Indulge in These Desserts—and Lose Weight!
If you have a sweet tooth, the word diet may make automatically make you think of deprivation. After all, dieting means no more dessert…
Or does it?
Actually, one thing I tell my patients is, “You can have dessert on a real-food diet.” In fact, the right sweet treats can help quell inflammation, heal your gut, and keep your sugar cravings at bay—and that can help you melt off the pounds. Dessert as a diet aid… who knew?
The trick, however, is to redefine the concept of dessert in a healthy way. To do this, think back to the very earliest desserts of all.
The sweets you’re designed to eat
Back in hunter-gatherer times, sugar was hard to come by. People could search all day just to find a handful of berries or a few dates. These sweet foods provided a big punch of nutrients, so our genes programmed us to seek them out.
Now, however, it’s a different story. Grocery stores offer rows and rows of nutritional bling that’s packed with sugar and virtually nutrient-free. On a conscious level, you know that this stuff is bad for you. But your cave-person genes are still singing the same siren song:
Yum, yum. Sugar good. Eat more now.
That’s why it’s so easy to give in and reach for the fudge cake—even when you know you shouldn’t.
Retraining your sweet tooth
Luckily, there’s a way to satisfy your sugar cravings without gaining weight and making your body sick. You simply need to retrain your taste buds to appreciate the natural sweetness of the foods your ancestors ate.
If you’ve indulged in sugary treats for years, this will take a little time. At first you may not get as big a “hit” of sweetness as you want, because you’re used to getting a sugar overload and your taste buds are desensitized. But savor each bite slowly, searching out the natural sweetness, and you’ll start to wake those taste buds up.
To help you learn to love the healthy desserts that love you back, here are some of my favorite dessert ideas. They incorporate Mother Nature’s sweet treats—fruits, berries, nuts, and coconut—along with gut-healing gelatin, anti-inflammatory chocolate, and other real foods.
Do you love to snack on candy after dinner? If so, go for gummies—not the sugary store-bought kind, but the home-made kind. Gummies are loaded with gelatin, which heals your gut and reduces inflammation—and less inflammation means easier weight loss, better skin, and more energy.
Want more good news? You can make your own gummies in minutes. Here’s a great recipe for lemon-raspberry gummies that I snagged from autoimmune-paleo.com (thanks, guys!), and here’s a take on sweet-and-sour gummies from my good friend Diane Sanfilippo at balancedbites.com.
Berries and whipped coconut cream
Berries are the original dessert food—and while they’re sweet, you may be surprised to learn that they’re low in sugar compared to most fruits. In addition, they absolutely load you up with anti-inflammatory, skin-protecting nutrients.
But I hear you: Berries by themselves just don’t quite seem like dessert. So jazz them up with a big, fluffy mound of whipped cream! Of course, I’m not talking about that stuff in a spray can. I make my own whipped cream using coconut milk, which is filled with anti-inflammatory lauric acid. Coconut milk also is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are “high-octane” fats that actually help you burn off weight.
Making your own whipped coconut cream is easy. Here are the steps:
- Refrigerate a can of coconut milk for at least three hours (overnight is best).
- When you’re ready to make your whipped cream, place the can, a metal mixing bowl, and the beaters from your mixer in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Pour the coconut milk into the chilled mixing bowl and add a teaspoon of almond or vanilla extract. Whip on the mixer’s highest setting until the milk is fluffy and resembles the texture of whipped cream, about five to seven minutes.
Do you love crisps, crumbles, and “betties”—those wonderful combinations of gooey fruit and crunchy topping? Then try making them with almond flour and nuts. Here’s my take on a classic apple crisp, real-food style. For a change of pace, substitute pears for the apples and sliced almonds for the walnuts or pecans. And for extra zing, add half a teaspoon of dried ginger to the pears along with the lemon juice.
To make this sin-free dessert seem even more wicked, top it with whipped coconut cream. Delish.
I always get a kick out of store-bought ice creams and gelatos that bill themselves as “natural.” Yeah— They’re naturally full of tons of sugar as well as cream, which is a real problem for many people (including me) who can’t tolerate dairy.
Want a better alternative? Then make your own ice cream or gelato with coconut milk, and sweeten it with honey. You’ll get a big dose of lauric acid from the coconut milk, and the honey has remarkable gut-healing properties.
Here’s one of my favorite gelato recipes. As a bonus, it includes sliced almonds to provide you with still more healthy fats.
Chocolate almond dip
Chocolate. Almonds. Coconut yogurt. It’s a trifecta of good-for-you goodness! Use this as a dip for apples, orange slices, or strawberries, and you’ll add even more nutritional clout. You can make this dip in the microwave in minutes; my recipe is here.
Sometimes I’m tired and I just don’t feel like making dessert. Instead, I want to kick off my shoes, flop on the couch, and watch a trashy TV show. That’s when I reach for one of these healthy “instant” desserts:
- A slice of watermelon. Talk about a sweet tooth satisfier! And even though watermelon tastes super-sweet, its high water content means that you’re not getting as much sugar as you might think. (Just stick to a small slice.)
- A few squares of chocolate. Look for chocolate bars that are rich in cocoa (it’ll say 70% cacao or higher on the package). Buy chocolate that’s sweetened with honey or coconut, or go a little crazy and buy sugar-sweetened bars. The dark-chocolate bars are low enough in sugar that they’re okay for an occasional treat.
- A handful of almonds. Yeah, I know—almonds as dessert? It sounds strange, but they give you a nice little pop of sweetness.
- Coconut chips. You can buy these at any health food store (and many regular grocery stores), and they’re fabulous. Like coconut milk, they’re loaded with lauric acid. Make sure the brand you choose isn’t sweetened with sugar.
And p.s.—an occasional cheat is okay
Real-food desserts make you stronger, slimmer, and healthier, while junk-filled desserts are bad news. However, we can’t be perfect all the time—and sometimes it’s fine to sprinkle a little “fairy dust” on your diet. (I confess that once in a blue moon, I eat a doughnut.)
So if you’re at your goal weight and you’re not battling any significant health problems, I recommend following the 80-20 rule. This means that 80% of the time, you stick to real, natural foods. But if you occasionally crave a piece of pecan pie or a Starbucks cookie, it’s okay to indulge yourself.
Eighty percent of the time, however, choose healthy desserts. You won’t be depriving yourself, because these desserts taste good. If you love to cook and you want more dessert ideas (including some fancy recipes for company), check out my collection here. Bon apetit!
Keep Thinking Big & Living Bold!