That sweet treat you crave can be part of a healthy diet—here’s how.
Ever notice that the word “desserts” turns into “stressed” when spelled backwards? There may be a subtle reason for this. The sugar in many desserts may calm us when we’re stressed and be an instant mood booster. But how often is too often to indulge in these sweet treats?
A small dessert consumed daily can be part of a healthy diet. The key is to control portion sizes. You’ll also want to pay attention to other foods you eat that contain added sugars, such as cereals, protein bars, juices, bottled teas and coffees, so you don’t overdo your daily sugar intake.
Routinely consuming too much added sugar can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and liver disease. The American Heart Association® recommends limiting added sugars to 9 teaspoons (150 calories or 36 grams) per day for men and 6 teaspoons (100 calories or 24 grams) per day for women. That doesn’t go nearly as far as you’d expect.
In addition to controlling portion size, it’s a good idea to choose desserts that satisfy you without leaving you craving more. Here are some popular dessert options and ideas on how to make them healthier:
- Ice cream. You may think of this sweet treat as being off-limits on a healthy diet, but ice cream contains calcium, vitamin D and protein. Other options include gelato, frozen yogurt and frozen fruit pops. They key is to steer clear of brands with artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives and to stick to ½ cup or less to keep the sugar content in check. A homemade option is to puree sliced frozen banana with 2-3 tablespoons of plant-based beverage and any other fruit of choice in a food processor. The end result is like frozen yogurt.
- Chocolate. If chocolate is what you crave, try drizzling some melted chocolate on fruit or nuts to limit the amount you consume. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, antioxidants and minerals. It also usually contains less sugar than milk chocolate (as long as its 70% dark or higher). But it is still high in fat and calories, so moderation is important.
- Nuts. If you’re looking for some crunch, nuts are a healthy option on their own, with other foods or as a topping. They’re a good source of fiber, protein and healthy fats but they are calorie-dense so limit portions. Nuts can be paired with fresh or dried fruit or granola. Even chocolate-covered nuts are a good cheat, since the ratio of chocolate to nut is fairly small.
- Acai bowls. Acai is an antioxidant-rich superfood, but these popular frozen treats can be high in calories and added sugar so watch serving size and toppings. Some bowls can contain 600 calories and 75 grams of sugar in a single serving! Choose healthy toppings like fresh fruit, nuts or seeds and opt for a small bowl to keep calorie counts down.
- Frozen fruit. Frozen grapes or blueberries make a tasty and healthy dessert option. For an added treat, dip the fruit in yogurt and freeze on a tray. Use plain or Greek yogurt which has less sugar and avoid yogurt with artificial sweeteners.
Desserts are a delicious way to treat yourself and don’t have to be off-limits. To make them part of a healthy diet, keep portions small and choose options with minimal added sugar as often as possible.
Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.
Date Last Reviewed: August 16, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RD