Managing your diabetes requires you to approach cooking and eating with mindfulness; fortunately, it doesn’t mean you have to give up dessert. In the past, lack of knowledge and false presumptions led diabetes sufferers to believe that dessert was strictly off-limits. Today, doctors and health care professionals know that monitoring carbohydrate intake rather than sugar intake alone is more important in diabetes management.

There are a few ways in which you can approach the subject of desserts. One is to sensibly enjoy mainstream dessertsthose that haven’t been formulated to contain less sugar and fewer carbohydrates. In fact, the American Diabetes Association suggests splitting a dessert with a friend when eating at a restaurant as a means to enjoying dessert without causing your blood sugar to spike. (The ADA also recommends keeping full-sugar and full-carb desserts out of the house if they’re too tempting, and sticking to full-carb desserts on special occasions.)

The second approachand the far more satisfying one, in many people’s mindsis making your own diabetes-friendly desserts. Not only does this tactic give you greater culinary freedom, but you don’t have to wait to go out to eat to enjoy a treat at the end of your meal! The key to making tantalizing diabetic desserts is cutting the amount of carbs and sugar while maximizing flavor, which isn’t as hard to do as you might think. The following five recipes, which include lunchbox-friendly apple crunch balls and a decadent chocolate angel food cake, will become post-dinner staples in no time—they've certainly become part of my dessert repertoire!

Maple Date Bars (courtesy of the Diabetic Foodie)

Perfect for fall and winter meals, these chewy maple date bars are just sweet enough and contain added fiber from the dates. Much of the bars’ sweetness comes from the maple syrup, though the granulated sugar helps. (Feel free to experiment with the recipe and reduce the amount of sugar or substitute Splenda; I've always had good luck using less sugar than the recipe calls for.) Pitted dates are available in the produce or bulk sections of most grocery stores.

Chocolate Icebox Pie (courtesy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free)

Who doesn’t love a chocolate pie? This version, which contains no white sugar or gluten, is simple to make and even simpler to eat. The walnut crust offers healthy fats and eliminates the need for white flour and butterthe staples of traditional pie crust. The best part of this pie, in my opinion, is its taste: The chocolate filling is luscious and creamy, thanks to the inclusion of heavy cream, carob and cocoa powder. For extra flavor, add Saigon cinnamon to the filling; I like to use Penzey's, but other varieties are available at specialty grocery stores.

Peanut Apple Crunch Balls (courtesy of Diabetic Living Online)

For dessert on the go, try these peanut apple crunch balls, which are perfect to pack in a lunchbox or purse. With only 11 grams of carbohydrates per serving, these are a great way to end a weeknight meal. I love bringing these to work and enjoying one as a mid-afternoon snack!

Dark Chocolate Angel Food Cake (courtesy of Prevention)

Nobody said a diabetes diet had to be boring, and this rich chocolate angel food cake is proof. Chocolate and cinnamon are a classic pairingeach flavor brings out the best in the other. With a deeper flavor than traditional angel food cake, this updated version is excellent topped with slices of fresh strawberries. If you prefer, serve topped with a mixture of blueberries and raspberries.

Cherries with Ricotta and Toasted Almonds (courtesy of Eating Well)

If you’re looking for a dessert that’s easy enough to whip up on a weeknight, elegant enough to serve at a dinner party and in keeping with a Type II diabetes diet, you’re in luck: This preparation of cherries with ricotta and toasted almonds wins on all three accounts. The recipe is delicious as written, but if you’re feeling creative or want to try alternate versions, there are a few ways you can modify it:

  • Add a bit of cinnamon and sugar substitute to the ricotta for added sweetness and zing.

  • Use fresh pitted cherries (when in season) instead of frozen, or use another type of berry altogether.

  • Top with fresh lemon or orange zest for added brightness. Just make sure to wash your citrus fruits prior to zesting.

With a bit of ingenuity and time spent in the kitchen, you can make these and a host of other desserts that satisfy your diabetes meal plan and your palate!