I’m not going to lie to you: Desserts without sugar do not taste as good as desserts with it.
But diabetes is not to be taken lightly. It is literally a matter of life and limb. Amputations are common with diabetes. So is blindness. Sugar makes it worse, and so do carbohydrates.
Basically, everything that makes a dessert good is what makes it bad for diabetics, who now make up a huge part of the population. More than 29 million Americans have diabetes — that’s one out of every 11 Americans — and three times that number are at risk for developing it.
But diabetics deserve dessert, too, and they can have it — provided they do not indulge too often, that the desserts they eat are low in sugar and carbohydrates and that their portions are sensibly small.
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That’s where today’s recipes come in. They’re appropriate for diabetics or anyone with a sweet tooth who is looking to lose some weight. Considering that they are made with little or no sugar, they’re surprisingly good.
They’d be better with more sugar and carbohydrates, but we’re talking about people’s lives and limbs.
The first dessert I made, Crispy Peanut Butterscotch Pie, is truly excellent, even with fat-free, sugar-free, instant pudding mix, sugar-free (or fat-free) frozen whipped dessert topping and just one tablespoon of honey for six servings.
It is also made with what is generically specified as “oven-toasted rice cereal.” That means Rice Krispies. Use Rice Krispies.
It’s light. It’s crispy (sorry, Krispie). And it’s downright delicious.
My next dessert was mind-blowingly gorgeous, and it tasted almost as good as it looked. To be frank, it would be perfect if it used real sugar. The only problem with the diabetic-friendly version is that the Splenda I used left behind a faint aftertaste, as sugar substitutes are wont to do.
But here is the beautiful part of the Double Berry Pie Squares: They are made with fresh strawberries and frozen raspberries simmered with gelatin. It’s a little sweet, a little tart and a marvelously rich shade of red.
A graham-cracker crust makes the perfect base for the fruity center of the squares, and a dollop of (sugar-free) Cool Whip on top adds just the right amount of creaminess — or whatever Cool Whip is.
My next dessert divided our taste testers right down the middle; half of them loved it, half hated it.
It’s chocolate meringues, though they are both more and less than chocolate meringues. More chocolate, less sugar.
Technically called Bites of Chocolate Bliss (not my fault, folks), these meringues aim to satisfy the cravings of a diabetic chocoholic. They do so by ramping up the amount of cocoa to compensate for the relative lack of sugar.
But cocoa is a bit bitter, and the cookies it makes are very chocolatey, but not very sweet. They fall somewhere on the scale between chocolate that is bittersweet and unsweetened. It’s all a matter of taste.
My final dessert is a diabetic version of a parfait, made entirely without sugar. In place of ice cream, it uses a mixture of Greek yogurt and whipped cream (the cream, of course, is whipped without sugar). For the fruit filling, you simply swirl in some sugar-free jam.
It’s very simple to make, and very satisfying. You don’t have to be diabetic to love it.
Crispy Peanut Butterscotch Pie
Makes 6 servings
¼ cup natural (no sugar added) creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ cups oven-toasted rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies (more optional)
1 (1-ounce) package butterscotch fat-free, sugar-free, instant pudding mix
2 cups fat-free milk
1 ½ cups frozen sugar-free or fat-free whipped dessert topping such as Cool Whip, thawed and divided
Ground cinnamon, optional
1. Combine peanut butter and honey in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave at high power for 30 seconds; stir until mixture melts. Stir in rice cereal. Using waxed paper, press cereal mixture into bottom of 8-inch round cake pan.
2. Prepare pudding mix according to package directions for pudding, using 2 cups of milk. Fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping. Spoon pudding mixture into prepared pan. Cover and freeze until firm.
3. Let pie stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving. Spoon remaining ½ cup whipped topping over each serving. If desired, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and additional cereal.
— Nutrition facts per serving: 139 calories; 4 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 5 g protein; 22 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 302 mg sodium; 132 mg calcium
— Recipe by Oxmoor House Healthy Eating Collection, via myrecipes.com
Double Berry Pie Squares
Makes 9 servings
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and diced
1 (12-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed
2/3 cup finely crushed graham crackers
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup frozen sugar-free whipped dessert topping (such as Cool Whip), thawed
1. For filling: In a large saucepan, combine 1/3 cup of the sugar or sugar substitute and the gelatin; add strawberries and raspberries. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until gelatin is dissolved and mixture is simmering.
2. Transfer berry mixture to a shallow bowl. Chill about 45 minutes or until mixture begins to set up around the edges, stirring occasionally.
3. For crust: Lightly coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, stir together finely crushed graham crackers, the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute and the melted butter. Press graham cracker mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Place in freezer while the filling chills.
4. Carefully pour filling over the crust. Chill about 3 hours or until filling is completely set.
5. Cut into squares to serve. Top with whipped dessert topping.
— Per serving: 162 calories; 5 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 7 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 19 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 38 mg sodium; 33 mg calcium. Nutrition analysis used granulated sugar and unsalted butter.
— Recipe from diabeticlivingonline.com
Bites of Chocolate Bliss
Makes 20 servings (2 pieces per serving)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup granulated sugar, divided
3 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.
2. Sift together cocoa, salt and ¼ cup of the granulated sugar into a small bowl.
3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-low speed to beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar, ½ tablespoon at a time, until meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form. Fold in cocoa mixture and vanilla extract.
4. Drop by rounded teaspoons about 1 inch apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 25 minutes for chewy cookies or 40 minutes for crisp ones. Cool cookies on wire racks. Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar.
— Per serving: 58 calories; 1 g fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 13 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 33 mg sodium; 6 mg calcium
— Recipe by Prevention magazine
Yogurt and Jam Parfaits
Makes 4 servings
½ cup cold heavy cream
1 cup Greek yogurt
½ cup sugar-free jam
1. Whisk cream to soft peaks in a large bowl. Fold in yogurt.
2. Spoon jam evenly on top and gently swirl in, leaving streaks. Divide mixture evenly among 4 glasses. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or, covered, for up to 1 day before serving.
— Per serving: 302 calories; 25 g fat; 15 g saturated fat; 73 mg cholesterol; 7 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 15 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 44 mg sodium; 102 mg calcium. Nutrition analysis used plain, whole milk Greek yogurt.
— Recipe by Martha Stewart Living