Sweets: the Achilles heel of so many people when it comes to making better dietary choices. Humans are wired to crave and enjoy sweet things, but over the millennia things have gotten out of hand. Our sweets are sweeter and generally worse for us than ever before. We are consuming more sugar now than at any point in history (between 100 and 150 pounds per person in the U.S. on average). In this edition of Eat This, Not That, we look at delicious healthy sweet snacks that dial the sugar back to make them better for you (and still satisfying!).
Healthy sweet snacks for Eat This, Not That
Instead of: Milk chocolate
There is no getting around it: chocolate is delicious. But milk chocolate is not doing you any favors. Filled with sugar and fat, milk chocolate can be addictive and keep you wanting more. You start out with one piece, and then next thing you know, there are candy wrappers all around you.
Try: Dark chocolate
You simply cannot go wrong with a delicious piece of dark chocolate. One 100 gram-bar of dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa) contains:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 67% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron
- 58% of the RDA for magnesium
- 89% of the RDA for copper
- 98% of the RDA for manganese
As with all healthy sweet snacks, moderation is key. Just because it has health benefits does not mean you should go overboard. Add even more anti-inflammatory benefit to your dark chocolate by melting it and dipping cherries into it, or drizzle into warm almond milk for a bedtime treat.
Instead of: An apple
You may have heard the recommendation to substitute a piece of fruit for dessert. This may work for some people, and sometimes it may even work for you, but occasionally you want an ooey, gooey, delicious dessert. No matter how ripe, crisp, and sweet the apple, there are times that dessert is a must.
Try: Caramel-covered apples
Take that same sweet, crisp apple and slather it in a thick coating of sticky date caramel. Date caramel is one of the easiest healthy sweet snacks to make and can be used on any dessert-type treat (or just eaten off a spoon in a pinch!). Coat your apples and set out an assortment of additional toppings (e.g., unsweetened shredded coconut, grated unsweetened chocolate, or chopped nuts), or slice apples and serve with the caramel as a dip. These treats are naturally vegan as well.
Instead of: Cake
Cake may be the quintessential dessert. Whether held in the hand or devoured on a plate, cake is a satisfying end to a meal and a delicious way to mark any festive occasion. But cake is loaded with sugar and fat. Sure, you could skip the cake altogether, but there has to be a way to satisfy the craving for cake without doing lasting damage.
Try: High-protein cinnamon cake bars
What if you could end every meal with a satisfying, toothsome piece of cake that was low in sugar and oils, sweetened mainly with applesauce, and supplemented with protein? It is possible, as these high-protein cinnamon cake bars attest. They don’t require any frosting, but if you prefer the creaminess of something on top, try vegan whipped cream (eliminate the sugar completely or use just a touch) and a dash of cinnamon. You can have your cake and eat it, too!
Instead of: Peanut butter cups
Who doesn’t love the silky smooth texture and intoxicatingly addictive taste of peanut butter cups? It seems a marriage made in heaven: peanut butter and chocolate come together in the perfect amounts. Trouble is, they are loaded with sugar, fat, and even sodium. And once you unwrap the first one, it’s hard to leave the second one alone. And if you have a bag of miniature peanut butter cups? It’s not a big leap from that first delicious mouthful to a mountain of empty wrappers.
Try: Low sugar peanut butter cups
This recipe uses stevia, cocoa powder, and protein powder to sweeten these six-ingredient, delicious homemade peanut butter cups. The low sugar and added protein make them a guilt-free indulgence, but the sweetness provides a legitimate treat that doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.
Instead of: Cheesecake
Rich, creamy, and loaded with fat and sugar, cheesecake is arguably one of the most delicious but nutritionally taxing things you can do to your body. A single slice of cheesecake contains, on average, 18 grams of fat, eight of which are saturated. In this case, sugar is truly the least of your worries. Sure, there is calcium from the dairy in the cheesecake, but that does not cancel out all of the fat.
Who says cheesecake has to be forbidden? Maybe it’s time to re-think this iconic dessert. In this vegan lemon cheesecake, the cheese is actually silken tofu, processed until smooth and combined with lemon, maple syrup, and tahini (ground sesame seed paste) for a delightfully creamy texture and a taste that is satisfying with not nearly as much sugar. Make it gluten-free by using gluten-free graham crackers for the crust and you have one of the best healthy sweet snacks that anyone can eat.
Making good food choices can include the type and amount of sweets you indulge in. One way to make dessert an option is to eliminate hidden sources of sugar in your day. Condiments (include ketchup and salad dressing) often have excessive sugar, as does fruit-filled yogurt and even some breads. Read labels carefully so you can “save” your sugar for a sweet treat later.
What are some of your favorite healthy sweet snacks?