Children and adults alike love sweet treats and dessert. Whether it’s a chocolate brownie, a pretty pastel frosted cupcake, or a rainbow of gummy bears, I’ve rarely come across someone whose eyes don’t open widely ready to indulge in these sweets.
Unfortunately we know that most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugar, which is why one of the key recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines is to consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar.
To put that in perspective, that would be approximately 35 grams or 9 teaspoons of added sugar for someone on a 1400 calorie diet and 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of added sugar for someone on a 2000 calorie diet. As a reminder, these are the limits for added sugar, not natural sugar like that found in milk and fruit.
While it’s important to read labels and look for sources of added sugar in the ingredients list on packaged products (e.g. sugar, brown rice syrup, palm sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.), sometimes you just want to indulge your sweet tooth without counting grams of sugar and calories. To help you satisfy your cravings for sweet treats, here are 10 healthy ways to indulge your sweet tooth.
1. Yogurt parfait
Layer low-fat yogurt, fruit, chopped nuts, and honey for a delicious sweet treat. You can even fancy it up and make it in a martini or sundae glass! Flavored yogurts have some added sugar, so your best bet is plain, but if you can’t resist, you’re still getting the calcium and protein benefit of the yogurt and it’s certainly better for you than an ice cream sundae!
2. Chocolate covered frozen fruit
Melt a square or two of dark chocolate, dip your favorite fruit, spread on a baking sheet and freeze for about an hour. Jazz it up even more by rolling the chocolate covered fruit in sprinkles, chopped nuts, toasted coconut flakes, or granola before freezing.
3. Waffle sandwich
Make a dessert waffle that’s nutritious too. Spread a whole grain waffle with natural nut butter, top with blueberries, sliced strawberries, apples, or pears, and drizzle with maple syrup or melted dark chocolate. Top with a second waffle and cut in half.
4. Frozen yogurt pops
You can find these in the freezer aisle of the supermarket or make them at home. For packaged pops, look for yogurt and milk to be among the first ingredients. If making them at home, puree low-fat yogurt, your favorite fruit, and sweetener of choice. Try my Fruity Greek Yogurt Popsicles
5. Popcorn trail mix
Satisfy your sweet and savory taste buds at the same time by combining air-popped popcorn with dried fruit and mini chocolate chips. If you’re in the mood for some crunch, add raw nuts too.
6. Cereal and milk
Sometimes all you want is a good ole bowl of cereal. Go ahead and indulge in your favorite sugary variety, just make it a mix with a higher fiber whole-grain cereal and top it with fresh fruit and non-fat milk.
7. No-recipe fruit crumble
Bake or grill fruit and top with an easy oatmeal crumble made by mixing together oats, cinnamon, and a dollop of butter or drizzle of vegetable oil.
8. No-bake bites
These popular bites can be made sweet or savory and with different ingredients – take a look at Pinterest for some inspiration. Once your ingredients of choice are pulsed together and rolled into balls they can be coated in toppings just like the frozen fruit above.
9. Chocolate milk
So simple and old school, yet satisfies chocolate cravings while providing some good nutrition. Go for dark chocolate powder to reduce the added sugar.
10. Dark chocolate
A simple square of dark chocolate may be all you need to satisfy those sweet cravings. Look for chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa.
When choosing snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth, try to choose those that also offer some nutritional benefit like calcium or fiber. Of course there’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in a purely decadent dessert – just do so in moderation, and slow down and savor it!