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.

Cinnabon’s Healthy Cousins

The first time I attempted whole grain cinnamon rolls, they came out like little brown hockey pucks, only harder. But hey, they were nutritious. Slather on some frosting and bon appetit! Sort of. I happen to like grainy, dense foods. But I and my stomach continued to dream of soft, doughy, healthy Cinnabon-style treats most anyone would enjoy. The kind you instantly crave at the airport. One whif and OH MAN…!!!

Okay, enough confectionary lusting. Several attempts later and I’ve done it, I think. If you try them, please share your thoughts!

CINNAMON ROLLS WITH WHOLE GRAINS, BLUEBERRIES AND LOTSA YUM!

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated or raw sugar
1 packet active dry, rapid-rise yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees, approximately)
1/2 cup warm soy milk
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 – 3 cups whole wheat flour
1 – 2 cups white or white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup spreadable butter w/canola or olive oil (or soft regular butter)
Fresh or frozen (thawed/drained) blueberries
Frosting of choice

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set it aside for later.
  2. In a small bowl or mug, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in warm water.
  3. In a large bowl (mixer bowl if possible) combine milk,  granulated sugar, canola oil, salt and egg. Add yeast mixture and 2 cups of flour—1 white, 1 whole wheat. Beat until smooth, either with a hand mixer, large spoon or your mixer’s dough hook. Gradually add more of each type of flour until a stiff ball forms. Continue to knead by hand or machine. (If you hand-kneed, about 8 minutes should do it. In a mixer, it’s more like 5 – 6.)
    If it looks like this (EW), add flour.
    It should look more like this—doughy and firm, not sticky or crumbly. Think…elastic.

  4. Place dough into a large greased bowl. Cover with a thin cloth and allow it to rise someplace warm, like under your overhead oven light, until doubled in size—about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Punch down dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. (Okay, most bread recipes say to do this. I never do. Do as you wish. Just please don’t turn me in to the baking police.)
  6. Roll dough out onto a floured surface into a rectangle. (I roll out a large circle and cut a rectangle. You can make fun little blobby things with the leftovers. Up to you.)
  7. Brush the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle on the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture then the blueberries.
  8. Tightly roll up dough and pinch edges together to seal then cut 8 rounds. (Recipes usually suggest slicing round with thread or floss. I use a knife. Karate CHOP!)
  9. Coat the bottom of a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or canola oil. (Whatever size floats your fancy.) Place the rolls close together in the pan.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. Top with frosting, if desired.
    **I frost only the ones we’ll eat right away. Otherwise, the frosting soaks in. Serving the frosting on-the-side gives partakers the option of extra sweet or none at all.

If you’d like some festive music to accompany your baking adventures, check out EVERY DAY IS CHRISTMAS. It’s available for viewing/listening here and for purchase on iTunes. Proceeds benefit the National Center for Adult Literacy.

These rolls have become a holiday staple in my kitchen. What would we find in yours?? What sweet treat do you wish was nutritious? (I just make uptake the challenge… ;))