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My 5 Favorite Diabetes-Friendly Summer Treats

Diet and Nutrition

July 20, 2023

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Photography by Yuliya Koshchiy/Getty Images

Photography by Yuliya Koshchiy/Getty Images

by Sarah Graves, PhD

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Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, LD

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•••••

by Sarah Graves, PhD

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, LD

•••••

•••••

Summer brings lots of sugary treats like ice cream and popsicles. Fortunately, when you’re armed with a few ready recipes, keeping your blood sugar in check doesn’t have to mean missing out.

For me, summertime means lots of backyard BBQs and trips to the ice cream parlor. The season is full of my favorite foods.

My son once asked me if I could live on one food for the rest of my life, what would it be? And I answered, “Ice cream, of course!”

I can’t eat the sugar-laden kind often because it spikes my blood sugar. But thanks to zero-carb sweeteners like allulose, I can make diabetes-friendly ice cream at home. It tastes as good as the real stuff and maintains its texture in the freezer.

It’s one of my top 5 summer treats that allow me to indulge while maintaining my blood sugar.

A note on ingredients

For the best blood sugar management, I use ingredients with fewer carbs, not just less sugar. For example, I use almond meal instead of graham crackers to make pie crust.

You can substitute any ingredient that doesn’t work for you in these recipes. If you’re vegan, you might sub in dairy-free alternatives, like dairy-free cream cheese.

Some substitutions work better than others. For ice cream, I recommend replacing heavy cream with full fat coconut milk instead of a nut milk alternative because ice cream needs fat to prevent iciness.

My favorite sweetener is a blend of allulose and monk fruit, and it measures one-for-one like sugar. Allulose on its own isn’t as sweet as sugar.

I personally avoid artificial sweeteners because of their possible connection with gut dysbiosis, which is a fancy way of saying an unbalanced gut.

If allulose is cost-prohibitive, you can substitute another diabetes-friendly sweetener. Only you know what works best for your body and your budget. 

But two of the recipes (ice cream sundaes and kettle corn) specifically need allulose to maintain texture and caramelize like sugar.

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1. Summer fruit tart

My mom brought home this recipe from a friend when I was a teenager, and it’s been a family summer tradition ever since. It’s a fruit tart similar to cheesecake, topped with sliced seasonal fruit.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I wanted to make it diabetes-friendly, and this version was born. Before assembling the fruit tart, I first make low carb almond meal pie crust and sugar-free sweetened condensed milk.

Start to finish: 5 minutes to prep; 4–6 hours chill time

Serves: 6–8

Ingredients and supplies

  • Low carb almond meal pie crust (I use this recipe.)
  • Sugar-free sweetened condensed milk (I use this recipe.)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (1 block)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups sliced summer fruit, such as strawberries and kiwi, for topping
  • Food processor
  • Pie dish

Directions

  1. Add sugar-free sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, and lemon juice to a food processor. Blend until smooth. You can’t overmix it, so the longer, the better.
  2. Pour the filling on top of the low carb almond meal pie crust. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  3. Layer your sliced fruit of choice on top of the filling. You can alternate fruits to make a creative presentation.

Recipe note: Instead of fresh fruit, you can also spread a can of sugar-free cherry pie filling on top.

2. Hot fudge sundae

This rich hot fudge sauce adds a “wow” factor to vanilla ice cream. Even though it uses allulose and monk fruit sweetener instead of sugar, it tastes as good as the original thing.

Start to finish: 40 minutes to prep; 12–24 hours chill time

Serves: 8

Ingredients and supplies

For the ice cream:

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk*
  • 1 cup allulose and monk fruit sweetener**
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 large egg yolks, whisked
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • Medium stainless steel bowl
  • Medium saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Small heat-proof bowl
  • Fine mesh sieve
  • Ice cream maker

For the hot fudge sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sugar-free chocolate chips (I use Choc Zero.)
  • Sugar-free sweetened condensed milk (I use this recipe.)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Heavy bottom pan

Directions

  1. Chill your ice cream maker bowl in the freezer overnight according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Pour the heavy cream into a stainless steel bowl and place in the fridge to chill.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add the milk, sweetener, and salt. Stir until the sweetener is completely dissolved, and continue heating until the mixture steams.
  4. In a small, heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Spoon about a third of the milk mixture into the egg yolks while whisking continuously. Next, add the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with steaming milk.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg and milk mixture continuously over medium-low heat until it coats the back of the spoon (reaching about 170°F (76.6°C) on an instant-read thermometer). Do not overcook, or it will turn into pudding instead of an ice cream base.
  6. Remove the chilled heavy cream from the fridge. Using the fine mesh sieve, strain the hot milk mixture into the cream. Stir to combine.
  7. Cover the ice cream mixture and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. The colder your ice cream base, the better it will freeze as it churns.
  8. Remove your ice cream base from the fridge and add vanilla. Stir to combine, and churn using the ice cream machine (about 20 minutes), according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  9. Serve directly from the machine for soft serve. Otherwise, scoop it into an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for 4–6 hours.
  10. While the ice cream freezes, prepare the hot fudge. In a heavy bottom pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  11. Slowly stir in the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips until the chocolate is melted.
  12. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, pour into a glass jar. Serve immediately with ice cream or store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. You can also top the hot fudge sundae with roasted, salted peanuts for another layer of yum.

*For even fewer carbs, you can substitute whole milk with unsweetened almond milk or another nut milk. However, you’ll need to add a tablespoon of butter for the correct fat ratio to prevent iciness. Add the butter at the same time as the nut milk.

**Allulose helps maintain texture in this recipe. Your ice cream will stay soft in the freezer, just like store-bought ice cream.

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3. Peach melba sundae with cake

Seasonal peaches are one of my favorite summer treats, and the fruit is a dessert worthy on its own. A fresh peach is a thousand times better than the canned version. In this recipe, adding vanilla ice cream, sugar-free cake, and sugar-free raspberry sauce elevates it to the next level.

Start to finish: 10 minutes to prep; 30 minutes to bake the cake

Serves: 9

Ingredients and supplies

For the cake layer:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines keto-friendly vanilla cake mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 8-inch square cake pan

For the ice cream:

  • 1 quart homemade sugar-free vanilla ice cream (See recipe above.)

For the raspberry sauce:

  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup allulose and monk fruit sweetener
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • Medium saucepan
  • Fine mesh sieve (optional)

For the peaches:

  • 4–5 ripe peaches
  • Large stockpot or Dutch oven

Directions:

  1. Prepare the boxed cake mix according to the package directions. Let cool, then slice into nine squares.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine raspberries, sweetener, lemon juice, and water. Stir until the sweetener dissolves and the sauce is heated through (about 5 minutes). If desired, press through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
  3. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Slice an X in the bottom of each peach. Drop the peaches into boiling water and leave for about 30 seconds. Remove the peaches. The skin should now remove easily. Pull off the skin where you cut the X, and slice. (Note: The peaches must be ripe for this trick to work.)
  4. Top a piece of cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Pour raspberry sauce on top, and finish with several slices of peaches.

4. Frozen lemonade slushie

Frozen drinks are another summer staple. This recipe is for frozen lemonade, but you can create different flavors with the same technique. If it fits into your diabetes plan, you can make an adult version by adding an alcoholic beverage of your choice.

Start to finish: 5 minutes to prep; several hours for freezing

Serves: 4

Ingredients and supplies

  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup allulose monk fruit sweetener
  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 4 ice cube trays
  • Pitcher that fits 1 quart or more
  • High-speed blender

Directions

  1. To make the simple syrup, add the sweetener and 1 cup of water to a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the sweetener is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Add the simple syrup, lemon juice, and remaining 2 cups of water to a pitcher to make lemonade. Stir until combined.
  3. Pour half the lemonade into ice cube trays. Freeze for several hours or overnight until solid.
  4. Add the frozen cubes and remaining lemonade to a blender. Blend and add more lemonade as needed to reach your desired consistency.

Recipe note: You can make a diabetes-friendly slushie from nearly any low sugar juice or drink mix. Just freeze the beverage in ice cube trays and blend with more juice.

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5. Kettle corn

This sweet treat is reminiscent of summer festival season. Believe it or not, you can enjoy kettle corn while maintaining your blood sugar. Just substitute traditional sugar with a blend of allulose and monk fruit sweetener.

Start to finish: 5 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients and supplies

  • 1/4 cup refined coconut oil* or ghee
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 cup allulose and monk fruit sweetener**
  • Popcorn salt to taste
  • Large metal pot with a lid, like a stockpot or Dutch oven

Directions

  1. Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add coconut oil or ghee to the base of the pot and allow it to melt completely.
  2. Add the popcorn kernels to the pot and cover with sweetener. Place the lid on top and give the pot a good shake. Leave a crack between the lid and pot for steam to escape.
  3. Cook until you hear a 1-second gap between kernels popping, shaking the pot occasionally. Note: One second is a shorter gap than usual, but it’s necessary to avoid burning the kettle corn.
  4. Pour the popcorn onto a tray and sprinkle with popcorn salt (while still hot). Remove any unpopped kernels, and serve. Store leftovers at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.

*I recommend refined coconut oil over unrefined so that the popcorn doesn’t taste like coconut.

**I strongly recommend using allulose in this recipe. Most other sugar substitutes don’t caramelize like sugar.

Recipe note: Cooking popcorn on the stove takes practice to avoid burning it. For an easier method, you can use an air popper like the Cuisinart EasyPop. Place oil and popcorn kernels on the bottom and pour the allulose mixture on top, then pop. When finished, pour the kettle corn into a bowl and sprinkle with salt.

The bottom line

These are just a few diabetes-friendly treats you can make this summer. You can search the internet or Pinterest to find hundreds of other recipes. Just use search terms like “diabetes-friendly” and “low carb.”

Summer eating can be more about being social than the food itself. Backyard BBQs are made for socializing. And even when I have a freezer full of diabetes-friendly homemade ice cream, there’s something special about our local ice cream parlor.

There are ways to include summer treats in a diabetes-friendly lifestyle without bringing your own lunch box to the BBQ — although that’s an option, too. Be sure to check your glucose before and after to see how foods affect you since everyone’s body is a little different.

Medically reviewed on July 20, 2023

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About the author

Sarah Graves, PhD

Sarah Graves is a Columbus Ohio-based English professor, writing center director, and writer whose work has appeared all over the web. She’s written on such diverse topics as education, parenting, personal finance, and health and wellness. She’s most passionate about providing resources for creatives, especially young creators. You can find out more on her website or follow her on Instagram @SarahGravesPhD.

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