How to Do Dessert
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
LifeTime WeightLoss in Anika Christ, Healthy Cooking, Lifestyle, dessert, healthy treats

“What about dessert?” It's a common question clients pose to me during our coaching sessions. There's often something in their inquiry that suggests an underlying assumption that I’m going to deny the possibility of dessert ever again or even make them delete the very word from their vocabulary! On the contrary, I always make them aware that dessert can be part of a successful weight loss journey and healthy way of life. It's just a matter of doing it right. Here are my top tips for keeping dessert on the menu without sacrificing your weight loss progress. Consider them part of enjoying the journey and boosting your motivation to adopt a Healthy Way of Eating for life. 

Redefine Dessert. 

Cakes, cookies, donuts, brownies, ice cream--they're some of the typical foods that come to mind when we think dessert. Unfortunately, most commercial and processed versions of these foods are loaded with sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) along with artificial ingredients that can pose harm to our health if eaten on a frequent basis. If you're a regular dessert seeker, consider this tip. I always advise my clients to start thinking of different foods or beverages they can end their meals with and consider dessert. Berries with heavy cream, cheese and grapes, a cup of quality decaf coffee or espresso, a square of dark chocolate, or warmed almond butter served alongside apple slices are great ways to "treat" yourself at the end of a meal.

Modify Your Recipes.

There are all sorts of ways to make traditional dessert foods healthier! The Internet is loaded with blogs and websites authored by health gurus who create recipes that remake traditional desserts.  Key words to use in your search should include sugar-free, low-carb, gluten-free, or paleo-friendly when finding desserts online. Rest assured that if you have your own favorite recipes at home, you can absolutely adapt them to fulfill your fix. One of the easiest and most pertinent modifications to make is sugar substitution. My favorite substitute to use is liquid stevia (versus other sugar substitutes or sugar alcohols). Stevia comes plain or in many enticing flavors (e.g. toffee nut, peppermint, etc.) that can add another nice dimension to your recipes without spiking your blood sugar.  Also, don’t opt out on healthy fats. Many recipe modifications out there take fat out of the recipe to lower the calories.  Fats help stabilize blood sugars and make meals and desserts more satisfying. As we intuitively know, it's part of why we enjoy dessert! Keep the healthy fats there and go for high quality sources such as coconut milk or butter, grass-fed butter, and natural nut butters.

Make It Fabulous.  

If you're going to do dessert—make it worth it! If you really examine the high processed foods that line grocery store shelves, everything seems to be loaded with sugar. In that regard, much if not most processed food could be considered dessert, but it's not the kind I suggest for health--or enjoyment. When I ask my clients what their dessert choices are, we often discover what they choose are processed items that aren't truly satisfying to them. Dessert should taste delicious and rich and allow you to expand your palate. It should take time to consume and allow you to really enjoy the flavor. It should leave you completely satisfied in terms of the flavor and experience of eating. Instead of buying a package of cookies at the store (which easily could turn into eating a row or two in one sitting), identify something else that really tastes and feels great--something that is "worth it" once you’ve finished eating. Ice cream has always been my guilty pleasure, but instead of buying a larger tub of an artificial and cheaper version at the store, I opt for a smaller container of higher priced gelato. It not only tastes better, but a few tablespoons of it are far more satisfying.  

Make It an Occasion. 

My parents and grandparents often recall how when they were kids, dessert only made an appearance at Sunday dinners instead of every night (or every meal!). Holidays, birthday parties and special occasions are great and appropriate times to indulge in desserts. I specifically coach my clients to not feel like they have to avoid dessert at these special occasions or opt out of enjoying their children's birthday cake along with them (unless they feel it could be a trigger for a larger unhealthy eating cycle). When we limit how often we serve or expect dessert, it makes the addition feel more special when we do get to indulge. It also helps our children learn what are every day foods and what are special occasion foods.  

Share the Sweetness.

Sharing dessert is a common “food rule” that many of my clients begin practicing as they start their weight loss journeys. They say sharing can help them feel less guilty about indulging and can keep them from overeating. Some say they enjoy sharing also for the experience and reminder of the "social" satisfaction of sharing a meal. Either way, many consider it one of the "best practices" for their journeys' success. I know when I get together with my girlfriends to eat, we often share dessert among the four of us. It's fun, and if it's something truly amazing, sometimes even just a bite is enough!

How have you chosen to handle desserts since beginning your weight loss journey? What strategy or attitude has made the most difference for you? Share your thoughts and tips, and thanks for reading, everyone!

Written by Anika Christ, Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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