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Carb Solution: A Valentine’s Dessert

By Dennis Linden

Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then, there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions, annually, in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based off how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
    • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
    Admittedly, carb counting is not a very romantic subject and, if too obvious, can certainly dampen the mood of a candle light dinner for two. So here’s a seemingly decadent dessert to top off your Valentine’s meal that, despite its scrumptious appearance, contains just 6 (net) grams of carbs, 114 calories per slice and all ingredients are very glycemic friendly!

    Strawberries…plump luscious strawberries! This popular berry is a carb counter’s perfect dessert fruit. While the glycemic index score of the fruit is deceivingly high at 25, the berry’s glycemic load is only a 3 because of the fruit’s high fiber content. Fiber helps keep blood sugars stable. In fact, strawberries may be able to decrease the rise in blood sugar that typically occurs following a meal by reducing the uptake and transport of glucose in the intestines. In other words it’s the perfect dessert ingredient after what was probably an over-the-top Valentine’s menu!

    There are many additional health benefits that strawberries can provide if regularly incorporated into one’s diet; that is, if anyone really needs incentive to enjoy this delectable fruit! The berry is very high in vitamin C, which plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system—helping the metabolism avoid sicknesses and recover more quickly. Anthocyanins, which are responsible for the red coloring, is instrumental in reducing the risk of heart attack by preventing platelet build-up and even reducing blood pressure. Strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties that promotes a feeling of well-being. Besides, just try to eat a strawberry without smiling! And speaking of Valentine’s Day, strawberries are a great natural source of folate, a nutrient that promotes the development of an unborn child and is commonly recommended in supplement form to pregnant women. In fact, because of its bright red color and enticing taste, in Ancient Rome the fruit was considered the symbol of Venus the goddess of love, as well as a symbol of fertility due to its many exterior seeds.

    Using sugar-free gelatin [only 1 carb] and little lemon juice to insure that the strawberries stay firm and fresh looking is all one needs to complete the filling – plus an overnight chill in the ‘frig to firm it all up. BTW this recipe was tweaked from the original that called for a cup of sugar or low-carb sweetener substitute to be added to the berries. Why one would add sugar to the natural sweetness of fresh strawberries makes not a twit of culinary sense, be that sweetener carb neutral or otherwise. Stop it, America! If the goodness of fresh strawberries is not sweet enough to suit your palate, don’t blame the berry / you have a sugar habit that needs intervention not enabling. I simply ignored the “ingredient” and the omission was never noticed.

    White flour pie crust is definitely on the NO FLY LIST for all diabetics or anyone watching carbohydrate intake. I have tried many combinations of “flours” like almond, rice and oats; coconut produces a flaky, pastry-like crust better than all the rest and, in this recipe, adds another flavor that pairs well with the strawberry. Coconut flour is a soft flour made from dried coconut meat. When coconut milk is squeezed from coconut meat, this meat is then dried at a low temperature and ground into a flour that works great for baking. I did add a small amount of sugar substitute to the dough just to give it that pastry sweetness. O.k. so the butter-laden dough would not qualify for a Slim-Fast diet, but it’s Valentine’s Day / resolve to take an extra-long jog tomorrow and enjoy the buttered calories with your sweetheart. Maybe paired with a good brandy.

    Low Carb Strawberry Pie
    Servings 12 slices

    Ingredients for Low Carb Strawberry Pie


    Pie crust:

    ¾ cup Coconut Flour
    ½ cup Butter (cold, cut into pieces)
    1/3 cup granulated Sugar substitute
    ¼ tsp Sea salt
    2 large Egg
    ½ tsp Vanilla extract

    Pie Filling:

    2 lbs. fresh strawberries, sliced in half
    3 TBS Sugar free Gelatin
    ½ cup Water
    2 TBS Lemon Juice


    Pie crust

    Pie crust: Combine the coconut flour, butter, sweetener and salt in a food processor, pulse to combine. Then add eggs and vanilla extract and process until dough forms. Coat a 9-inch round pie pan with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper. Press the dough into the pan and poke holes in the bottom with toothpick. Bake for 15 minutes @ 350°. Rest on the counter for at least 20 minutes before adding filling.

    Simmer the strawberries for about 15 minutes in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until strawberries are soft.

    Simmer the strawberries for about 15 minutes in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until strawberries are soft. Whisk together the gelatin, water, and lemon juice in a small bowl and let the mixture sit for a couple minutes to thicken before adding to the saucepan of strawberries. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool 20 minutes.

    Pour the strawberry filling into the baked pie crust. Refrigerate overnight to set.

    Pour the strawberry filling into the baked pie crust. Refrigerate overnight to set.

    Once pie has set, garnish with toppings of choice such as dark chocolate, whipped cream and/or fresh strawberries.

    Once pie has set, garnish with toppings of choice such as dark chocolate, whipped cream and/or fresh strawberries.
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