For a lot of people focusing on health and fitness goals, dessert is never on the menu. But, when the dessert cart at a restaurant rolls by, the desire to enjoy a dessert still bubbles up. While there are some things you should move away from eating (refined and overly processed foods with artificial ingredients) when working towards a health and fitness goal, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy dessert. Desserts, just like all of the other foods you’re eating, can get upgraded to a more wholesome and healthy food to enjoy.
Quality and Quantity
As with all the other foods you’ve been upgrading to, you want a dessert to have organic or no pesticides/no spray ingredients with real, less refined ingredients, meaning minimal fillers, artificial colors or preservatives. Several companies are dedicated to making cleaner desserts that are made with real ingredients, and some maybe very clean with a few ingredients you don’t have when you make them at home. Check out the food label and see what’s in your dessert and decide if that dessert is clean enough for you.
The amount of the dessert you eat can contribute or hurt your health goals. Think back to how much you would eat in a dessert before working on your goals. Did you eat a lot of desserts in the past or could you moderate your dessert intake well? When you were eating desserts, where you fully aware of what you were eating or were you distracted? Also ask yourself while you’re eating how hungry you really are. If you’re used to eating dessert right after a meal, check in with your hunger and fullness at the end of your meal. If you’re full, wait until you're hungry to enjoy a dessert. If you know you want to enjoy a dessert before you start your meal, have a smaller meal portions so you’re still hungry for dessert. While you’re eating your dessert, truly enjoy it and turn off or put down any distractions that take away from the experience.
Healthy Desserts To Make at Home
In addition to looking for cleaner store-bought versions of your favorite desserts, you can also make a lot of healthy desserts to satisfy your need for something sweet.
Roasted Fruit: While fresh fruit can be a great snack and treat, sometimes the raw version just doesn't satisfy the sweet tooth enough. Roasting the fruit will unlock more of the fruit’s natural sugars and flavors. You can also add seasonings like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves to enhance the flavors and sweetness even more.
You can enjoy the fruit by itself or you can add it to a small bowl of organic yogurt. If you choose a full-fat yogurt, the yogurt will also provide some more fat and protein to keep you satisfied.
Chia Pudding: A great option for dessert or breakfast, chia pudding is made from chia seeds that expand when soaked in any liquid. Chia pudding is easily customizable for your tastes. You can use water, milk, or any nondairy milk to as the liquid, add natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, and add cocoa or cacao powder if you like chocolate. You can also add fruit, by way of a fruit puree mixed into the pudding or with a fresh fruit topping.
Fruit Popsicles: If you’re a fan of frozen desserts, try making your own fruit popsicles. You can make popsicles with your own, easy-to-make fruit purees or you can use coconut water, nondairy milks, or yogurt as the base and add in fruit slices or berries as well. The homemade option cuts down on added sugars, food colorings, and artificial flavors.
Date-Based Desserts: Dates, often called nature’s candy, have a wonderful sweetness that can be used to make a lot of desserts. You can combine dates in a food processor with nuts and spices and press that into a glass or metal baking dish to create your own energy bars, customized just for you. You can also use dates as a major component in creating raw brownies or as a shell in a healthier fruit tart.
Fruit Dipped in Dark Chocolate: If you’re a chocolate person, melt down the chocolate bar and dip some slices of your favorite fruit in it. Go for a darker chocolate with a higher cocoa content for a deeper flavor and cardiovascular benefits. You can also pour small discs of the melted chocolate onto a silicon baking mat, sprinkle dried fruit over them, allow them to harden in the fridge for an hour or so, then enjoy as well.
Banana “Ice Cream”: This ice cream is so good and so simple, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it earlier. Peel, slice, and freeze a few bananas the night before you plan to make the “ice cream” or when you buy the bananas. When dessert time rolls around, put the banana chunks into a blender or food processor and run until a soft-serve consistency is reached (which isn’t too long). Top with fresh fruit, honey, nuts, or sprinkle some dark chocolate chunks on top.
Smoothie: Not just for breakfast, a smaller smoothie could be a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Add your favorite fresh or frozen fruits, dairy or nondairy milk, and maybe a spoonful or two of organic, full-fat yogurt for some added protein and thickness. Add some greens to your balance out the amount of natural sugar you’ll have in the smoothie.
Cleaner Cookies and Breads: The internet and cookbooks are awash with cookie and quick bread recipes that use less refined sugars and flours, natural sweeteners, and quality fats like coconut oil. Add “healthy” to your favorite cookie name in your search bar and look through to find the right combination of ingredients that works for you.
Enjoying dessert doesn’t have be only for special occasions or with the condition to run on the treadmill for X amount of hours to burn it off. By buying or making higher quality desserts and be mindful of how much you eat them, you can really start to enjoy a sweet treat again and keep your health and fitness goals on track.
Healthy Eating 101 returns with how to eat healthy when eating outside of your kitchen.
Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Second Photo Credit: MaraZe/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: d8nn/shutterstock.com; Fifth Photo Credit: Alena Haurylik/shutterstock.com