People with type 2 diabates have to consider how ice cream will affect their blood sugar levels since blood glucose control is critical for managing diabetes.
While including small servings of ice cream as part of a balanced, healthful diet is not dangerous, decisions about types and brands require careful consideration.
In this article, we look at the safest ice creams on the market for people with diabetes and offer some tips on how to minimize their impact on blood sugar.
Ice creams for people with diabetes
Some ice creams are safe for people with diabetes to enjoy.
Choosing from a wide range of available ice cream products can be difficult for people with diabetes.
They must take into account the number of carbohydrates, the calorie count, and any fat content in the product, as well as serving size.
The following are the best brands and flavors for those who have diabetes.
Breyers Creamy Vanilla: This contains minimal fat and 17 g of total carbohydrates per ½ cup. Breyers offer a similar product in chocolate flavor that has the same number of total carbohydrates.
The manufacturer also offers some flavors with no added sugar. However, these varieties contain multiple artificial sweeteners, which can still make blood sugar increase.
Edy's: This manufacturer produces several varieties of their slow-churned ice creams, which contain around 20 g carbohydrates or less per ½-cup serving. The Neopolitan flavor of Edy's contains only 14 g.
Halo Top: Halo provides ice cream flavors with additional protein and low carbohydrates. They are able to use lower amounts of sugar due to the use of the sugar alcohol erythritol, which provides sweetness without adding empty calories.
The addition of protein helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood, making it a good choice for people with diabetes. Their vanilla bean contains 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of sugar alcohol, and just under 15 grams of carbs per ½ cup serving.
As a sweet dessert, ice cream usually has high carbohydrate content coming from refined and processed sugars.
Recommended daily carbohydrate intake will vary based on many factors, including the success of an individual's glucose management, medications, height, weight and activity level. If a person manages blood sugar poorly, a doctor might advise a low-carbohydrate intake.
Talk to your diabetes specialist or a dietitian about the ideal intake of carbohydrates for your particular presentation of diabetes.
People with diabetes who are following a carbohydrate-restricted diet must keep a thorough record of carbohydrate intake.
Those who plan on eating a serving of ice cream for dessert should make sure they eat one less carbohydrate serving outside of this. Substituting a sandwich with a lettuce wrap or salad could achieve this.
Some ice cream brands and flavors also have high saturated fat content. Since people with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease, limiting other foods that contain saturated fat on the day they plan to eat ice cream is a way to avoid exceeding the recommended intake.
A person with diabetes who plans to include eating ice cream as a daily treat should talk to a dietitian about ways to include it into a dietary plan while still managing blood sugar levels.
Understanding serving size
People with diabetes need to be careful about serving size when eating ice cream.
Most ice cream has a lot of added sugar, generally making it a food to limit or avoid for people with diabetes.
One of the first factors to consider when choosing an ice cream is the total amount of carbohydrates on the nutrition facts label. This number will directly affect blood sugar, so people who are managing glucose should limit the serving size.
It is important to understand how ice cream fits into the overall diet plan. Here are a few factors for those who have diabetes to consider:
- An ice cream serving with 15 g of carbohydrates is equal to 1 serving of carbohydrates. Any carbohydrates in ice cream counts 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. With that being said, being mindful of saturated fat intake for the day is recommended. Full fat ice cream has higher amounts of saturated fat.
- A suitable portion of ice cream for people with diabetes is very small, usually half a cup. But most people serve much more than this. A person with diabetes must stick to the correct portion size so they know exactly how many carbohydrates they are eating.
Things to look out for
When it comes to picking out ice cream, the number of choices can be overwhelming. A wide range of brands and flavors is available. Consider the following factors when looking for ice cream at the 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 a particular 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.
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 product labels that boast of reduced sugar or having half the calorie content of regular ice cream. Although the claims may be true, the actual sugar content may still be much higher than the recommended amount per serving.
Fat and protein level
The amount of protein and fat in the ice cream can have a direct impact on the speed of sugar absorption in the body. High fat and protein content generally support slower-than-average absorption.
Other sweets and dessert options
Frozen yogurt is a good alternative to ice cream.
Diabetes-friendly desserts are available in most stores and are as easy to prepare at home as any other sweet treat.
Consider the following when looking for alternative sweet options:
- Total carbohydrate contents per serving: The safest option for people who have diabetes is to be mindful of their total daily carbohydrate intake. A dietitian or diabetes specialist can help determine a carbohydrate recommendation and develop a personalized diet plan.
- 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-added-sugar ice cream options, the medical community do not recommend them.
Some alternative, ready-to-eat options for dessert include the following:
Some people consider frozen yogurt and ice cream to be the same, while others recognize their differences.
Stores often sell fat-free varieties of frozen yogurt, which is a good option when compared to some ice creams, where a single serving can provide around a third of total fat needs for the day.
However, examine the nutritional information on frozen yogurt packaging carefully. Frozen yogurt may also contain amounts of sugar equivalent to or greater than the amount in ice cream, meaning that it provides even more carbohydrates in some products.
Manufacturers might increase the amount of sugar to make up for reduced flavor and texture after removing the fat.
Pudding and gelatin
Many brands that offer sugar- or fat-free versions of these dessert options may still contain artificial sweeteners.
Check the nutritional facts to see how they fit into the overall diet for the day is important.
Homemade baked goods made with stevia
Many baked goods use stevia in place of sugar in their recipes, such as cookies, brownies, cakes, and cookies.
This natural, zero-calorie sweetener may be a great substitute for sugar and can reduce the carbohydrate impact of a baked favorite.
However, stevia is much sweeter than regular sugar, so less is needed to achieve desired sweetness. In addition, unless consuming the plant directly, it is still a highly processed form of sweetener.
While moderation is still key, stevia can reduce the per-serving carbohydrate impact of eating baked goods.
Understanding carbohydrate serving sizes and their potential impact on blood sugar throughout the day is key to making ice cream a treat that people with diabetes can continue to enjoy.
Take a walk after eating a carb-rich dessert to help bring down post-meal blood sugar.
For people working with dietitians to develop a meal plan, 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 dietary adjustments, people with diabetes can safely eat ice cream.
I still feel hungry after meals. What is the best way to reduce calories without making myself hungry?
Eating a well-balanced meal that pairs carbohydrates with protein and healthy fat can help keep you feel full and stay satisfied for longer.
Choosing fibrous, complex carbohydrates over simple sugars will not only increase feelings of fullness but provide more nutrient density and less calories. If you are still feeling hungry after meals, ask yourself if you got enough protein with your meal, if you had some healthy fat included, and what types of carbohydrates featured.
Using the Plate Method can help guide eating habits and increase satisfaction. The Plate Method guidelines include:
- ¼ plate of lean protein
- ¼ plate of fibrous carbohydrates, such as beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, whole grains..etc)
- ½ plate of non-starchy veggies
Eating the right proportions of nutrients can help a person control the effects of diabetes.Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.