Diabetes-Friendly Gift Baskets

Safe and Delicious Edible Treats

A variety of gift basket ideas
Burke/Triolo Productions/Getty Images

A pretty basket overflowing with edible treats makes a lovely and welcome gift, but when the recipient has dietary restrictions because of diabetes assembling one can be challenging. For one thing, all too often so-called diabetes-friendly treats such as sugar-free candies and cookies contain artificial sweeteners, which many people with diabetes dislike or try to avoid.

What's more, although it's possible to purchase pre-packaged gift baskets for people with diabetes, these tend to be filled not with treats but with solemn reminders of their condition—books about the disease, say, or products clearly labeled "safe for diabetes."

None of this is to say it's impossible to find diabetes-friendly foods and beverages that are truly fun, delicious, and "normal." The trick is to think outside the box (or rather the basket) to find items that fit the bill.

Dark Chocolate

A delicious bar of dark chocolate, especially one that's organic or artisanal, makes a great addition to a diabetes-friendly gift basket. Studies show that in small amounts, the cacao in dark chocolate may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and vascular and platelet function—all of which are health concerns in diabetes. 

How to choose: Look for dark chocolate that's labeled 75 percent cacao or more— with no added sugar, of course. Check the ingredients list for the amount of carbohydrates in the bar as well: People with diabetes often aim for 15 grams (g) of carbs per serving.

Gourmet Popcorn

As a whole grain, popcorn is rich in fiber and low in carbohydrates—about 15 g of carbs per three-cup serving.

How to choose: Best bets for a diabetes-friendly gift basket is popcorn that's been air-popped and flavored with olive oil and/or herbs. You may even be able to find a brand that's divided into single servings and prettily packaged in a festive bowl or decorative bag. Avoid kettle corn and other sweetened popcorn as they (obviously) contain sugar or other sweeteners.

Fancy Fruit

Fresh fruit can be a colorful and healthy addition to any gift basket. And despite the natural sugar in fruit (fructose), most people with diabetes can include it in their diet—and should, given that fruit is rich in fiber and other important nutrients and so is sanctioned by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) as a key part of a diabetic meal plan.

How to choose: Use two criteria: 1) fruits that are low in sugar as well as low on the glycemic index (an indication of the potential to raise blood glucose levels) and 2) those that also are hearty enough to travel well.

Best bets include apples, pears, oranges, and other citrus fruits, peaches, apricots, and nectarines. Unusual varieties of any of these, or at least a mix of colors and shapes, can bring a basic basket of fruit to the level of a special gift. (Note that of all types of fruits, berries have the least amount of sugar but may be too delicate in a gift basket unless you're certain it will be unpacked and used by the recipient right away.)

Leave These Out

Tropical fruits—pineapple, pomegranates, mangoes, bananas, and fresh figs—are high in sugar, as are dried fruits.

Coffee and Tea

Both are available in a dizzying array of varieties from all over the world, so if your gift recipient is a caffeine connoisseur, it would be easy to put together a coffee and/or tea-themed basket that's packed with interesting whole beans, loose teas or tea bags, as well as cups, mugs, strainers, and other beverage brewing gear.

Caffeine Caution

There's evidence that for some people with diabetes, the impact of caffeine on insulin can result in higher or lower levels of sugar in the blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Make sure the person you're creating a gift for can tolerate caffeine before settling on a coffee- or tea-themed basket.

How to choose: The specific coffee or tea products you include in a gift basket will be a matter of taste (yours or, if you know the recipient well enough, his or hers). Do, however, steer clear of coffee or tea mixes that contain sugar.

Nuts

For someone with diabetes, nuts can be a godsend—rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and low in carbohydrates. In numerous studies, nuts have shown health benefits for all people.

Almonds, in particular, have been found to help with weight loss, normalizing glucose levels, and lowering risk factors for cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes.

How to choose. For all their health-worthiness, nuts are high in fat and calories and so portion-size is key to including them in any di—even that of a person who doesn't have a chronic disease such as diabetes.

One serving of nuts is about 1/4 of a cup or one small handful, and so portioning nuts into single serving sizes in decorative baggies can be a nice touch. Nuts that need to be shelled, such as pistachios, can make it difficult to wolf down. Unsalted nuts are always the healthier choice.

Alcohol

A lovely bottle of wine, carefully selected craft beer, or a special spirit all can form the basis for an amazing diabetes-friendly gift basket, given that studies have shown moderate alcohol consumption may help raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease—and even type 2 diabetes. So for people who already have the condition, it stands to reason that alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

How to choose: The amount of carbs and sugar in alcoholic beverages can vary widely, so it's best to be aware of the differences and/or read labels to best curate a collection for a gift basket.

Carbs and Sugar in Alcohol (per serving)
Type of Alcohol Serving size Carbs (in grams) Sugar (in grams)
Beer 12 ounces 13 0
Light beer 12 ounces 6 0.3
Red wine 5 ounces 4 0.9
White wine 5 ounces 4 1.4
Distilled spirits 1.5 ounces 0 0
Port wine 2 ounces 7 20

Note that distilled spirits (vodka, gin, tequila, and so forth) have no carbs or sugar. One nice way to take advantage of that would be to purchase a top-shelf version of your friend's or loved one's favorite liquor and fill out the rest of the basket with low- and no-sugar mixers, such as cranberry juice, limes, and plain or flavored seltzers. Cheers!

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • American Diabetes Association. Fruits. Dec 8, 2016.

  • Corti R, Flammer AJ, Hollenberg NK, et al. Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health. CirculationMar 17 2009;119:1433-1441. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.827022

  • Gulati S Misra A, Pandey RM. Effect of Almond Supplementation on Glycemia and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Asian Indians in North India with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A 24–week Study. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2017 Mar 1; 15(2): 98–105. doi: 10.1089/met.2016.0066