Tip #1. Re-define sweet. Sweet doesn't have to mean a sugar-laden candy bar. Think natural sweeteners, like agave nectar, honey, fruit, or dark chocolate. These products won't send you running through the house in a mad sugar rush in your PJ's right before bedtime.
Tip #2. Add protein. Adding protein to your 'dessert' will help maintain your blood sugar to keep you satisfied and deter you from unnecessary splurges. My favorite dessert protein sources include: Greek yogurt, nut butter, and nuts.
Tip #3. Keep calories in check. Unless I am notably hungry from a heavy day of exercise or light dinner, I try to keep my evening snacks around 200 calories.
Tip #4. Identify your craving before you hit the pantry. I always pause and think about what I really want and what my body needs before I get up to prepare my dessert. Usually I want sweet, but sometimes I want salty. Do I want crunchy or chewy? Does my body need carbs or protein or another serving of fruit? Make sure you identify this first and it will help avoid those moments where you end up on the floor with open and empty bags of Oreos and pretzels scattered on the floor and peanut butter smeared all over your face.
Figure 3. Chocolate pudding and almond butter.
Tip #5. It is okay to indulge. Let's face it. Sometimes I want a brownie on a Tuesday night and if, once I pause and evaluate my craving, I still want that brownie - that is what I'll eat. Read: healthy living is all about balance.
And finally, here are some of my favorite healthy 'dessert' combinations:
- Cereal with chocolate chips or nuts
- Popcorn with cinnamon (+ agave nectar, nuts, coconut, and/or chocolate chips)
- Greek yogurt with honey or agave nectar (+ cereal, chocolate chips, granola, and/or nuts)
- Chocolate pudding with almond butter
- Fiber One brownies or granola bars
- Dark chocolate
- Chocolate-covered or cocoa-dusted almonds
- Apple and peanut butter
- Microwaved apples with cinnamon, oats, and peanut butter