Nutrition Nugget: Who Wants a Life Without Dessert?
Bite-Size Reads for Your Health & Your Waistline
It’s almost that time of year again — the time when many feel like it’s a choice between the months of hard work toward healthy regimens and a slice of Aunt Bea’s pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving… I mean, assuming Aunt Bea lives close enough to enjoy a relatively typical Thanksgiving in the era of Covid. Unfortunately, it’s a tale as old as time… but what if you could do both?
Yes, you heard me. It’s not either/or. You CAN splurge on the pie AND not throw all your hard work out the window (plus it’s guilt-free, bonus!).
Here is the thing about dessert food: it isn’t off-limits; we just have to be smart about it.
Dessert is all about understanding how our food choices impact our body, and then, we can be strategic about it. For the vast majority of our food choices, we want to eat food that keeps our blood sugar levels in the middle zone (out of the high and low blood sugar zones which cause fat-storage). To do this, think of my mantra: “protein and fiber at every meal makes removing fat no big deal.”
When we eat sugary foods, we spike our blood sugar…hello, dessert! BUT, you can actually blunt some the impact of all that sugar if it is eaten with protein, fiber and quality fat. Back to Turkey Day. Does your family normally wait a while between dinner and dessert? THIS is the major shift we want to make.
Eat dessert right after dinner. This way, you’re not sugar-bombing your body. Instead, your sugar is processed along with your dinner which was filled with protein and fiber.
Here’s another way to think about it. Think of high-glycemic foods (desserts) as the color red and low-glycemic foods (chicken/fish, veggies/fruit, olive oil) as the color white. If we mix them together, we get pink. Although pink isn’t as ideal as white, it is still closer to white than red! So, eating dessert right after dinner won’t make our blood sugar levels spike like they would if we ate only dessert.
Another option to satisfy your dessert cravings is to choose something sweet that still offers nutrients like fiber. Berries are a good example of a healthy dessert. The fiber and nutrients further our health and they give us the sweetness we’re looking for from dessert. It’s like a two-in-one!
I get it though…strawberries are hardly the dessert we crave to celebrate birthdays and holidays. As much as we would like to try to commit to foods like berries as our desserts forever, we’re also human! It’s okay to celebrate those days with your favorite dessert.
So on those special occasions, in an effort to not derail your health goals, ask yourself: how much of the [insert dessert here] do I actually have to eat to feel like I had it? Truthfully, we don’t need to eat half of the apple pie to feel like we had some apple pie. Instead, we can opt for a reasonably-sized slice. You could even go another step further with my Three Bite Rule — we eat only three bites of the dessert we want most. This comes from neuroscience and psychology which determined the only bites we actually taste are the first, the second and the last. If those are the only ones for which we are actually present, isn’t that all we need?
What’s even better, is this approach allows us to indulge on occasion without the guilt! Once in a while, eating a reasonably-sized piece of chocolate cake after your delicious, nutritious meal doesn’t have to undo all the progress you made. If you follow these steps, you can have your cake and your health too!