I work in a team of around 20 people, one of whom is diabetic.

I often bring in cakes to celebrate birthday, holiday, and other little things going well in life. I'm one of many doing this in the office.

The diabetic coworker cannot (or should not) partake in the cake, due to the sugar content. But we get along fine, and I want to include them. Cakes are the go-to option as they are easy to buy or bake, and simple to share around.

Does anyone have suggestions to make the diabetic coworker feel included in these celebrations?


Thanks for the input guys. I must admit, diabetic cake was never something I was considering, as it just sounds like a bad idea. I was trying to do it subtly, which is why I didn't want to ask them, as I don't want to make it into a thing. I'll probably end up going for a combination of cake, fruit and savoury (such as sausage rolls) to include them in the future.

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    What makes you think they feel excluded? Do they refuse to come to the celebrations, act distant during them, or complain about anything?
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 0:08
  • 2
    Could you think about bringing a savoury cake once and test the audience? Ricotta cheese, artichokes (or spinach), pepperoni, not necessarily all together, for example. You may or may not find easily at a shop, so you will double the fun baking your own. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 7:28
  • Do you order/buy the cake, or do you bake? If you bake, they make a splenda/sugar mix that is generally palatable to most (even I don't mind it too much, and my palate detests almost all low/no-calorie sweeteners) and will halve the sugar content -- a significant change, given the amount of sugar in a cake!
    – Doktor J
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 17:35
  • Why do you think they care about being "included" in the cake? I went a couple of years without eating cake, and I just hanged around the guys, and tasted a bit of champagne once in a while. Or had a very small slice and took out the frosting in rare ocasions. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 3:19

8 Answers 8


The first thing you should do is ask your friend if he or she wants an alternative.

I am diabetic, and I either pass, or have a VERY SMALL slice of cake. If I know this is going to happen, I adjust my diet so that I have room for a few more carbs, so for me, this would be a non-issue.

However, if your friend says they would like an alternative, ask them for suggestions.

Fresh fruit, things that are low on the glycemic index, and things with low carb contents are always good alternative.

One thing I will NEVER eat is a "diabetic cake" (offered by bakeries) and in my opinion taste somewhere in between dirt and raw twine. So don't make assumptions. Many of the "alternatives" taste nasty.


Get your friends opinion, don't make assumptions, do some research on low-carb, low glycemic index, options.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user44108
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 13:31
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    Low-carb baking can be hard, but I want OP to hear me out here: low carb alternatives can certainly be good, in particular things made with almond flour in my experience are usually very tasty and better for not just me as a diabetic but also everyone else!
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 19:16

Ask the diabetic for any suitable alternatives they can eat.

I'm not sure what other legitimate advice there is to possibly give. Medical advice isn't suitable here, we don't know what kind of cakes the person cannot eat, hell we don't even know if the person even likes cake. The only suitable answer is to actually ask the diabetic what a suitable substitute for cake is.

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    Not sure of the reason for the downvote. How else is the OP meant to figure out what the person can eat? Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 12:59
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    Answers need to explain why they are correct. Even if they seem obvious to you why they are right. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:14
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    Unless the answerer is a medical doctor, I don't know how can anyone give a better authoritative answer. Actually, I think the question may be more suitable on Health SE.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:30
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    This answer offers the same advice as other (more fully worded) answers. Consider filling out your answer with more/different advice than the other answers, or consider retracting your answer altogether. As it stands, it doesn't really add anything not provided by other answers.
    – user44108
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:34
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    @Snow I'm not sure what other legitimate advice there is to possibly give. Medical advice isn't suitable here, we don't know what kind of cakes the person cannot eat, hell we don't even know if the person even likes cake. The only suitable answer is to actually ask the diabetic what a suitable substitute for cake is. Just because an answer is succinct does not mean it is wrong or illegitimate. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:50

Don't single out the diabetic.

Many (if not most) diabetics can have cake, many just don't want cake. And there are plenty of folks who might have dietary restrictions or desires that you're completely oblivious to. On top of that, a lot of folks really dislike attention and "special" treatment for their diseases and diet.

You've got three great options that don't involve focusing on anyone's diseases:

  • Just get the cake. Folks who don't want it won't eat it. And if they are adults, everyone will survive.
  • Get the cake and some fruits and veggies. Or whatever. Google "healthy treats" and bring in some alternatives. (I personally prefer a good block of cheese to share!)
  • Ask the group as a group if anyone would like another treat. "Hey guys, I'm bringing cake in for X tomorrow. If anyone has other ideas for celebratory treats, please let me know! Or, feel free to just bring something in to share! Thanks!"

As an aside: A lot of people (with diabetes, allergies, other special diets) can benefit from having the nutritional info handy — not just available upon request; but, in relatively plain sight.

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    As someone with dietary restrictions, I definitely appreciate it when we talk as a group or have (generally-available) options, as opposed to "here's the pie for us and something else for you". (Pie crusts often contain pork fat, in case you're wondering about my example.) Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 17:40
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    For the record, fruit has lots of sugar in it. Point 3 is good though since it doesn't single out that one person.
    – Pharap
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 3:33
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    Most fruit doesn’t have as much carbohydrate as cake. And most has much more fiber, which slows down the impact.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 4:57
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    How unusual that your group does not include anyone with gluten or lactose intolerance. Etc etc
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 10:50
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    @Pharap fruit has sugars which are COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES and far better tolerated by diabetics than cake. It's not just the sugars, but the TYPE of sugars. You are misleading people. Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 20:27

Thanks for asking this question. Diabetes can be a big burden in someone’s life and it’s appreciated when others try to make things a bit easier.

Please do not be the sugar police.

You have two options, either:

  • treat them as you would treat anyone else, or
  • have a conversation with them at a neutral time when no food is involved*.

* although tread lightly as some people have unhealthy repressed emotions about their condition.

Please don’t bring something specifically for the individual without first discussing it with them. This singles them out, makes a whole lot of assumptions, and has a good chance of making them feel much worse than if they simply said “no thanks” to the cake. (But by all means bring an alternative option for everybody.)

Executive summary

  • Unless they indicate otherwise, offer them what you are offering everyone else. With no hint of pushiness.
  • “No thanks” means “no.”
  • Don’t give them more than they ask for.
  • Don’t say “just one won’t hurt.”

If they are using insulin, to avoid hospitalization, you must not:

  • Intervene or shame them if they are eating something.
  • Offer “diabetic anything” or “low/zero-sugar anything” without informing them.


Diabetes varies greatly from person to person. Different people will have different foods (and drinks) that set them off.

There are many ways of managing diabetes. Some people do their best to make their insulin match what they eat (which means that sometimes a carefully sized piece of cake or confectionery is ideal to stabilize their blood glucose trajectory). Other people try to take an approach of moderation. Others drastically reduce their carb intake. Others stick to a fixed routine. Others have received poor medical advice, so are confused and stressed and probably don’t want to be reminded about their condition.

You say cake is a problem “due to the sugar content”. This is a common misconception. Generally it’s carbs that are a problem. I have Type 1 diabetes and I have just as much trouble with white rice and wheat flakes, as I do with cake. Pizza is a problem, too (for more complex reasons). Ice cream and chocolate are much easier to deal with. As I said, these things vary between people.

Yes, some people would prefer to be be given a healthy alternative, or receive external motivation to make better choices. But don’t assume they do, and don’t assume you know what “better choices” means.


Try speaking to the diabetic person. Tell them you are planning to bring in some cake for xyz event and ask if there's anything they would prefer, or if cake is fine.

If you assume they cannot have cake, it excludes them anyway.


Don't provide special food, but privately give them helpful information.

I'm a type 1 diabetic myself. Others' mileage may vary, but when someone brings cake or other food into the office, I tend to indulge in it as much as anyone else (maybe limiting myself to a slightly smaller piece). With modern fast-acting insulins, it's nothing that I couldn't handle, so I don't feel left out and I prefer not being singled out by special foods brought just for me.

However, what would really be a fantastic bonus is when the cake donor came over to me and told me (in private) something like “Hey, I cut out the Nutrition Facts from the packaging if you want to have a look“, or “I checked the recipe, and there should be approximately 40 grams of carbs in one of those pieces. Thought you might like to know“. Having learned to judge the carb contents of food in front of me, I would do fine without this information; but if someone made that bit of extra effort for me I would feel highly appreciated. Same, for instance, if you have a colleague who is, say, allergic to peanuts, and you walk up to them to tell them you've checked that there are no peanuts in whatever food you brought, etc.

Needless to say, make sure you double-check your numbers. Also, be aware that Diabetes type 1 and type 2 are very different.

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    Actually, if you can ever provide the ingredients and nutrition information card for something you bring in, lots of people will appreciate it, even though you've got no idea they've got allergies or are otherwise watching what they eat.
    – Karen
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 15:47
  • Type 1 here, having nutritional information is huge for me. But I don't think providing a low-GI/low carb cake or the normal cake plus some other kind of dessert is a bad idea, so I disagree with you saying that. I know I would appreciate it as a type 1 diabetic.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 19:14

Some ideas about alternatives to "regular" cake:

  • Try something savory like cheese rolls or pizza muffins

  • If possible, use whole-grain flour or substitute part of the wheat with spelt flour. That loweres the glycemic index of the food (blood-sugar rises slower).

  • Make fingerfood. That makes it easier for your friend to eat just a tiny amount while the others can take several pieces.

  • Fresh or dried fruit and dark chokolate are generally safe for diabetics. They combine very well ;)

That way you can celebrate with tasty food and the diabetic does not feel left out.

Edit 1: in response to several comments and downvotes I removed the substitution of glucose sugar from the list of alternate solutions.

Edit 2: Nowhere in my answer do I suggest hiding any nutritional information or force-feeding anyone. I merely listed possible alternate food items that anyone is free to eat or decline. Since the OP doesn't state (and possibly doesn't know) what type of diabetes their friend has, I still think my answer offers valid information. Of course, the OP should ask her friend for preferences. I just didn't want to repeat information given in several other answers.

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    OP could offer to do these substitutions for a close friend, but if a work colleague told me they'd baked something specifically for my dietary requirements I would be polite but want to decline. I don't know if they have followed the rules I need and without quizzing them over every detail I wouldn't feel comfortable in eating it.
    – Dragonel
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 21:14
  • That's why the use of fructose is the last item of the list. It's the least likely to be accepted, but still a valid option. The other items could increase the chance of being accepted (depending on personal taste) without much of a risk.
    – Elmy
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 4:09
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    Substituting fructose for glucose does nothing for a diabetic. If anything it makes things worse as it's even faster acting on the metabolism.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 8:24
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    It the carbs not just suger that is killing everyone with type2 diabetes, hence if you wish to kill them provide any thing on your list other then the dark chocolate (over 85%) . (Only drug company reps and people they have trained think wholegrain flour is safe for someone with type2)
    – Ian
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 12:03
  • Almond flour is great for baking, you should add that to your suggestions.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 19:18

The cake is a lie.

you bring whatever you want.

The diabetic is an adult and will be able to decide on their own whether or not to partake.

You may consider the group of people to turn it into a success but short of catering to each individually you can't include everyone...nor should you.

Just keep it optional and it's fine.

If you bring special food for certain people they may feel obliged to join in, honoring your efforts.
So you're basically forcing them.

Others may feel left out because they can't eat your cake either, like lactose intolerants, gluten or nut allergy sufferes or those on a diet for instance.

You wanna include them?
Now you have to bring even more different variants.

I swear this include everyone BS mindset is as impossible as it is annoying.

Life just doesn't work like that and not everyone wants to, needs to or should be included into every silly thing someone comes up with.

Kudos to you though that you try and seem to be a decent person, don't get me wrong.

It's nice to include others in your joy or simply bring it in their lives but be careful not to cross the line into it becoming annoying or off-putting.

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