Mayo Clinic Health Library

Exchange list: Sweets, desserts and other carbohydrates

Updated: 09-13-2012

Your diabetes diet can include sweets and desserts. Just remember the ground rules:

  • You can substitute food choices from this list for other carbohydrate-containing foods, such as those from the starches, fruit or milk exchange lists.
  • Eat sweets and desserts as part of your meal. If you choose to eat sweets or desserts, do so in moderation and as part of your meal. This may prevent your blood sugar from rising as rapidly.
  • Don't overdo it. Sweets and desserts often lack the vitamins and minerals found in fruits, milk products and other carbohydrates.
  • Eat sugar-free or low-carb candy with caution. Some sweetening agents in sugar-free or low-carb candy still contain calories and must be counted in your daily totals. These foods may be high in fat, too.

Here's a guide to common sweets, desserts and other carbohydrates. Remember to include the exchanges in these products as part of your daily allowance. It's also a good idea to talk to your dietitian about how to fit these foods into your meal plan.

Type Food Serving size Exchange value
Beverages      
  Energy drink 1 can (8.3 fluid ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Hot chocolate, regular 1 envelope added to 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) water 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Hot chocolate, sugar-free or light 1 envelope added to 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) water 1 carbohydrate
Lemonade 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Soda, regular 1 can (12 fluid ounces) 2 1/2 carbohydrates
Sports drink 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 carbohydrate
Brownies, cake and cookies      
  Angel food cake, unfrosted 1/12 of cake (2 ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Brownie, small, unfrosted 1 1/4-inch square, 7/8-inch thick (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Cake, frosted 2-inch square (2 ounces) 2 carbohydrates plus 1 fat
Cake, unfrosted 2-inch square (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Chocolate chip cookies 2 (2 1/4 inches across) 1 carbohydrate plus 2 fats
Cupcake, small, frosted 1 (1 3/4 ounces) 2 carbohydrates plus 1 to 1 1/2 fats
Gingersnap cookies 3 1 carbohydrate
Vanilla wafers 5 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Pie and pudding      
  Fruit pie, commercially prepared, two crusts 1/6 of 8-inch pie 3 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Pudding, regular, made with reduced-fat milk 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Pudding, sugar-free or sugar- and fat-free, made with fat-free milk 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1 carbohydrate
Pumpkin pie 1/8 of 8-inch pie 1 1/2 carbohydrates plus 1 1/2 fat
Doughnuts, muffins and sweet breads      
  Banana nut bread 1-inch slice (1 ounce) 2 carbohydrates plus 1 fat
Cake doughnut, medium, plain 1 medium (1 1/2 ounces) 1 1/2 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Doughnut, glazed 3 3/4 inches diameter (2 ounces) 2 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Muffin, large 1/4 (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate plus 1/2 fat
Sweet roll 1 (2 1/2 ounces) 2 1/2 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Ice cream and other frozen desserts      
  Frozen pops 1 1/2 carbohydrate
Frozen yogurt, fat-free 1/3 cup 1 carbohydrate
Frozen yogurt, regular 1/2 cup 1 carbohydrate plus 0 to 1 fat
Fruit juice bar, 100 percent juice 1 (3 ounces) 1 carbohydrate
Ice cream, fat-free 1/2 cup 1 1/2 carbohydrates
Ice cream, light or no sugar added 1/2 cup 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Ice cream, regular 1/2 cup 1 carbohydrate plus 2 fats
Sherbet, sorbet 1/2 cup 2 carbohydrates
Candy      
  Candy bar, chocolate and peanut 2 "fun-size" bars (1 ounce) 1 1/2 carbohydrates plus 1 1/2 fats
Chocolate Kisses 5 pieces 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Hard candy 3 pieces 1 carbohydrate
Spreads and syrups      
  Chocolate syrup 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) 2 carbohydrates
Fruit spreads, 100 percent fruit 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Honey 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Jam or jelly, regular 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Pancake syrup, light 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Pancake syrup, regular 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) 1 carbohydrate

Modified with permission from "Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes." American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association; 2008. While designed primarily for people who have diabetes and others who must follow special diets, the exchange lists are based on principles of good nutrition that apply to everyone.

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