apple crisp1

When a client has type 2 diabetes, creating a healthy dessert can be a tricky thing. What everyone immediately fixates on is the sugar. But sugar is really a foil for something larger, which, of course, is carbohydrates. And all carbs are equal when it comes to diabetes management. The other component just as important in managing diabetes is fat. For most people with type 2 diabetes, excess weight is what led to the disease. Keeping weight in check through a healthy, low-fat diet along with exercise—and managing blood sugar through carb control—is what will help those with type 2 diabetes stay healthy in the long run.

Now that we’re smack dab in the holiday season, where does dessert fall into a healthy diet? Dessert is an indulgence, a part of the pleasure of a day. But the person with diabetes has to plan for it. My experience has been that it’s all about moderation and portion control—and they’re not necessarily the same thing.

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Moderation includes portion control but it also means being discriminating in what you eat. In the context of dessert, it means looking for sweets that are mostly made with real fruit or dark chocolate. It means seeking out desserts that are airy—made with lots of egg whites, like angel food cake and sponge cake—which cuts down on the density and carb count. Or simply desserts which call for less sugar than conventional recipes.

Portion control can be tricky. So one approach is to look for desserts that are by their nature single portion: chocolate mousse servings in a small ramekin, a single piece of dark chocolate, a small honey crisp apple. If a client is craving pie or cake you can slice it into individual portions, wrap them, and put them in the freezer. Same with cookies or muffins.

Pudwill Berry Farms Honey Crisp Apples2

I know there are a lot of people who look for sugar-free choices. But what you have to remember about sugar-free options is that they aren’t necessarily lower in fat or carbs. And they usually include chemicals we may not want to consume. It’s better to eat natural ingredients. Yes, there are healthier sugar-free options; honey and maple syrup are favorites and many people love stevia. For a long time, agave nectar was considered a good alternative to sugar but doctors like Andrew Weil are now concerned about the impact of high fructose and are discouraging its use.

Sometimes your client just wants what she wants and you have to figure out how to make it work. Does she love apple pie? How about ditching the crust and instead make a crisp? By reducing the amount of butter, sugar, and flour—and eating small portions—she can have something healthier since it’s just topping cooked fruit, not encasing it. You can even make a bag of crisp mixture, store it in the freezer, and she can pull out a handful at a time to top a sliced apple or cup of berries.

Ultimately, it’s all about balance. Balancing carb portions, balancing fat and calories, balancing exercise with relaxation, balancing indulgence with healthy choices. Dessert isn’t something you have to cut out so much as balance with everything else you’re doing to stay healthy.

Caron Golden’s Crisp Mixture

What I love about this recipe is that I can make the mixture in advance and store it in the freezer. Then I can create an individual serving for myself or a large dessert for company, using whatever fruit is in season. In cool seasons, I peel, core, and slice a Granny Smith apple. Then I toss the slices in a small amount of flour and sugar, and place the slices in a large ramekin or individual pie dish that I lightly coated with baking spray or vegetable oil. I’ll pull out the crisp mixture from the freezer and spoon out just enough to top the fruit, then bake. In less than an hour I have a pretty healthy, fiber-rich dessert.

Makes 8 to 10 servings, depending on how much you use per serving

Mix together:
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 ½ cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon fennel pollen
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Store in the freezer until you’re ready to bake.

crisp mixture

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare fruit. Toss with a little flour and sugar. Arrange in a baking dish lightly coated in baking spray or vegetable oil. Top with enough crisp mixture to cover the fruit. Store remaining crisp mixture in the freezer.

Raw apple crisp

Bake for about 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and the topping is browned.

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