of ice cream for somebody with diabetes is very small, usually half a cup. But most people serve much more than this. It is crucial that a person with diabetes sticks to the proper portion size, so they know exactly how many carbohydrates they are eating.
Things to look out for when choosing an ice cream
When it comes to picking out ice cream, the number of choices offered at a grocery store can be overwhelming. There are a number of brands and dozens of flavors to choose from. Here are some considerations for picking out ice cream at the local store:
The best ice cream for a person with diabetes has the lowest sugar content per serving without relying on artificial sweeteners. To check the amount of sugar in ice cream, look at the total number of carbohydrates on the nutrition label and the ingredient list.
For someone with diabetes, the best choice is an ice cream with less than 20 g total carbohydrates in a half- cup serving.
Labels can be confusing or even deliberately misleading, so it is important to read them carefully.
Almost every brand of ice cream has lots of marketing information on the container, which is designed to catch the eye.
People with diabetes may find a product that says reduced sugar or half the calories of regular ice cream. Although the claims may be true that the particular product has less sugar than another variety, the actual sugar content may still be much higher than recommended per serving amount.
Fat and protein level
The amount of protein and fat in the ice cream can have a direct impact on how fast sugar is absorbed in the body. In general, if the fat and protein contents are higher than average, the sugar from each serving will be absorbed more slowly.
Best ice creams for people with diabetes to eat
With so many brands to choose from, it can be hard to determine which are best for people with diabetes. The following are a few brands and flavors to choose from that are better overall choices:
- Blue Bunny Ice Cream offer two options - vanilla and chocolate. Both contain less than 20 g of carbohydrates per serving.
- Breyers offer a vanilla ice cream called Smooth and Dreamy ½ Fat Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream. It contains minimal fat and 17 g of total carbohydrates. Breyers offer a similar product in chocolate as well, also with 17 g of total carbohydrates. Breyers also offer some no-sugar added flavors. However, these varieties contain multiple artificial sweeteners and are not recommended.
- Schwan's offer a chocolate ice cream flavor, which contains 18 g of total carbohydrates.
- Edy's offer several varieties of their slow-churned ice creams, which contain around 20 g or less of carbohydrates per serving.
- Halo Top offer ice cream flavors with additional protein. The addition of protein helps to slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood, making it a good choice for people with diabetes.
How to make room for ice cream in a diet
A recommended serving of carbohydrates in ice cream is 20 g or less. This equates to roughly one serving of carbohydrates in a day.
People with diabetes who are following a strict diet where carbohydrate servings count, must count every carbohydrate they eat. Those planning on eating a serving of ice cream for dessert should make sure they eat one less carbohydrate serving during the day. Substituting a sandwich with a lettuce wrap or salad could do this.
Saturated fat content is also high in some ice cream brands and flavors. Since people with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease, it is a good idea to limit other saturated fat-containing foods on the day they plan to eat ice cream.
If eating ice cream is going to be a daily treat, it is important to talk to a dietitian about how to fit it into a dietary plan.
Other sweets and dessert options
Diabetes-friendly desserts are available in most stores and can be made at home as easily as any other desserts. Some things to consider when looking for other sweet options include:
- Total carbohydrate contents per serving: Just 15-20 g is considered one daily serving of carbohydrates.
- Total protein: The amount of protein in a dessert can help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
- Use of natural sweeteners: Although artificial sweeteners are readily available in most stores and in many light and no-sugar-added ice cream options, they are not highly recommended in the medical community.
Some ready-to-eat options for dessert include:
While frozen yogurt may seem like a more healthful option, it often contains just as much sugar as regular ice cream.
Some people consider frozen yogurt and ice cream to be the same, while others recognize their differences. Frozen yogurt is often sold in fat-free varieties, which is a good option when compared to some ice creams where a single serving can be around a third of total fat needs.
However, the nutritional information in frozen yogurt needs to be looked at carefully. Frozen yogurt may also contain just as much, if not more sugar and therefore carbohydrates, as ice cream. This may be to make up for the lack of flavor and texture that the fat would give it.
Pudding and gelatin
There are many brands that offer sugar-free or fat-free versions of these dessert options, although they may still contain artificial sweeteners. It is important to check the nutritional facts to see how they fit into the overall diet for the day.
Homemade baked goods made with stevia
Many baked goods, such as cookies, brownies, cakes, and so on, use stevia in place of sugar in their recipes.
This natural, zero-calorie sweetener offers a great substitute for sugar that can reduce the carbohydrate impact of a favorite baked treat.
When it comes to ice cream, the best advice for people with diabetes is to understand carbohydrate serving sizes, the amount in a serving of ice cream, and how much impact it is going to have on the day.
It is always a good idea to take a walk after eating a dessert to help lower post-meal blood sugar.
For people working with dietitians to develop a meal plan, it is important to talk about possible issues with adding ice cream to the diet, or ways to make it work. In any case, with the right research and sacrifices, ice cream can be a part of a regular diet.