We all love our sweets and treats so we fear not having them if we embark on healthy lifestyle changes. It’s true, packaged sweets are usually restricted, but there are limitless healthier dessert options that can still support your health goals AND they actually taste better. If you would like to live a long, healthy life at your ideal weight and energy level, but don’t like the idea of cutting out sweets, here are healthy alternatives and guidelines for making informed decisions.
How to Choose Healthier Desserts
Here are some things to consider when choosing dessert.
- Make it count. Eat a dessert with nutrients, whole foods or health benefits like chocolate with no less than 70% cocoa content or a homemade brownie with a nut butter swirl.
- At all costs avoid the number one detrimental processed food for your health High Fructose Corn Syrup. In Canada it can be labeled as “glucose-fructose” so watch for that, as well as “HFCS”.
- Avoid fats that have been processed, altered or highly refined, so when reading labels, avoid anything that has partially hydrogenated oil listed, which can also be labeled with a trans fats percentage in the content bar.
- Include healthy fats for satiety like coconut oil, butter (preferably grass-fed) and nuts. These are whole foods, your body recognizes them and therefore can process them, unlike the partially hydrogenated oils and fats.
- When eating out, share your dessert.
- If you ever have to choose between a higher fat versus a higher sugar content, choose the fat, as long as it’s one of the healthy fats listed above. Your body can do more with the fat and it will sustain you longer. So if a dessert menu contains a chocolate mousse and a chocolate cake (forgive me chocolate cake for saying this), go with the mousse. (I’m so sorry chocolate cake, you know you will always be my favourite dessert!)
- If you rarely consume sweets and it’s a special occasion, don’t restrict yourself, go for pleasure, enjoy every mouthful.
- Fruit on its’ own for dessert is awesome, fruit with dairy isn’t the end of the world, but sadly, fruit with grains and more added sugar (fruit crisps, yes, sorry) is just a recipe for a huge blood sugar spike and isn’t well digested either. True, you get fibre and nutrients and it includes whole foods, but keep it to a minimum, especially if you struggle with weight or blood sugar challenges or digestive distress like bloating and distention.
- When reading labels, avoid the items that have multiple forms of sugar.
- Homemade is always better than packaged desserts and the typical packaged desserts we have been taught to get excited about (Oreos for instance) are more hype than flavour anyway.
- Think of your three macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) when choosing desserts so you know that you are including whole foods somehow.
- If you don’t recognize the name on the label as a whole food (“butter” versus “mono and diglycerides“) or you don’t know what the ingredient is at all (tartrazine), it’s probably not good for you.
- When buying ice-cream, consider these three main points:
- Cream should be the first ingredient, or possibly the second.
- It should be a short list of whole foods as ingredients, such as cream and egg yolk.
- Watch for stabilizers, dyes and fillers like carrageenan, tartrazine, mono and diglycerides.
- Here are two labels for common vanilla ice-cream brands. Note that Haggen Dazs on the right is the one worth eating in moderation if you want a healthier dessert option.
The Haggen Dazs has cream, concentrated skim milk, sugar, liquid egg yolk and vanilla extract. All recognizable, simple foods. The other brand has modified milk ingredients before the cream, but it also contains glucose in addition to the sugar and it has artificial flavours, artificial colour, stabilizers and fillers. You are still consuming sugar so you still need to be mindful of proportions, but if you are looking for a nice, simple ice-cream treat, go for the one with the most recognizable content.
There are some really great “nice cream” ideas out there where you can freeze sliced bananas and turn them into a dessert resembling ice-cream in flavour and texture, and it oddly enough does not have a strong banana flavour. If you would like to try it with the bananas or other fruits and fillers, here are some recipe ideas:
Gingerbread Nice Cream from Feasting on Fruit
Peach Butter Ice Cream With Salted Dulce de Leche from Will Frolic For Food
Mermaid Nice Cream from Tropically Lina
Peanut Butter Banana Ice-cream from Pinch of Yum
Healthier Dessert Options
There is a wide range of blogs and cookbooks that offer everything from sugar-free options, to raw and vegan, or gluten and grain-free desserts. What’s most important is that you eat dessert with joy and in moderation. Desserts are meant to be enjoyed and celebrated, but eating big doses of sugar every day will not help you reach optimum health levels so even though we are choosing healthier options here, it’s still important to remember that these are still treats. If you have diabetes, weight challenges, digestive problems, an auto-immune disease, cancer or unexplainable health concerns, removing sugar from your diet will benefit you immensely and therefore even these healthier dessert options need to be eaten with mindfulness and careful consideration. If you would like to gain more control over your sugar consumption, check out my previous post Sugar Addiction and How You Can Gain Control.
Here are some links to blogs and recipes that provide really great homemade, healthier dessert options. Enjoy! And if you have others you would like to add, please leave links and ideas in the comments below.
(All images and recipes are credited to their respective websites and authors, these are not my images.)
For more healthy dessert inspiration, also check out:
My New Roots (The desserts aren’t listed in the headline, but scroll down, they are there!)