It's no secret in my house and among my friends and clients that I have a sweet tooth. I love dessert. I don't drink. I don't do drugs. I eat clean and track my macros. I do cardio. I lift heavy. And mother f*cker at the end of the day I want a cookie. And sometimes I go for it hard. I'm no stranger to Hot Cookie, Ghirardelli or the Safeway bakery (grocery store sheet cake is what I imagine heroine is like).
When we work hard sometimes we deserve to play hard. But when we're really trying to watch our sugar intake, keep calories down and steer clear of processed foods, there are healthy alternatives to the SUGAR MONSTER that can scratch your itch without ruining your gains (or loses). Here are 22 of the best healthy/healthier treats as suggested by me, my trainer pals and clients.
Quick reality check before we get to the good stuff. I teased before that sugar is like heroine. It is, in fact, similar. It's highly addictive and stimulates the brain the same way hard drugs do. It triggers the pleasure center of our brains and elevates dopamine (fun fact: so does exercise). If you are reading this, you likely already know that processed sugar (found in practically everything packaged in the grocery store) wreaks havoc on the body. It has negative metabolic consequences on the body at the cellular level. Over indulging can lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes and a string of other nasty sh*t. In my opinion, and backed by science, sugar acts like a drug.
Last bit of preaching before I get to the noms. I recently watched HBO's documentary series The Weight of the Nation. It is a fascinating and alarming look at what we're up against in today's culture. It reiterated many of the things I see daily as a trainer and reinforced many of the tools I recommend and practice myself for managing a balanced approach to nutrition. When trying the ideas below, I encourage you to practice:
Don't eat your dessert (or anything) straight from the carton, bag or container. Plate your food and eat it with a sense of occasion. Garnish your froyo with mint and put it in a nice dish. Don't stand over the sink eating it out of the carton. Otherwise the pint will be gone before you know it.
There is some debate whether "calorie counting" and food measuring works. I fall in the middle of these two camps. We should, at least, measure our servings. If the froyo you are eating comes in a pint, measure 1 serving (typically 1/2 cup) and plate it (see #1 above).
Not to get all Zen about this, but many of us go through the day on auto pilot, especially when we eat. If you know you have a history of overeating snacks and sugar while binge watching Game of Thrones, try turning off all distractions (TV, cell phone, Facebook) and actually TASTE and ENJOY your dessert slowly versus shoveling it in without really experiencing it.
Ok, now for the treats. I asked my network of peeps what their "go-to" desserts are that won't kill your waistline and leave you with a sugar hangover and full of regret. Here are 22 of my favorites in no particular order.
Homemade Sherbet: Blend berries, banana and a splash of organic, pure fruit juice.
Homemade Popsicles: Blend watermelon and raspberries with honey and coconut milk.
Smoothie Pops: Throw banana, strawberry, almond milk (or coconut milk) and honey in a blender, pour into popsicle containers and freeze.
Homemade Slushie: Blend ice and water (or coconut water) mixed with BCAA.
Shake: Banana, hemp hearts, cacao nibs, with a splash of your milk of choice, and a few ice cubes. Blend it up and you've got a "shake" to replace your afternoon iced coffee!
Shake: Coconut milk, banana and dates mixed in a food processor
Homemade Banana “Froyo”: Blend frozen bananas in a blender/vitamix.
Fruity and Nutty
Berries and whipped cream (I like old school Reddi Wip or make some out of real coconut cream for a dairy free option)
Strawberries with organic almond butter, sprinkled with dark chocolate chips (or cacao nibs) and coconut
Apples and organic peanut butter (or any nut butter)
Baked ripe bananas with dried cranberries and whip cream
Grilled Nectarines: Slice nectarines in half. Mix two tbsp olive oil, 1/3 cup.honey and a bit of vanilla. Brush on cut sides of fruit. Grill on medium high with cut side down for 4 minutes.
Pineapple, berries, apples or any fruit with cottage cheese
Mango slices with salt, lime, and a dash of hot sauce
Frozen grapes with a touch of almond butter spread on each. Unwieldy, but the frozen-ness adds flavor and, hey, it's just fun.
Counterfeit Cookies and Cakes
Cold Banana Protein Pancakes with Whipped Cream
Ezekiel bread (or low sodium brown rice cake) with either Greek yogurt or organic peanut butter with a banana or strawberries + optional sprinkle of amaranto seeds and a bit of real honey
Dates and cocoa nibs and/or organic almond butter