As long as I can remember, my grandfather has been diabetic. At family functions, when we get to the dessert, there are two options: what we’re having and what he’s having. Usually, that’s sugar-free vanilla ice cream or another serving of fruit salad.

Sometimes my grandmother will give in and let him indulge in a bite of what we’re having, but that seems worse. It’s not that we have assigned seating at my grandmother’s dining table, but I usually end up sitting to the right of my grandfather. I feel bad eating my regular slice of pie next to his sad cup of ambrosia sans marshmallows.

My mother recently hosted a family get-together and we decided to make a dessert everyone could have. It would be sugar-free and the complainers could deal with it.

We chose frozen Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Pie because of its make-ahead appeal and short ingredient list—which turned out to be a nightmare tracking down.

Shopping for sugar-free ingredients is tricky and it takes more time. I didn’t realize there’s a trend in packaging to use baby blue coloring if it’s sugar-free. But it doesn’t always mean that.

You have to double-check the label. And the baby blue color varies between brands. There’s also an important difference between “sugar-free” and “no sugar added.” It’s hard navigating all the packaging to find out which is which.

Freezing in the ice cream aisle, I opened one more door, trying to find the right ice cream. “I hate diabetes,” I said to the ice cream cartons.

“Tell me about it,” a woman grabbing popsicles said. She had years of experience navigating all the baby blue labels.


As labor-intensive as the shopping was, the preparation was a dream.

This is my kind of pie. There’s no dough to roll out and pinch, just cookies to crush. It’s so easy. Freeze and take out 10 minutes before serving. Embellish with sugar-free chocolate shavings, toasted macadamia nuts and sugar-free whipped cream. Done. Ice cream pie showstopper.

I remember eating sugar-free candy with my grandfather and thinking it was nasty, but this pie doesn’t taste second-rate. It tastes intentional—not a substitute for something better. It’s all in the macadamia nuts. You can tell the ice cream is sugar-free—I mean, it’s chocolate. But by toasting the macadamia nuts, you get such a bold, sweet flavor that it makes up for the ice cream.

The best part was sitting next to him and eating the same thing. I know he loves ambrosia, but I could tell he enjoyed having his own slice of pie.

What’s your favorite diabetic dessert?