Personally, I'm a huge fan of dessert. No matter how decadent the meal is, no matter how many courses are thrown at me, I will always have room for just a little (or a lot) more.
But alas, I am a health conscious gal. I work out regularly and I try to get my fair share of daily veggies too. I recognize the detrimental toll a high-sugar diet can take on the body, leading to obesity-related problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. This year I've been trying extra hard to limit my intake. In fact, I even went sugar and grain-free for a month. Yes, it worked, and yes, I felt amazing, but it was definitely not a forever thing. That being said, I still want my daily dessert fix.
Me? I believe in having my cake and eating it too. I also believe in healthy desserts. No, it's not an oxymoron. I'm not trying to trick you. And these desserts aren't only healthy; they can be delicious and satisfying to even the most discerning sweet tooth.
So what makes a dessert healthy?
There are a lot of health-foodies that preach the wonders of calorie-free natural sweeteners, like stevia, erythritol, and xylitol. And while these may satisfy some, I'm a firm believer that if you're going to have dessert, you deserve a real dessert with real sugar. Sugar is a naturally occurring substance, and like most things, if you have the right kind in moderation, it's not going to kill you. Plus, many of the sugar alcohol calorie-free sweeteners can do some pretty funky things to your bowels, which for me, is a deal-breaker. Even worse, sugar alcohols like sorbitol contain neither sugar nor alcohol, which is just mean.
I'm a fan of nature's sugars. These are unrefined, unprocessed sugars that come from trees and plants. At a molecular level, the composition of unrefined fruit and plant sugar are entirely different, and because of this they break down in your body differently.
Take maple syrup, the beloved tree sap nectar we so often douse our pancakes in. In moderation, maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese, potassium, iron, zinc and calcium. And because maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, it tends to have a less drastic effect on our blood sugar, keeping it level for longer. It's just one of the natural sugars that can become your secret ingredient the next time you want to whip up a dessert.
Looking for ways to incorporate healthy desserts into your lifestyle? Below I've included two of my favorite recipes. Not only are they full of plant-based foods, but these recipes are kid-approved and sure to satisfy even the most intense dessert cravings:
There's nothing quite like the creamy, sweet, almost caramelized taste of a super ripe banana. You might have plopped a half or whole frozen banana in your smoothie and noticed just how delicious and decadently creamy it made your drink. Well, if you throw frozen bananas into a blender or food processor, magic happens. When blended with a small amount of almond milk, bananas take on the creamy, dreamy texture of ice cream, without the added dairy and sweetener. Typical ice cream has about 50% more air after the churning process. This rendition, of course, is a little denser, but all the more satisfying because of it. From there, the world is your oyster -- or sundae, rather. I like to top mine with heart-healthy walnuts, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, or even a little peanut butter if I'm feeling wild. It's the perfect treat that everyone will enjoy -- kids included.
Stay with me -- I promise avocados aren't just for guacamole and toast! Paired with bitter, sumptuous chocolate tones, vanilla, and just the right amount of sweetness, this delectable pudding concoction will fool pretty much everyone in your family. Avocados are full of heart-friendly monounsaturated fatty acids and chock full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K and folate. Chia seeds are another superstar that appears in this dessert. Chia seeds are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein, healthy for both the digestive system and the taste buds.
2 ripe avocados
1/3 cup honey OR maple syrup
3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground chia seeds
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. If the texture is too thick, add almond milk at your discretion to thin it out. Chill for at least 30 minutes, and serve.
Have any favorite healthy dessert recipes of your own? I'm always looking for new ways to get my sugar fix that won't cancel out my daily run. Share your favorite healthy desserts below, and no sugar alcohols allowed!