Do you know you can still have certain desserts when you are on a diet? Yes, following a healthy eating regime doesn’t mean that you have to cut out sweets completely. Instead of deprivation, you can give desserts their space in between all those vegetable-focused, protein-packed, whole grain-loaded meals. The important thing is to be thoughtful with your choices.
Simple ingredient swaps will enable you to enjoy your beloved indulgences and still lose weight. The key to eating desserts that are delicious and won’t wreak havoc on your health is stocking up on snacks and other ingredients that are low in added sugar.
According to registered dietitian and nutritionist Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, co-author of ‘Sugar Shock’ (the bible of spotting sneaky sources of sugar in foods and finding healthier replacements), there are plenty of healthy ways to hack your sweet treat.
Instead of buying industrial cookies, try baking your own healthier biscuits with dark chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Craving something creamy? Blend frozen bananas and top your bowl with chopped dates. Having a few staples on hand — like peanut butter, chocolate-covered nuts, or dark chocolate squares — can help, too. Peanut butter, in particular, has a natural sweetness and nuttiness that makes everything taste like dessert.
Also, reach for fructose, honey or real maple syrup for sweeteners, and during the preparation of your desserts include ingredients that also provide nutrients and antioxidants like almond flour, pistachios, cashew butter, cocoa powder, frozen sugar-free yoghurt or skimmed milk.
When in doubt, consider these popular and healthy options.
Make a chia or flax egg
Vegans have been using this trick to replace eggs for years, but even if you’re not vegan, you might want to try this tactic. “Just combine one tablespoon of either chia or flax seeds with three tablespoons of water and let it sit for about 15 minutes until it’s similar in consistency to an egg– writes Cassetty in her book.-. These seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, aka important anti-inflammatory fats that we don’t eat enough of“.
Chocolate and berries
What a lovely combo! A thin layer of dark chocolate doesn’t add on many extra calories or sugar, but still gives you a slight bitterness that balances and complements fresh fruit. Strawberries are a classic choice, but there are plenty of other fruits that you can dip in chocolate.
Fruit salad or compote
Probably one of the healthiest desserts, fruit salad is easier to make and comes packed with loads of vitamins and other minerals. A bowl of chilled mixed berries or an artfully sliced pear on a plate dressed up with a swirl of chocolate syrup and almonds are hard to beat. Also, instead of eating apple pie, try making baked apples. This healthy yet tasty snack is easy to make if you have an oven or microwave. You can either slice apples up or bake them whole. All you have to do is put a little maple syrup and a touch of cinnamon on top. You can also add some granola or nuts, to make it seem more pie-like.
“Another option is to heat frozen fruit for 30 seconds until it’s juicy – explains Samantha Cassetty-, and then stir in 1 teaspoon of chia seeds per half cup of frozen blueberries. Let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes until it gels up. Then top with lower sugar granola for a faux berry crumble.”
Oats are whole grain, fibre-rich food and they’re a great baking staple. When you blend them, they take on the consistency of flour. You can use oat flour to make lower-sugar muffins, brownies and pancakes and even energy bites. Try using mini chocolate chips or chop the dark chocolate into smaller bits when recipes call for chunks. This trick gives you a chocolatey flavour in every bite but cuts down on the amount of product you use because the smaller pieces disperse more evenly.
Artisanal ice-cream or sorbet
Make sure to choose your ice cream from an artisanal maker and swap chocolate or vanilla flavours with the fruity ones. Artisans frequently source local ingredients for their products in order to ensure the highest quality. Even better, opt for a refreshing homemade sorbet.
Above all, keep an eye on the portions. “One of my favourite pro strategies is to make mini bites – says Samantha Cassetty-. Our enjoyment plateaus after a while, so a mini dessert allows you to maximize your enjoyment but keeps the portion sizes more reasonable for an indulgent treat”. Also, slow down when you eat your dessert in order to appreciate it. Mindful eating is not just a trend: as we practice eating healthier, we are less inclined to binge on our usual comfort treats.