Are you worried that you can’t have ice cream, popsicles or other frozen desserts as part of your diabetes meal plan? You are not alone – this can be a challenge for many people who have diabetes. It is possible for people with diabetes to incorporate frozen desserts into a balanced diabetes meal plan. The big question for most people is how much they can actually have.
Frozen Desserts & Diabetes
For people with diabetes, a good rule of thumb is 2 carbohydrate servings (i.e., 30 grams of carbs) and 150 calories or less per serving of frozen dessert. This is a reasonable amount of calories and carbs for a balanced diabetes meal plan. (Consult with your health care provider about your individual calorie and carbohydrate goals.)
The Perfect Frozen Dessert?
Whether your taste buds are craving something rich and creamy or light and refreshing, multiple choices are out there to satisfy your sweet tooth. Here is a breakdown of the carb and calorie content for some popular frozen desserts.
- Popsicles are very low in both carbs and calories. Most popsicles have about 45 calories and 11 grams of carbs per pop. The no-sugar-added varieties are even lower with about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbs per serving. Keep in mind that most no-sugar-added or “sugar-free” products still contain carbs and are probably sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Look for Popsicle brand ice pops for a variety of frozen flavors.
- Italian ice is a great frozen dessert option, made with fruit puree or concentrated syrup. Luigi’s lemon Italian ice has 100 calories and 26 grams of carbs per serving. The no-sugar-added ones are sweetened with artificial sweeteners.
- Fruit bars have about 60 calories and 15 grams of carbs. If you prefer to make your own fruit bars, use 1 cup of fresh juice or a cup of blended watermelon and freeze in ice cube trays for about the same amount of calories and carbs. At the grocery store, look for Breyers All Natural Berry Swirl Bars – they have 40 calories and 10 grams of carbs.
- Fudgsicles and fudge bars weigh in at 100 calories and 17 grams of carbs. Fudgsicles are also available in sugar-free versions, which have 40 calories and 10 grams of fat. Low-fat “original” flavor fudgsicles have 60 calories and 12 grams of fat. Check the Nutrition Facts label for carbs, fat, and calorie amounts on low-fat items, as less fat doesn’t always mean less carbs and calories.
- Sherbets (most flavors) have around 100 calories and 23 grams of carbs in a half-cup serving. Sherbet is a great alternative to ice cream and is richer in taste than popsicles.
- Ice cream is higher in carbs and calories than most other frozen desserts because it contains milk as well as sugar. In general, most ice cream brands have 140 calories and 15 grams of carbs per half-cup serving. Premium ice cream, or ice creams with nuts, fruit, fudge, or caramel added are higher in both carbs and calories (for example, a half-cup of butter pecan ice cream has 300 calories and 20 grams of carbs). There are low-sugar and low-fat versions of ice cream out there. Some tasty options include Skinny Cow ice cream bars at 140 calories and 30 grams of carbs, Ben & Jerry’s low-fat black raspberry at 140 calories and 28 grams of carbs, and McDonald’s reduced-fat vanilla cone at 150 calories and 24 grams of carbs.
The Bottom Line
The goal is balance and moderation in all foods for people with diabetes, so no food is off limits. Keep in mind that the more additives a frozen dessert has, the more likely it is to be higher in carbs and calories, so keep it simple.
Sejal is a registered dietitian, a certified diabetes educator and she holds a masters degree in nutrition and health. Sejal was the project coordinator for the Veteran’s Administrations (VA) national weight loss program and previously worked for the VA hospital in Tampa, FL as a Spinal Cord Injury dietitian.
Sejal has had numerous clinical and community education experiences, including pediatric and intensive care nutrition support. She has also had the opportunity to teach nutrition courses at the community college level to students interested in pursuing health professions. One of her favorite areas of education is diabetes management.