Sometimes you just gotta have something sweet! The problem with conventional desserts however is that they’re loaded with empty calories and unwanted sugar. Cakes, pies, and cookies are usually made with wheat flour which has an abundance of gluten, and creamy desserts like puddings and ice-creams are made from dairy products that are rich in fats. Gluten grains and dairy are two extremely complicated substances for the human body to digest, and they usually clog you up with toxins and mucus.
People new to plant-based diets usually start freaking out once they find out that they have to give up dessert in order to pursue this healthier lifestyle, but we are here to tell you that may not have to be true! You can totally still enjoy dessert – just as long as you do it the right way and in a controlled manner. Interested? Read on!
So, what can you eat when you are craving something sweet?
Nutritionists always recommend starting simply with a small helping to see if that satisfies the craving. Before you dive into dessert, try a little stevia-sweetened rooibos tea and see if that does the trick. If not, it may be time to try something bigger.
Studies show that 97% of women and 68% of men experience episodes of food cravings. The human body craves sugar for several reasons, your brain may experience an intense craving as it needs sugar for energy to function smoothly, which is why more often than not these cravings are for sugary foods. In North America, chocolate is the most frequently craved food.
Currently, we are consuming more sugar than ever before.
Not only is this a blow to our waistlines and a prime source of digestive discomfort, but a high level of sugar and fats can have a direct effect on our brain too. A new study at the University of Oregon found that diets high in fat and sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes, impair early learning, and result in long term memory issues.
Lee Holmes, Sydney nutritionist author of Heal Your Gut cookbook says it’s all a matter of learning good versus bad and the difference between a little and a lot.
That’s not to say that sugar isn’t at the heart of health concerns either. “Too much sugar can affect our brain function and mood, weight gain, diabetes, metabolic issues and overload the liver, which then leads to a myriad of other diseases,” says Holmes.
Try changing your diet and see if that works for you as cravings are different for each person.
What healthier alternatives should we be sticking with instead?
Nutritionist Holmes recommends manuka honey or stevia as a substitute for sugar. Honey sold in supermarkets is poorly regulated and can contain corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and not much actual honey. On the other hand, manuka is gut-friendly, great for boosting our immune system, aiding in allergies and soothing a sore throat. One to two teaspoons of manuka per serving is what is generally recommended. Another alternative is stevia. Given that it’s low in calories it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels and is safe for people who have diabetes.
Sweeteners aside, watch out for your daily intake of dairy and gluten too.
Consumption of too much gluten can lead to bloating, inflammation in the gut and make our body vulnerable to diseases. Having too many dairy products can result in poor skin, inflammation, and wreak havoc on our digestion.
Pete Evans, celebrity chef and author of The Complete Gut Health Cookbook, recommends the usage of good fat as a primary dessert ingredient. There are great options out there for non-dairy fats such as eggs, coconut, nuts, avocados, seeds and gelatin. Adding probiotic-rich foods like kombucha or dairy-free kefir and coconut yogurt is a much better way to go.
So, what can you eat or drink when you’re craving something sweet? Try giving a few of these healthy desserts a shot.
1. Vegan Vanilla Latte
Vegan vanilla latte is a super comforting hot milky drink. Warm up a little unsweetened almond milk on the stove with seeds from a vanilla bean. If you don’t have raw cacao in the house just use cinnamon, its been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and has an anti-clotting effect on the blood. Add some stevia to taste. Grate a little fresh nutmeg for that extra flavor and enjoy.
2. Hot Cocoa
Hot chocolate can always be a treat. Try not to consume cacao daily though because it contains caffeine and has toxic qualities even when its labeled “raw”. Cacao is the raw form of the cacao bean, whereas cocoa is the cheap and more processed variety. So pick up cocoa at any health food store and whip up your hot chocolate.
3. Acai Rainforest Smoothie
Acai rainforest smoothie is a thick, satisfying smoothie which is packed with antioxidants and flavor. Acai berries are great for their complex, pleasant flavor that tastes like a cross between red wine and chocolate. Add half an avocado to thicken the smoothie. This acai smoothie is both a great snack as well as a great dessert. Acai is a fatty fruit that does not digest as quickly as fruits with a lot of water, so it’s totally one of the few fruits that you could actually use in desserts.
4. Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is so satisfying, and a little goes a very long way. Make sure the chocolate has 72% or higher cacao and is dairy-free, and organic. Chocolate stimulates serotonin – the feel-good neurotransmitter in your brain. It also contains resveratrol, antioxidants, and is a good source of magnesium.
5. Chia Seed Delight
Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber as well as beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. 30% of chia seed oil is Omega 3 oil and 40% is Omega 6 oil. The fiber content in the chia seeds slows down your body’s conversion of sugar. Chia seeds are also a great help for those looking to lose weight. Just blend them into homemade almond or hazelnut milk and you’re good to go.
6. Sweet Potato Custard
Sweet potato custard is a delicious creamy dessert with a mild flavor reminiscent of pumpkin pie. Sweet potato, unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon and nutmeg are the main ingredients in this easy to make, easy to love dessert. This dessert could even be healthy enough to eat for breakfast. Add stevia to taste and consume either warm or chilled.
7. Spirulina Smoothie
The algae spirulina is a rich source of calcium, iron, magnesium, amino acids, and even protein. Spirulina is known for its natural healing properties. Blend in with sweet fruits, and leafy greens for an awesome smoothie. What makes spirulina an excellent ingredient for smoothies is its relatively mild taste. With omega-3 fats, protein, and natural electrolytes, this smoothie is just the right dessert to eliminate your sweet cravings in a healthy way.
8. Macadamia Nuts
Raw macadamia nuts are naturally sweet and make a great dessert by themselves. Macadamia nuts have a tasty, butter-like flavor and are packed with multiple nutrients. Don’t forget to soak them before you eat them to remove the inhibitor enzymes on their surface. These nuts also have a certain kind of monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs which are not available in many other foods.
9. Organic Watermelon Slushie
Watermelon is very good for the heart and is known for its detoxifying properties. Freeze four cups of organic watermelon chunks overnight and blend with coconut water to make this summer cooling drink to beat the heat and your sweet tooth.
Halvah is a dessert with a flour or nut butter base, mostly sesame confection found throughout the Middle East. Use your food processor to prepare this honeyed sesame treat. Soak sesame seeds overnight and ground them in a blender mixed with tahini and celtic sea salt to form a dough, roll into balls. This delightful dessert is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Here are a few rules to follow:
Rule # 1: Agave, artificial sweeteners and sugar are out!
Artificial sweeteners may have zero calories, but they still have a profound effect on your body. Aspartame or NutraSweet is said to have serious negative neurological consequences. Sucralose or Splenda reduces the good bacteria in your intestines. Agave, which claims to be a “natural” product goes through multiple chemical processes before making it to grocery store shelves and contains highly processed sugar.
Rule #2: Stevia is an excellent alternative to sugar.
Stevia is a naturally occurring sweet herb ideal for sweetening your desserts and honestly a little goes a long way. Famous for being a zero-calorie sweetener, people commonly use stevia to reduce their calorie intake. It is a sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the plant species grown in South America.
Rule #3: If you have a craving, find a healthy way to give into it.
We all get sugar cravings. Our bodies start looking for fuel when they’re not full, and sugar is always quick energy. Denying sugar cravings can be bad for you, if you have a craving, allow yourself a little sweet treat but do it in a conscious manner.
Rule #4: Be present while you enjoy your sweet treat.
When you have an intense sweet craving, make sure you take the time to actually enjoy it. Don’t give into distractions, relax and allow yourself the full enjoyment of your dessert.