Best Ice Cream for Type 2 Diabetes

Ice cream does not have to be strictly off limits for people with type 2 diabetes. While it is still best to enjoy ice cream in moderation, there are ice cream and frozen yogurt choices out there that will not derail a healthful diet.

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.

Understanding ice cream sugar servings

[ice cream cheers]
Ice cream can be a delicious treat, but people with diabetes need to be particularly careful about which ice cream they eat.

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 choose 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:

Low sugar

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.

[reading a label at the grocery store]
Labels can be confusing or even deliberately misleading, so it is important to read them carefully.

Confusing labels

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:

Frozen yogurt

[frozen yogurt with berries]
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.

Conclusion

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.

Fast food and Diabetes: Tips and Options for Eating Out

To manage diabetes effectively, people need to follow a healthful diet. Fast food has a bad reputation for being unhealthy and highly processed.

Like junk food, fast food should be avoided most of the time. However, with a bit of know-how, people with diabetes can eat fast food in moderation without putting their health and wellness at risk.

Tips for eating fast food out and about

It is important for people with diabetes to approach fast food options with some caution, and when possible, be prepared for what might be on offer.

Before going to a favorite fast food restaurant, people with diabetes should consider some of these tips:

[young woman on her laptop in the kitchen ]
Menus and calorie counts can often be found online, which can help people with diabetes make sure there is a meal option for them.
  • Do not go when overly hungry. Starting any meal on an empty stomach can cause even those with the best intentions to overeat and make less healthy choices. When possible, people with diabetes should plan to eat a fast food meal after having a healthful snack, such as an apple, to avoid overeating.
  • Know before going. Due to popular demand, many fast food restaurants have calorie counts on their menus and nutrition information on their websites. In other cases, independent websites might offer reviews and food facts. No matter the source, it is a good idea for people to look at the menu options and have a meal planned out ahead of the trip, whenever possible, to limit impulse orders.
  • Drink water, not soda. People with diabetes should avoid soda due to the high sugar content and the risk of causing a spike in blood sugar levels. Swapping soda for water can help avoid unnecessary calories and blood sugar spikes, and help reduce the feeling of hunger.
  • Eat slowly. It takes the brain at least 15 minutes to register that the stomach is satisfied. Eating slowly helps the brain catch up with what the stomach is feeling. This technique can help a person avoid too large a meal.
  • Limit the number of visits. Most health and wellness professionals recommend limiting the number of times anyone, including people with diabetes, eats fast food. It is best to keep visits rare, no more than once to twice a month, for best health.
  • Keep it small. When the counter clerk asks about upping the order size, it is generally a good idea to say “no.” There will still be plenty of calories in the smaller meal, but the smaller portion is at least less than what the super-size or large size has to offer.
  • Beware of the value meal options. A fast food venue is not going to push a person to buy a single burger because it is far more cost-effective to bundle and sell a more expensive option. It is better to eat the sandwich with a side salad and bottle of water instead of a pre-packaged burger, fries, and fountain drink meal.
  • Watch the salads. Salads can be worse than the value meal, so people should use caution when ordering. People should avoid salads that contain deep-fried taco shells, fried chicken, fatty dressings, cheese, and croutons that can add calories and affect blood sugar levels. Instead, people should look for salads with light dressings, grilled chicken, limited or no cheese, and no croutons.
  • Fried is bad. It is best to avoid deep-fried foods, such as chicken strips, fries, and taco shells.
  • Swap the sides. When available, people should choose side salads, fruits, vegetables, or other sides that are more healthful than fries.

Tips on what to order

Fast food has branched out considerably from some of the original burger, fries, and milkshake options of years ago. Now, it is possible to find fast food from many different cultural backgrounds. This can make it harder for people with diabetes to know what is and is not a good choice for them.

The following are some popular fast food types and some general suggestions of what to look for in each.

[meatballs with basil in a wooden bowl]
Meatballs without the pasta will help people keep within their carbohydrate goals.

Italian

Fast food pizza places often offer a small variety of Italian dishes.

When Italian is the option available, people with diabetes should steer clear of deep-dish pizza and pasta, with its high carbohydrate count.

Instead, choices such as meatballs, salads, and grilled chicken offer better options for people with diabetes to choose from.

Chinese

When ordering Chinese, the healthiest choices are often the steamed ones.

People should choose steamed broccoli and chicken with sauce on the side over brown rice, instead of chicken over white rice.

Most Chinese noodle dishes, such as lo mein, should also be avoided due to their high carb count.

American

Brothy vegetable or bean soups, salads with grilled fish, tofu or chicken, lettuce wrapped burgers, and sides of steamed or roasted vegetables will beat a typical fast food cheeseburger, fries, and soda meal any day.

Mexican

[grilled chicken salad with radishes and avocado]
Salad with grilled chicken and healthful fats such as avocado is a good replacement for Mexican dishes high in carbohydrates.

Mexican fast food venues typically offer tacos, burritos, and tortilla chips. Similar to many of the burger fast food spots, they have started to offer salads and other seemingly healthful options.

A grilled chicken salad with beans, avocado and salsa as dressing and served without a deep-fried shell is a good option.

Grilled chicken tacos on soft corn tortillas with limited or no cheese, avocado and grilled vegetables can typically still be ordered while staying within carbohydrate meal goals.

Beware of fried taco shells that are low fiber, yet high fat and high calorie.

Questions to ask staff

When in doubt, people with diabetes should not be afraid to ask the staff questions about their dietary needs.

Here are some questions that may help people with diabetes to make healthful choices when eating out:

  • Are there any lighter calorie options available?
  • Are there special menu items for people on restricted diets?
  • Can I see the nutritional information?
  • Are there substitutions that are more healthful, such as veggie sticks over fries?
  • Can I order a burger without a bun (as I want to avoid simple carbohydrates)?

Summary

Fast foods are not the best option for people with diabetes, as they offer a number of foods high in sugar, salt, and fat. Even healthier options are often still highly processed. People should check their blood sugar 2 hours after a fast food meal to see how it has affected them. This can help guide food choices in the future.

Although they should be avoided except on rare occasion, it is still possible to visit a fast food restaurant and order options that will have minimal impact on overall diet and health.

When eaten in moderation and with some planning, fast food can be a tasty treat or make do as a quick meal if needed.

Meal Planning to Manage Blood Sugar: Carb Counting for Diabetes

Carb counting is one form of meal planning that can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is an incurable, yet manageable, a medical condition where the body’s blood sugar levels are too high. This happens when there is not enough insulin in the body, or the insulin does not work properly.

Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas. It helps the body to process glucose (the simplest form of sugar), which is used by the cells to create energy. When this doesn’t happen, sugar stays in the bloodstream. This can lead to serious health problems.

Diabetes and the role of carbohydrates

In the United States in 2014, approximately 9 percent of Americans, totaling nearly 29 million people, were found to have diabetes. Diabetes is classified into different types and includes:

Almost one tenth of people in the U.S. have some form of diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes: In this type, the body does not produce insulin. This is due to the body attacking its own insulin-producing cells within the pancreas. It is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults.
  • Type 2 diabetes: In this type, insulin is either not made in high enough quantities or not used efficiently. This form of diabetes affects people of all ages and is the most common type.
  • Gestational diabetes: Some pregnant women will develop a typically temporary form of diabetes called gestational diabetes. This raises their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Most times, once the baby is born, this form of diabetes disappears.

What happens after carbohydrates are eaten?

The digestive system breaks down the carbohydrates into sugar. This enters the bloodstream and is used by the body’s cells for energy.

Typically, when the body receives the signal that sugar is in the bloodstream, the pancreas produces insulin. This aids the body’s cells in using the sugar for energy and helps to keep blood sugar levels steady.

However, this doesn’t happen in the bodies of people who have diabetes. These people may need to take an external form of insulin to maintain normal levels of blood sugar.

As they have a condition that affects their blood sugar levels, people with diabetes need to be cautious about how much sugar they take in on a daily basis. This is more involved than simply curbing a chocolate or ice cream craving.

Many people with diabetes need to count the number of carbohydrates in each serving of food. This is referred to as carbohydrate counting, or carb counting, and helps to control blood sugar levels.

Understanding carb-heavy foods

The main nutrients found in food include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, like any other nutrient, come in healthful and unhealthful forms. People with diabetes need to take special care of which carbohydrates they eat and how regularly.

Foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are full of energy producing nutrients, vitamins minerals, and fiber. These are vital for normal physical growth and development. However, carbohydrates in sugary foods and drinks offer little nutritional value.

It is important for those with diabetes to understand:

  • how many carbohydrates they need on a daily basis
  • how to count carbohydrates
  • how to properly read a food label

Foods that contain carbohydrates include:

  • Grains: Including bread, pasta, oatmeal, certain noodles, crackers, cereals, rice, and quinoa.
  • Fruits: Including apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, melons, oranges, and grapefruits.
  • Dairy: Including milk and yogurt.
  • Legumes: Beans (including dried), lentils, and peas.
  • Snacks: Cakes, cookies, candy, and other sweet dessert-type foods.
  • Drinks: Juices, soft drinks, sports drinks, and sugary energy drinks.
  • Vegetables: Some vegetables contain more carbohydrates than others.

Starchy and non-starchy vegetables

Not all vegetables are created equal. They can be broken down into “starchy” and “non-starchy” types. Starchy vegetables contain more carbohydrates than the non-starchy varieties.

[a plethora of green vegetables]
Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbs, therefore people counting carbs can eat much more of them.

Starchy vegetables include:

  • potatoes (including sweet potatoes)
  • peas
  • pumpkin
  • butternut squash
  • fresh beets

Non-starchy vegetables include:

  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • celery
  • green beans
  • lettuce
  • other salad greens
  • peppers
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini

Healthy sources of protein and fat

To avoid carbohydrate-heavy foods, it is important to understand which foods are healthful sources of protein and fat.

Fish, meat, poultry, many kinds of cheese, nuts, oils and fats do not contain enough carbohydrates to be considered when carb counting.

Healthful sources of protein include:

  • eggs
  • whey protein
  • chicken and turkey breast
  • fish, including salmon, cod, and rainbow trout
  • nuts, such as almonds and peanuts
  • tofu and tempeh
  • pumpkin seeds

Healthful sources of fat include:

  • oils, such as flax, olive, virgin coconut, avocado, and hemp seed
  • grass-fed butter
  • avocado
  • nuts and seeds

Aims of carb counting

Carb counting alone is not a substitute for seeking medical care to make sure that normal or close to normal blood sugar levels are maintained.

Many people with diabetes also need to take insulin or other medications to aid in the process, and should also regularly engage in physical activity.

The goal of carb counting is to keep blood sugar levels steady in order to:

  • help those with diabetes stay healthy
  • prevent complications
  • improve energy levels

How carb counting works

The first step in carb counting is identifying what foods have carbohydrates and how many grams (g) per serving.

Doctors and dietitians may help people with diabetes work out how many carbohydrates they should have each day. This helps them calculate a daily total that they can stick to.

The typical range for carbohydrate intake is between 45 and 65 percent of the total calories taken in per day. After a daily calorie intake is calculated, carbohydrate percentages and servings can be worked out.

Calculating carbs

There are around 4 calories in 1 g of carbohydrate. So, to work out the number of carbohydrates per day, total calorie intake will need to be divided by 4.

Here is an example calculation based on a daily intake of 1,800 calories and 45 percent carbohydrate:

  • 0.45 x 1,800 calories = 810 calories
  • 810 ÷ 4 = 202.5 g of carbohydrate

Based on this calculation, a person can have approximately 200 g of carbohydrates per day. The next thing to work out is how much carbohydrate there is in a single serving of a particular food item.

When reading nutritional labels, it is important to take note of the total number of carbohydrates per serving so that these totals can be added into the total daily carbohydrate allowance.

For example, there are approximately 15 g of carbohydrate in each serving of the following foods.
A slice of bread and a teaspoon of jam both have approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates.

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/3 a cup of pasta or rice
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 tablespoon of jelly
  • ½ cup of starchy vegetables

According to the figures used above, an individual can have 13.5 servings of these foods each day:

  • 202.5 g of total carbs ÷ 15 g per serving = 13.5 servings

However, non-starchy vegetables have just 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving, which means that an individual can eat a lot more of them.

Meal suggestions

Those who are carb counting may find it challenging at first to work out carbohydrate totals in home cooked meals, and when eating out. There are some tips that can help make carb counting a little easier, such as:

  • Counting mixed foods by the cup: On average, a woman’s fist is the size of a 1-cup serving. For a mixed dish, this is a good way to approximate the carb totals based on cup size.
  • Count tablespoons: Knowing how many grams of carbohydrates are in a tablespoon of food is helpful. People can simply count level tablespoons to create a healthful plate.
  • Calculate pizza by the crust: If possible, choose a thin-crust pizza. This will save 5-10 g of carbohydrate per serving size compared to a slice of regular or pan pizza.
  • Smoothies may not always be the best bet: On average, a 12 oz. smoothie actually has more carbohydrates than a regular soda if it contains juice, so should be consumed in moderation.

Getting started with carb counting

Carb counting may help many people with diabetes to maintain steady blood sugar levels. However, it is only one way to manage diabetes. In order to know how a certain food will affect blood sugar levels, a person must consider the type of carbohydrate the food contains and how much fiber is in it.

Before trying carb counting, people should always speak with a nutritionist, diabetes educator, or doctor to determine:

  • whether carb counting is appropriate
  • what is the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates
  • what foods are recommended