There are many recipes for failure when it comes to weight loss and healthy eating. We all know by now that going on a diet is probably the worst thing you can do. Although there are multiple reasons as to why that is, one of the main explanations is that when a person feels deprived, they will eventually run out of willpower and start eating mass quantities once again. Steve came into my office last year and told me that even though he was still very heavy, he had already lost 10 kilos but now had gained 4 of them back. I asked him how he had lost the original weight. He responded by telling me that a few months ago he decided not to eat desserts. That’s how the 10 kilo came off. When I asked him how the four kilo came back on—yes, you guessed it, he started eating desserts again. So I proceeded to ask one more question—if you saw that when you stopped eating dessert you lost weight, why didn’t you just stick with that? And especially now seeing that reversing your original decision has resulted in weight gain, why don’t you just go back to what you were doing? His answer was simple and to the point—I like eating dessert and began to feel deprived.
You can lose weight and you can also eat dessert. No, you can’t eat as much as you want and it’s certainly better to eat something lower in calories and high in nutrition. But to totally eliminate your favorite part of the meal can backfire on your ability to lose weight in the long term. Tiffani Bachus, R.D.N., and Erin Macdonald, R.D.N are both dieticians who specialize in weight loss for women of all ages. They have some very specific suggestions about how to include dessert in your meals but without causing much damage. Their first step is that when baking your desserts, you make some smart swaps. Substituting healthy ingredients for less-healthy ones is a great way to increase the nutritional value of your dessert without sacrificing taste. The following table makes it easy to make some smart swaps.
Instead of Try:
*Please note that nut and coconut flours cannot be substituted in a one-to-one ratio for wheat flour. There are several good cookbooks devoted to baking with these flours
**Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, so much less is required. Stevia is not recommended for baked goods.
Bachus and Macdonald also suggest adding some super-foods to your desserts. Sometimes all you need to make a recipe healthier is to sneak in certain ingredients. Most baked goods can handle the addition of ground flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp seeds for a protein and fiber boost. Chopped nuts such as almonds, walnuts or pecans add a nice texture to cookies, muffins or brownies and boost the fiber, healthy fat and protein content. Super-food powders, such as maca, baobab and moringa, and spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, blend in easily to any batter, adding both flavor and antioxidants. And they also say there is good news for the chocoholics out there—the darker the chocolate, the less sugar and more flavanols it has. Dark chocolate (at least 70%), cacao (raw, unprocessed cocoa powder) and cacao nibs can be added to a brownie or mousse recipe for layers of chocolate flavor and texture. The flavanols in chocolate are antioxidants that act to lower inflammation and boost immunity.
In general, keeping your desserts healthy most of the time is very beneficial. I know in the
summer time especially, we always have fresh fruit, particularly melons and watermelon as a dessert choice. Instead of using pareve whips, which are full of trans-fats, you can whip egg whites into a fluff and add any type of frozen fruit, such as strawberries and whip them together and then freeze them. Keep in mind that if you do use fruit or dried fruits, keep your portions under control as excessive amounts contain a lot of natural sugar calories. Stay away from “diet” foods—no sugar cookies and low fat cakes can have as many calories as anything else and somehow we fool ourselves into thinking that because they are “diet” foods we can eat more. That is far from the truth. Even if they have less calories, we may eat too many of them and consume even more calories than a regular dessert.
Another option for dessert eaters is simply to eat much smaller portions of regular desserts. Even if they contain unhealthy ingredients, if a person can teach themselves to control their portions and have one cookie, half a piece of cake or just take a few teaspoons of chocolate mousse, presuming the for the rest of their meal their portions were kept under control, this may be an option for them.
Just a reminder regarding desserts and particularly pareve desserts—many contain trans-fats. How bad are they? The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia estimates that removing trans-fats from the food supply altogether could prevent 7,000 deaths per year from heart disease. Remember they appear as “trans-fats” or “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oil in the ingredients. If you are a reader of my columns you already know this is the one food ingredient I tell people just NOT to consume.
Steve saw our dietician and he also started exercising and he even ate desserts sometimes—but in a controlled manner with making some good choices too. He is still losing weight on a slow and steady basis without feeling deprived. You can eat dessert and still “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”