Keep Dessert, Keep Your Head

For too many people, getting healthy means eliminating desserts. However, if you’re unwilling to commit to that restrictive life until the end of time, there IS a way to maintain health, sanity, and good looks WITH dessert. You just have to know how to do it.

First of all, a bit about sweet cravings and how to curb them. Consuming sugar temporarily elevates the levels of certain neurotransmitters (“feel-good” chemicals) in our bodies. Two of the major neurotransmitters released by eating sugar are dopamine, which releases chemicals including endorphins that give us a feeling of pleasure, and serotonin, which produces a feeling of well-being. We also tend to eat sugary treats for a quick rush of energy to get us through the day.

  • Aim for stable blood sugar levels by avoiding foods made completely of sugar such as candy and soda. Instead, fill your diet with high-fiber foods like veggies and fruits to help normalize blood sugars and prevent spikes and plummets in blood sugar levels.
  • Craving sweets may indicate a lack of chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulphur or tryptophan in the diet. Here are sources of those nutrients:
  • o      Chromium –broccoli, grapes, cheese, dried beans, and chicken
  • o      Carbon – fresh fruit
  • o      Phosphorus – legumes, grains, nuts, meats, fish, eggs, and dairy
  • o      Sulphur – cranberries, horseradish, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli)
  • o      Tryptophan – raisins, sweet potatoes, spinach, cheese
  • If you find yourself drawn to sweets as a response to stress, your first step of action should be to try to eliminate the stress. When eliminating stress isn’t an option, try to exercise. Not only will the exercise help you blow off some stream, it also releases some of the same neurotransmitters that the consumption of sugar does – without the empty calories.
  • If chocolate is your weakness, incorporate small portions of chocolate into your usual diet, rather than restrict yourself. Moderation is the key. Try dark or bittersweet chocolate which triggers satiation sooner than milk chocolate and is generally lower in calories.

Now for the recipes… some taken from The Cancer Project:

No-Guilt Chocolate Cake and Cupcakes
Serves 16 

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled white or apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients until well blended. Pour into greased 9×9 cake pan or 2/3 full into each of 16 cupcake tins. Bake cake for 35 minutes or 15-20 minutes for cupcakes until toothpick comes out clean. Once cool, sift powdered sugar over top or frost with chocolate glaze (recipe below).

Per serving (w/o glaze):
136 calories
4.9 g fat
1.1 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
22.4 g carbohydrates
12.6 g sugar
1 g fiber
1.6 g protein
154 mg sodium

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp soy milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, bring sugar, margarine, milk, and cocoa to a boil. Stir frequently; then reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. It’ll look gloppy, but it’s just the bubbles! Remove from heat and stir for another 5 minutes.

Add vanilla, stir, and immediately pour onto cake. Glaze dries really quickly, so spread it immediately and add any sprinkles now. Let this cool for an hour, if you can wait that long!

Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Mousse Pie
Makes 12 servings

This is a healthier version of the high-fat, high-calorie French delicacy. Cornell researchers have found that cocoa has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea.

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups non-dairy milk, such as soymilk or rice milk
2 packages (12.3 ounces each) low-fat silken tofu
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ready-made graham cracker pie crust (optional)
10 strawberries, sliced
10 mint sprigs for garnish (optional)

Place chocolate chips and non-dairy milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Let sit for 2 minutes.

Place tofu, vanilla, and chocolate chip/non-dairy milk mixture in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer into a graham cracker pie crust, if using, or small individual serving dishes and chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in the freezer. Serve topped with strawberries and garnished with mint, if using.

Variation: Add a chopped banana to the blender or food processor when you process the tofu and chocolate together.

Per serving (without pie crust):
208 calories
10 g fat
6.1 g saturated fat
43.5% calories from fat
0 mg cholesterol
6.3 g protein
22.3 g carbohydrate
15.3 g sugar
1.5 g fiber
58 mg sodium

Gingered Melon
Makes 6 servings

This recipe is a refreshing twist on cantaloupe and uses ginger which can aid in digestion.

1 large cantaloupe
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger

Cut melon in half and seed, then cut each half into chunks. Sprinkle ground and crystallized ginger over the melon chunks and stir. Chill and serve.

Per serving:
54 calories
0.3 g fat
0.1 g saturated fat
4.6% calories from fat
0 mg cholesterol
1.2 g protein
13.1 g carbohydrate
12.4 g sugar
1.3 g fiber
22 mg sodium
13 mg calcium
0.3 mg iron
49.9 mg vitamin C
2741 mcg beta-carotene
0.1 mg vitamin E

Ambrosia
Makes about 4 cups (4 servings)

This colorful fruit salad may be made up to a day in advance if you add the banana just before serving. Fruit-sweetened desserts not only satisfy a sweet tooth, but they’re full of healthy antioxidant-rich foods. In this case, you’re better off opting FOR dessert!

2 oranges, peeled and chopped
2 cups pineapple chunks
1 banana, sliced
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2–4 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon water 

Place oranges, pineapple, banana, coconut, and cranberries in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix orange juice concentrate, almond extract, and water. Pour over fruit and toss to mix.

Per serving:
188 calories
2.4 g fat
1.9 g saturated fat
11.5% calories from fat
0 mg cholesterol
1.8 g protein
43.3 g carbohydrate
35.3 g sugar
3.9 g fiber
17 mg sodium
49 mg calcium
0.7 mg iron
61.5 mg vitamin C
88 mcg beta-carotene

Schoolyard Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 1 dozen

The best darn cookies this side of the playground!

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder (such as Rumford)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup light molasses or sorghum syrup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, and set it aside. Place the flour, rolled oats baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Stir them together and set aside.
Measure out the molasses or sorghum syrup in a small measuring cup. Then stir in the canola oil, water, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients along with the walnuts and raisins. Mix thoroughly.
Drop the dough by 12 rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet. Flatten each cookie lightly with the back of a spoon. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.
Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack using a metal spatula. Cool the cookies completely before storing them.
Per cookie:
58 calories 1.8 g fat 0 mg cholesterol 10.1 g carbohydrate 0.6 g fiber 5.6 g sugar 1.2 g protein
Summer Fruit Compote
Makes 4 servings

Although perfect during summer when peaches and strawberries are in season, this is actually delicious anytime of year using frozen fruit.

2 cups sliced fresh peaches (peeled, if desired)
2 cups hulled fresh strawberries
1/2 cup white grape juice concentrate or apple juice concentrate

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 
5 minutes, or until fruit just becomes soft. Serve warm or cold by itself, or over fruit sorbet or vanilla non-dairy ice cream.

Per serving:
121 calories
0.5 g fat
0.1 g saturated fat
4% calories from fat
0 mg cholesterol
1.5 g protein
29.6 g carbohydrate
26.3 g sugar
2.8 g fiber
3 mg sodium
21 mg calcium
0.6 mg iron
77.9 mg vitamin C
149 mcg beta-carotene

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3 Responses to Keep Dessert, Keep Your Head

  1. Gail Cooley says:

    Awesome! Need to use this ASAP, since my doctor challengedme to loose 1-2 pounds a week. I’ll see him for follow up in September.

  2. reillyjk says:

    You can do it, Gail! Have you ever tried using SparkPeople.com to log your food intake? It’s free, easy, and a great tool. I can help!

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