[As appeared on Star Tribune] Who doesn’t want a cold refreshing sweet treat on a hot summer afternoon? Here are some tips to keep those treats from destroying your health goals.
There will always be varying opinions on what is currently healthy and the way one should eat. As we see fad diets roll in and out, I believe the debates will never end. I stick to a simple rule that I believe will stand the test of time. Eat foods that God provided us. Avoid processed foods, too much sugar, and try to eat nutrient-dense options.
We can carry that rule over to desserts, too. Yes, God made sugar cane and honey and I think he did so for our enjoyment.
The key is moderation. Even while living a healthy lifestyle the occasional celebration with dessert should not ruin your health.
“It is not good to eat too much honey,” Proverbs 25:27a
There is something good that comes from the summer heat and humidity. It makes us crave refreshing deserts like juicy fruit or hydrating popsicles. God knew what he was doing when he made fruit and berries in season in the summer.
Eat More Fruit
Summertime is a great time to use fruit in your dessert options. Sometimes, just the fruit by itself will satisfy that sweet tooth without compromising on nutrition. Try throwing pineapple or peaches on the grill to finish off that weekend grill-out. Homemade smoothies and popsicles packed with whole fruit (and maybe a secret vegetable) can be the perfect way to cool off and hydrate for kids and adults!
If ice cream is your thing, know there are ways to make this creamy dessert healthier. One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply blend frozen bananas until they create an ice-cream-like texture. Add strawberries, nut-butter, dark chocolate chips, or cocoa to boost the flavor. Try this mint chocolate chip recipe.
Other non-dairy options are to use almond or coconut milk. Mix the milk with sugar and fruit in an ice-cream maker or high-speed blender. To make it thicker use full-fat canned coconut or add in a nut butter of your choice. You could even soak your own raw cashews overnight and include those instead of store-bought nut butter. It will add to the thick creamy texture of your dessert.
Making healthy refreshing popsicles is easy. Just load a popsicle tray with fresh fruit and fill it with juice, coconut water, flavored sparkling water, or a milk alternative. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and add in a herb or exotic flavor. Here is a simple and delicious Popsicle recipe the whole family will enjoy.
I just had a birthday and I am a girl who loves a good tradition, so even I treated myself to birthday cake. I just make a few alterations to keep it wholesome.
Alternative flours like almond or coconut flour are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats which makes them a nutrient-dense choice. Even whole-grain flour is going to have more fiber and vitamins than your typical bleached white version often used in baking.
While making cakes, pay attention to what you are using as a sweetener. Table sugar is not your only option. Think about whole foods like dates, berries, pure grade maple syrup, or honey. The less processed the better.
I try to avoid sugar substitutes because the body doesn’t know what to do with them. In fact, some countries have banned them. I stick to what God made and am honest with how much I consume.
Wondering what I made for my birthday cake? I used this recipe to make a decadent chocolate cake. A small piece goes a long way. I recommend garnishing it with a few raspberries.
Tips to Help with Moderation
It is what you do most of the time, not all the time, that will make the biggest impact on your health. But, it is important to know that sugar is addicting. The more you eat it the more you will crave it. Creating a healthy balance with sweets does take discipline.
If you are trying to lose weight or you have a medical condition that forces you to limit sugar, it really is best to avoid desserts. For the rest of us, moderation can allow for a healthy balance.
Sunday “cheat day” is something we have practiced in my home. It helps us to be extra healthy all week while giving us a day to relax and celebrate with family. It makes it easier to say no to dessert throughout the week when you know Sunday is coming.
Have your cake, and I mean a slice, and eat it, too. When you make a special treat, don’t keep the leftovers. Gift them to someone else to avoid temptation!
If the leftovers sit on your counter, every time you walk by you will think of it or, if you’re like me, you will pick at it or grab a piece. That single serving ends up turning into three.
Final (sweet) Thoughts
There are so many recipes online that will start to open your mind to how easy it is to replace all that sugar with wholesome ingredients in your favorite desserts. When you bake for yourself, you control what ingredients you use.
Try to use fresh fruit or non-processed forms of sugar whenever possible and consider how nutrient-dense your recipe is. As long as you control your food and it doesn’t control you, the occasional dessert shared with a friend can bring joy!
Debbie Ryan is a Public Relations Specialist with Medi-Share. In addition to being a wife and mom, Debbie is passionate about health and wellness, and encourages others in healthy living every chance she gets.