5 Steps Toward Healthy Sweets Success

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”  — Erma Bombeck

Seizing every opportunity to dive into dessert isn’t always ideal, particularly if you struggle with poor body image, portion control, intense cravings or diabetes. But I value Bombeck’s point. Sugary sweets, while unnecessary from a nutritional standpoint, fit well within an overall healthy diet. And depriving ourselves can have serious negative consequences.

If you already have a super fabulous healthy relationship with food and your body, feel free to skip down to the chocolate cake recipe. If not, please hang with me as we explore healthy ways to satisfy our sweet teeth—strategies I consider delicious win-wins. 😉

Five Steps Toward Healthy SWEETS Success

1. Get rid of the guilt. Feeling guilty over indulging takes pleasure out of the experience and makes way for overeating, increased food cravings and weight gain—the very factors behind those shameful feelings. Allowing ourselves modest amounts of sweets, or other purely-for-pleasure food, can have the opposite effects. So have your cake and savor it, too. 😉

2. Eat more whole foods overall. Eating more whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, fish and legumes, helps keep our nutritional wellness, overall health and appetites in check. You’ll hopefully feel less guilty when you do indulge and can rest assured that those treats are unlikely to cause harm.

3. Please your eye, not just your tummy. Which looks more appealing to you?

Mini fruity ice cream sundae

Over-sized ice cream a la cardboard

*****

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4. Eat mindfully. We get the most taste and pleasure out of the first few bites, so take your time—with those especially. Sit down to eat in a pleasant atmosphere* with few distractions (yes, even your cell phone). Observe the colors, flavors, textures and aromas. And take…your…time. Mindful eating promotes improved digestion, moods and weight control. *If you struggle with overeating, purchase single-size portions.

5. Seek healthy ways to prepare your favorites. I seldom make desserts without nutritious ingredients, so many conventional sweets now seem dry, heavy or flavorless. Add fresh or frozen fruit to ice cream, brownies and pies, and dried fruit and oats to cookies. Replace eggs or butter in sweet breads and muffins with apple sauce, pureed pumpkin or mashed banana, then cut back on the sugar. You can also replace butter with canola or olive oil, and white flours with whole grain. Get creative! (I know y’all can. ;))

Via last week’s bodacious blogger post, the cake honoring Kourtney Heinz won hands down. As promised, here is the recipe.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
This decadent torte is scrumptious, filling, simple to make and lots healthier than typical flourless choco-creations. For a lighter batch, swap out the butter/oil for 1/2 cup mashed banana. For more fiber, replace butter/oil with 1/2 cup pureed avocado, and load on the berries.

Ingredients:
4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
3 eggs
3/4 cup honey or agave
1/2 cup butter with olive oil
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon or 1 tbsp espresso powder (optional)
Fresh berries and mint leaves (optional)

Directions:
Grease a round or square 8” pan with oil or butter. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the baking chocolate and butter/oil on your stovetop over low to medium heat, stirring until smooth. Set it aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a medium-size bowl, then add the melted chocolate. Whisk by hand or with an electric mixer until well-blended. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the center seems firm. After it cools, serve cake in small slices, topped with fresh berries. Add mint for a pretty, fresh-smelling garnish. Bon appetit!

Do you have a positive relationship with sweets? Or are they vicious villains, in your book? 😉 Any questions or tips to add? I LOVE hearing your thoughts.

Leave a comment

56 Comments

  1. Boiled sweets are a great way to get a sugar hit for a few minutes. that’s what I do now after dinner. Butterscotch normally! Great advcie as always August. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Marc Schuster

     /  May 31, 2012

    Just got some fresh strawberries from the farmers’ market, and they’re delicious! As far as snacking goes, I’ve recently become a big fan of raisins. Apparently, there are many varieties of raisins, each with its own distinctive size, texture, and flavor. My favorite is the Chilean flame raisin. It’s like eating candy!

    Reply
  3. OMG for us celiacs that is a wonderful desert. i’m off to work and then the market…oh yeah, the printer first so I know what to buy. thanks august.

    Reply
  4. gingercalem

     /  May 31, 2012

    Cake looks decadent and love the idea of espresso powder. YUM!

    Reply
  5. Yum! This actually looks pretty easy to make! I’ll have to try it for my neighbor’s birthday, she’s got celiacs disease.

    Reply
  6. Good morning, August : ) My downfall is the cookie monster. Cookies have to be a rare treat, because once I get started, I’m ruined for a week. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of sliced apples : )

    Reply
    • Ooh, I know that monster. 😉 I’ll have to share my whole grain cookie for one recipe… As a side note, fiber-rich cookies, like oatmeal raisin, are the most filling. Paired with low-fat milk or plain yogurt, they promote blood sugar and appetite control. Apples are great, too!

      Reply
  7. I’m trying that chocolate cake recipe today with — going to be brave — avocado rather than butter.

    Reply
  8. Have you tried cooking with coconut oil and truvia yet? Coconut oil is cholesterol free and truvia is from a plant!
    I am going to make rhubarb pie with it today…..
    Great post! If I chose to eat dessert, I don’t want to guilt out about it!

    Reply
  9. I’ve gotten away from sugar, and mostly use truvia in the raw. It’s delicious and not overly sweet. That said, sweets are kind of my enemy, but I’m learning to balance them. I love strawberries and apples, and we usually have either strawberries with cool whip or a strawberry smoothie for dessert. You’ve got some great suggestions here – I’m going to have to try them out. Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Oh, man, that looks sooooo good! I am a sweetaholic, although as I’ve gotten older and my metabolism has slowed down, I’ve taught myself to replace straight chocolate with other, healthier foods that are still sweet. One of my fave replacements are the Special K protein bars–yummm!

    Reply
  11. Fabulous post August. Hubby and I have been RAMPING up the whole foods this week and it’s been wonderful.
    I love the tips and tricks. Especially the “no guilt” – you couldn’t be more dead on. I think if we allow ourselves to feel “guilt” over what we are putting in our mouth, we can easily and quickly create a negative cycle where we feel guilty, so we eat poorly, so we feel guilty and so on and so forth! I try my very best to accept going in that it’s a choice and it’s one I am making…and there’s no point feeling guilty about it.
    Also loved the eating mindful. Last night my BFF made us some super stellar, healthy apple crisp and we had some butter pecan ice cream with it. When I was done, I knew I had eaten too much and realized that I’d have been just as satisfied, if not more so, from half the serving I took….and made a mental note to TRY IT next time to see. I mean…if I want it that bad and am still hungry, I can go back for a second serving but at least if I start out with a smaller serving, I’m less likely to overindulge. Also, if I slow down, it’ll give my body more time to enjoy and savor the flavor while…giving it time to tell my brain “girl…you are full and fabulous!”
    GREAT post!

    Reply
    • Natalie, you’re full OF fabulous. 🙂 Love that you’ve taken such a positive angle on messages you tell yourself and use what some might see as mishaps as learning opportunities. Keep those whole foods coming! They make everything so much easier (and our bodies and brains fitter), and those hungry/full and other signs second nature.

      Reply
  12. I subscribe to the 90/10 rule–90% of the time I eat healthy, 10% not as healthy. Life is too short to not occasionally indulge. It’s all about moderation, after all.

    Reply
  13. I love sweets; they are my downfall. As long as I don’t start, I’m fine. My strategies for getting off the blood sugar roller coaster include sharing a dessert at a restaurant, buying only a single serving of a sweet treat (once it’s gone, it’s gone), avoiding having large quantities of baked goods in my house. It’s really a chemical addiction!

    Reply
    • They certainly can be addictive—restaurants and commercial food makers know and rely on that. 😉 Single servings are great options. Sharing desserts, even better!

      Reply
  14. August, this is a very smart approach to the “seet tooth” issue. Small portions of a healthier dessert are still so much more satisfying than avoiding it all together and facing a “withdrawal” symptoms.

    Chocolate (in moderation) is a good option, especially because it also offers additional health benefits, and not only a guilty pleasure.

    We don’t realize it, but often when we crave sweets we are dehydrated and simply need to drink something. I opt for a small glass of orange, grape or cranberry juice. Or hot tea with honey. It always does the trick 🙂

    Reply
  15. I’ve found that if I keep “low quality” sweets in the house, I’m inclined to eat them even if I don’t really love them. We’ve formed the habit in our house of buying one really great dessert – like a bar of amazing dark chocolate – that has to last the week. When something is high quality, you don’t feel the need to mindlessly chow down!

    Reply
    • Sounds like a fantastic strategy, Amber. It’s remarkable how much less yummy low-quality sweets become after sticking to better options. Your family’s lucky to have you!

      Reply
  16. Coleen Patrick

     /  May 31, 2012

    I definitely have a sweet tooth, but the older I get the less tolerance I have for it physically. So it’s somewhat easier to limit, or turn it down because I’m also thinking about how I will feel–aka tired, sluggish, etc But I do love dessert–i just want it to be super yummy. Like Amber said, not low quality. 🙂

    Reply
  17. Kourtney Heintz

     /  May 31, 2012

    One thing that helps me is eating with a friend or with family. I eat slower and take the time to talk and enjoy the meal. If I cook, I also wash the pan before I have dessert. Somehow those 5 minutes away from the table make me feel more full. Then I just have a couple cookies or pieces of fruit for dessert. 🙂

    Reply
    • Five minutes really can make a difference, as can stepping away and doing something active. (Gives an added benefit to dish washing, right??) Great habits, Kourtney!

      Reply
  18. Hi August, I’m probably lucky in that I don’t have a sweet tooth, so it’s not hard for me to indulge in moderation 🙂 But it’s great to see a post that encourages balance, ’cause there’s nothing like guilt to make us do exactly what we shouldn’t! What I want to know is – does Zoe have a sweet tooth, and, if so, how do you deal with that? 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey Alarna! Best question of the day. 😉 Zoe has several sweet teeth. Luckily, they’re usually satisfied by carrots and apples, sometimes dipped in gravy. She seems pretty guilt-free, too!

      Reply
  19. The older I get, the less I want sweets, August. I’m not sure if that’s common, or whether it’s because I’ve gotten healthier as I’ve gotten older, so don’t have the cravings I had in my teens and twenties. And while that chocolate cake recipe looks sinfully delicious, I’m afraid that if I had a slice of it, I wouldn’t sleep for a week. All that caffiene would keep me awake! 🙂

    Reply
    • That happens for some people, Sheila. Consider yourself blessed and wise. 🙂 So fascinating how foods affect us all differently. I can drink caffeine right before bed and it makes no difference!

      Reply
  20. Raani York

     /  May 31, 2012

    This sounds really appetizing, August. Thank you for posting all those great recipes for me to try out and feel good with it – in every sense of way.

    Reply
  21. Wow – a healthier version of chocolate cake? You’re my hero! I am so trying this!

    Reply
  22. What I have learned is that the affection for the confection of only confined to tongue. It sure tangles your senses but it does more than it’s desired part once descended down. Few years ago I managed to conquer my taste buds & that happened in a spur of a moments of course with a conscious insight of plight of few extended family members suffering from diabetes. Your cake recipe is tempting & we might try it soon 🙂

    Reply
  23. Wonderful share. I have found over the years that by eating slow enough I usually don’t have room for dessert or sweets. So I pass of these types of things. When the urge arises. A couple of chocolate chips and I am good. Sweet tooth satisfied. 🙂 The strawberries with vanilla ice cream looks sooo good! Mmmmmm.

    Reply
  24. inkspeare

     /  June 1, 2012

    Thank you for this recipe; I will try it 🙂

    Reply
  25. Oh my god, that cake looks to die for! I totally want a piece!

    Reply
  26. Karen McFarland

     /  June 1, 2012

    Well, I want to know who doesn’t like chocolate? Does such a person exist? As you know I’m a healthy eater. Have been for over thirty years. Well, since having children. My sensitivity to sugar foods came during this period when my husband’s mother was diagnosed with Diabetes. And she died a horrible death from complications related to her diabetes. Apparently we can carry the gene. So we are very careful how much sugar we eat and what kind of sugar we eat. Although that picture of the cake could push anyone over the edge. 🙂

    Reply
  27. Reetta Raitanen

     /  June 2, 2012

    Delicious post, August. I want to try out that cake recipe. And great advice about indulging the sweet tooth in a healthy way. I loved the tip about pleasing the eyes too. Mindful eating is the hardest part for me.

    Another tip to eat smaller portions is to use small bowls, plates and spoons. A friend of mine who has serious issues with binge eating shovels desserts with big spoons, and ends up eating too much most of the time.

    Reply
  28. Your cake recipe certainly appears to be healthy enough to enjoy without guilt. Another great post on body image and its subsequent issues.

    Reply
  29. I love #3! A beautiful presentation can make a somewhat healthy treat feel a whole lot more decadent. Great quote up top by the way, not what I was expecting.

    Reply
  30. Thanks for the cake recipe and all the fab tips. I cut out sugar a month ago and dropped 5 lbs. Couldn’t believe it!

    Reply
  31. That flourless chocolate cake looks so good. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    Reply
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