“But what can I have for dessert?”

This was originally published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.

“But what can I have for dessert?”

I’m asked this question as I pore over the food journal of a client struggling to lose weight and body fat, and wondering why “it’s not working”. I do not believe in deprivation, and I very much believe in enjoying healthy, tasty sweets.  My website is full of recipes for them.  But too often dessert packs an unsuspected sugary wallop that can throw off any attempts to improve health and body composition.

  • Learn to read labels. Let’s take chocolate as an example.  A small piece of dark chocolate makes an excellent treat. Dark chocolate is over 70% cocoa, meaning the first ingredient should be cocoa, not sugar.  With more cocoa than sugar, it’s low glycemic and won’t raise your blood sugar significantly.  But beware: the chocolate may be 70% or over, but added candy, caramel, or dried fruit ups the overall sugar.
  • Check the servings. Many people assume that however much they normally eat is a serving, but the manufacturer’s definition may differ, so check the label.  You may have to multiply, based on your actual portion.  If you’re having several servings, the sugar can add up, even with a low glycemic food.
  • By any other name. Sometimes, sugar is on the label in different forms. Learn to recognize its disguises: cane juice; fruit juice, solids or concentrates; corn syrup; maltodextrin; sucrose; turbinado; lactose; sorghum; turbinado; glucose; malt; syrups; and fructose are just a few of its many names. Remember: to your body, they’re all metabolized as sugar, no matter what they’re called.

So… what can I have for dessert? First, re-evaluate your expectations.  Not every meal, or every day, must end with sweets.  By definition, a treat is something to have occasionally, not regularly.  A meal that has appropriately balanced and healthy protein, fats and carbohydrates will leave you feeling satisfied for 4-6 hours.  Cravings usually come from unidentified food sensitivities, or eating out of balance, or both.

Here are some suggestions to satisfy sweet cravings. For more, see my website.

  • Plain Greek yogurt or kefir with berries; stevia or xylitol to sweeten
  • Cocoa made with unsweetened cocoa, 1/2 cup each coconut milk and water, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, xylitol or stevia to sweeten
  • Coconut water ice pops
  • A square of 70%+ chocolate

For more ideas, search “recipes” on my website.

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