Q: "What would you recommend as a substitute to someone who always wants something sweet after dinner?" — Laura B.
We know exactly what you mean Laura. It almost never fails, as soon as dinner is over, the urge to wrap it up with a sweet finale takes over. And you aren't alone: according to Psychology Today, 97 percent of us get cravings. So it made us wonder: why?
Apparently, it's a gift that us humans have developed over time (thanks evolution). According to some research, there are a variety of different reasons we may be craving sweets after a meal, including habit or association (i.e. that piece of chocolate makes you feel good and satisfied), and it boosts your mood (like it or not, sugar boosts serotonin, which makes you feel better).
While some people aren't affected by this sweet urge (lucky them!), we're huge dessert fans ourselves, so just the very thought of trying to 'break' this habit puts us in a bad mood.
We asked Registered Dietitian Lauren O'Connor for her expert advice on this subject. "There are a number of healthy options," says O'Connor. "I often recommend, to my clients, fruit-based snacks since fruit is naturally sweet. If they are in season and ripe, you really don't need to add the sugar".
For dessert ideas, keep on reading.
Here are three of Lauren's favorite alternatives to high-calorie pie or ice cream:
- A baked apple with cinnamon spice (option: top with 2 TBS galaxy granola or muesli for added texture and flavor)
- 1/2 cup of stewed peaches with cranberries (ripe peaches create their own juices and the cranberries plump juicy-n-sweet — add a little lemon juice or zest if you like. Note: best to add a little water to the pan with the fruit).
- Slightly defrost 1/2 cup of frozen mixed berries and serve as a frozen treat.
OK, but what if I still REALLY NEED CHOCOLATE?
For those days when fruit just won't cut it (we've been there), we recommend making your own 'healthied-up' treats at home. You'll save tons of fat and calories (and even burn off some while baking!). Our favorite Dessert Diva is Chef Devin Alexander. Her recipes are so deliciously decadent, you won't even notice the missing fat or calories. (If you want to be a hit at your next holiday party, try out her Peppermint Brownie Pizza recipe from her I Can't Believe It's Not Fattening Cookbook! Just the photo makes us drool!)
Your best plan of action is to plan ahead. Have healthy options on hand, or bake your treats ahead of time. If you do bake, it can be helpful to do it in advance, then wrap up single portions and freeze the rest. (Even if they are lighter versions of the good stuff, eating two or three servings worth can still undermine your hard work at the gym).
Hope that helps! Bon Appetit!
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