What Dessert Can You Have on a Low-Carb Diet?
Although many sweets and sugary treats are too high in carbs to fit into a low-carb eating plan, you don't always have to abstain from dessert. Simply choose ones made with low-carb ingredients and sweetened with no- or low-calorie sweeteners. Sugar-free gelatin and ice pops are always an option, but low-carb dieters can also tweak recipes to create tasty temptations, such as chocolate mousse, ice cream and even cake.
Creamy Low-Carb Desserts
Whipped cream is a low-carb food, with just 3 grams of net carbs per cup. Net carbs are those you count on a low-carb diet because they're the ones that affect your blood sugar. You determine net carbs by taking a food's total carb count and subtracting the fiber and sugar alcohol.
Serve sucralose-sweetened whipped cream over fresh raspberries or fresh blackberries, each of which has 3 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup. Sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda, has 0 grams of net carbohydrate per individual packet.
Make whipped cream into an elegant dessert by blending it with cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sucralose. The cocoa powder has only 3 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons. Chill and serve with more whipped cream on top for a low-carb chocolate mousse.
Dairy-free, creamy desserts are another possibility on a low-carb diet. Make chocolate coconut pudding, for example, by simmering egg yolks and coconut milk together over low heat. Stir constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Mix in dark chocolate until it melts, then refrigerate until thick. Creamy coconut milk -- in the can -- has about 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup, and unsweetened baking chocolate has approximately 4 grams of net carbs per ounce. For a sweeter dessert, use dark chocolate that's 70 to 85 percent cacao. It does have more carbs, though -- 10 grams per ounce.
Low-Carb Ice Cream
Low-Carbohydrate & Low-Starch Foods
Homemade ice cream made with a custard base containing heavy whipped cream, eggs and sucralose is actually low in carbs. For one vanilla version, you make the egg and cream custard on the stove, flavor with vanilla extract and sweeten with sucralose. Pour the mix into a bowl, cover and freeze. For the smoothest version, pour the mix into a countertop ice cream maker. Each serving contains about 5 grams of net carbs.
Flavor this basic recipe to your liking. Add peppermint, coconut or lemon extract to change the flavor. Stir chopped nuts into the finished ice cream. Chopped almonds have about 2 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons and pistachios 3 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons.
Or, make a low-carb shortcake with butter and soy flour and serve with scooped low-carb ice cream and sliced strawberries, which have 5 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup. Top any low-carb ice cream with sugar-free chocolate or caramel syrup, which have no net carbohydrate.
Cakes and Cupcakes
The white flour normally used in baking contains about 92 grams of carbs per cup. Low-carb cake recipes usually use almond flour, with 12 grams of net carbs per cup, or soy flour with 22 grams per cup. Although these aren't exceptionally low-carb foods, they're lower in carbs than standard flours and don't add that many net carb grams to each individual serving. Do note that the cakes will have a slightly different texture and flavor than wheat flour versions.
Make chocolate-cappuccino cupcakes by grinding almonds to make almond meal and combining it with soy flour and regular baking powder. Butter, sucralose, cocoa powder, instant coffee, eggs and chocolate whey protein are then added to create the batter. Bake the cakes for just 20 minutes in mini-muffin tins to satisfy your need for something warm and chocolatey while spending only 3 grams of net carbs.
If you don't like chocolate, try a light coconut cake topped with whipped cream and shaved coconut that can also be made low in carbs. Make a batter that contains a lot of whipped eggs and egg whites, soy flour, sucralose, baking powder and coconut extract. After baking in round cake tins for about 20 minutes, allow to cool before topping with fresh whipped cream sweetened with sucralose and grated, toasted coconut. This cake has about 6 grams of net carbs per serving.
Cheesecake made by blending cream cheese with eggs and sucralose also makes a delicious dessert. Bake in small ramekins and serve with a smattering of berries. The cream cheese has 1 gram of carbohydrate per 2 tablespoons.
Store-Bought Low-Carb Desserts
Atkins, the well-known low-carb diet plan, markets a number of desserts to low-carb dieters. These range from low-carb chocolate and nut confections, with 1 to 3 grams of net carbs per serving, to meal and snack bars containing just 2 to 5 grams of net carbs.
Packaged mixes from other companies for low-carb brownies, cookies and cakes make whipping up a low-carb dessert easy. Some companies also sell low-carb ice creams and frozen treats -- from bars to ice pops -- with as few as 2 or as high as 18 grams of net carbs per serving. Check labels to find those that work best in your diet plan.
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Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.