One of the most common questions I get from clients, friends, and readers is how to satisfy a demanding sweet tooth without completely "falling off the wagon". Believe me, I get it. I love my sweets. It's something I look forward to each day, and if someone tried to tell me I couldn't have it, I'd feel deprived and restricted, and I'd want it that much more. Then I'd probably overdo it, and feel a little guilty for going overboard. So it's important to quit the deprivation and restriction, and figure out how to indulge consciously, mindfully, and guiltlessly! Delicious sweets are supposed to make you feel satisfied and happy, after all. Here's my 5 tips to make it happen.
1. Be strategic about your store-bought choices and opt for sweets that are made from quality ingredients.
When it comes to our usual meals or grocery shopping for healthy products, we do the best we can to read ingredient lists, understand exactly what we're putting into our bodies, and choose the best products possible. Why should it be any different with our sweets? Let's compare some chocolate bar options:
Let's start with some awesome options like an Eating Evolved Almond Sea Salt Chocolate Bar
Here are the ingredients:
Organic cacao, organic coconut sugar, organic cacao butter, organic almonds, himalayan sea salt
And a quick snippet of the nutrition facts:
About 1/2 of bar (28 g) = 13 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 7 g sugar
And other one of my faves: Loving Earth Creamy Coconut Mylk Chocolate
Organic cacao, organic virgin cacao butter, organic raw cacao beans, organic coconut sugar, organic coconut.
1/2 bar (35 g) = 15 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 11 g sugar
Both brands have ingredients I totally recognize and trust... nothing weird in there. And a half of a chocolate bar is as low as 7 grams of sugar!
Then there's the other end of the spectrum, a Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme Chocolate Bar. Check out these ingredients:
Ingredients: sugar, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), nonfat milk, corn syrup solids, enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid), milk fat, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean and/or cottonseed oil), contains 2% or less of: cocoa processed with alkali, whey (milk), chocolate, soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, sodium bicarbonate, salt, natural and artificial flavor, tocopherols, to maintain freshness, pgpr emulsifier, caramel color.
And these nutrition facts:
1 bar (43 g) = 45 g carbohydrates, <1 g fiber, 33 g sugar
When you check them out side by side, it's easy to see why a brand like Eating Evolved or Loving Earth would be the best choice! These bars are made with high-quality cacao, which is full of antioxidants, they're a good source of fiber, and for a chocolate bar, they're pretty darn low in sugar. It's so important to get comfortable reading through these labels so you know exactly what you're putting into your body. I love having healthier chocolate bars stocked in my pantry so I can grab a few squares and responsibly indulge my afternoon sweet tooth when it comes calling my name.
A few other store-bought sweets that I love: Simple Mills chocolate chip crunchy cookies, Hu Kitchen chocolate bars (the cashew butter bar may be my fave ever!) Hail Merry caramel sea salt bites, & Eating Evolved Coconut Butter Cups.
2. Go homemade!
It's easy to control the ingredients you're consuming when you're making the desserts yourself! You may not be surprised to hear that I don't even have white sugar, flour, or vegetable oil in my pantry. But I do have almond flour, coconut sugar, and coconut oil, which is a very typical place to start for many healthy baking recipes! When I treat myself to sweets that are made with nutrient-rich, minimally processed ingredients, I feel a noticeable difference. I don't have that lethargic feeling that often happens after overdoing it with typical commercial baked goods, and I definitely don't have any guilt after enjoying my treat!
Here are some of my go-to recipes:
Best Ever Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies
No-Bake Cookie Dough Balls
Coconut Butter Mints & Matcha Mints (can make these sugar-free too!)
4-ingredient Cherry Nice Cream
Banana Avocado Chocolate Pudding
Paleo Almond Butter Cups
3. Plan ahead and create "space" in your day for a little treat.
If you know you have a party or a celebration to go to where you'll probably indulge a bit, try to balance it out beforehand by mindfully choosing meals throughout the day that are full of fresh, healthy ingredients and finding some time to exercise (even if it's a 20 minute walk!). This is what an ideal day would look like for me if I were planning on indulging a bit with dinner: a morning workout (usually a quick Tone it Up cardio & weights workout or a pilates class), a nutrient-packed smoothie for breakfast, a big salad with some good healthy fat like avocado and some lean protein for lunch, and some salmon or steak with a whole bunch of roasted vegetables for dinner. This is a pretty darn good day, leaving me some wiggle room to enjoy some bread at dinner, or maybe a cocktail or glass of wine, or share a delicious dessert with my husband - zero guilt included. When you plan for it this way, you're less likely to show up at restaurant and lose control.
4. Pick & choose your indulgence!
This doesn't just apply to desserts! Part of being a mindful eater is learning to pick and choose your indulgence. If you're trying to stay on track to reach your wellness goals and you're going out to dinner, don't stress. Just decide ahead of time what your treat is for the night (notice I said "treat", not "cheat" - more of that in #5). If it's dessert, share it with your friend or your date. Knowing you're going to have dessert, maybe skip the bread basket. Or if you'd rather have a refreshing cocktail or glass of wine, go for it. You're in charge!
5. It's a treat, not a cheat. Enjoy it, savor it, and move on!
One of my pet peeves is hearing people talk about their "cheat day" or "cheat meal". It immediately implies you've done something wrong. I mean, who has ever felt good about cheating on anything!? So let's call it a treat, and enjoy every bite of it, satisfy our craving, and move on with our lives. Even if you overdo it with totally non-Weeknight Bite type of dessert, even if you dig right into a pint of Talenti Gelato (my weakness, see above!). Yes it's made with white sugar, and no it doesn't have any fiber, and I know that there's literally nothing that's healthy in there. But ya know what, it's freaking delicious, and every once in a while, I go for it. And then I move on with my healthy life! It doesn't mean I'm going to throw in the towel and quit being mindful for the rest of the week just because I had some gelato. The next time you eat is always an opportunity to be mindful and healthy again.
That thought process "I already screwed up my week, so I'm just going to eat whatever I want until Monday's here again" never works out well! There's always an opportunity to get right back on track. And honestly, the food-guilt is probably worse for your health than the gelato you just ate. So just treat yourself (and maybe put it in a nice portion-sized bowl), enjoy it, and move forward!
I'd love to hear if you have any tried & true tips for mindfully managing your sweet tooth! Let me know in the comments below!
July 28th, 2016
June 23, 2017
Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist who lives for a great meal, a beautiful farmers market, daily matcha lattes, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Weeknight Bite is Lindsay's happy place where her nutrition practice, simple recipes, and wellness tips come together to inspire you to live a healthy, balanced life.