By Dana Leigh Smith
If you're a dessert devotee who's trying to lose weight, we've got your back!
You had oatmeal for breakfast, a grilled chicken salad for lunch, a veggie quinoa bowl for dinner, and healthy snacks throughout the day. In short, you were the picture of health, abiding by all the clean eating commandments. Then, disaster struck! A craving for chocolate came on so strong that you couldn't help but raid your kids' snack stash. Sound familiar?
For many dieters, their sweet tooth is their Achilles heal—a force that overpowers all of their good intentions—but it doesn't have to be that way. Believe it or not, it's possible to satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard or throwing your weight loss progress down the drain. To prove it's possible, we checked in with the nation's top nutrition experts and asked them how they keep their cravings in line. (Yes, even diet professionals and nutritionists confess to cravings!) Here, they've revealed their go-to hacks and snacks that are sure to please your taste buds and whittle your waistline!
1. Beat Hunger Before it Strikes
"Sweets provide instant energy, so oftentimes, when people think they're getting a sugar craving, they're actually just hungry," explains Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, weight management specialist and author of 25 Anti-Aging Smoothies for Revitalizing, Glowing Skin. "That said, a great way to keep sugar cravings at bay is to stock up on healthy snacks and eat them before your hunger causes you to crave the sweets. Some of my go-to healthy snacks include avocado toast, sweet potatoes with parmesan cheese, and watermelon with pumpkin seeds and lime juice."
2. Take a Shot
"One of my favorite tricks for curbing sweet cravings is to shock my palate with a robust, savory flavor," says registered dietitian and chef Katie Cavuto. "My current obsession is Farmhouse Culture's Gut Shot, a probiotic-rich kraut juice that is zingy and really satisfying. I have found that one swig can really balance my cravings. Plus, it is packed with good for your nutrients."
3. Get Pruney
"I admit it. I have a sweet tooth—a strong one, in fact. It hits right around 3:00 pm, and when it does, I'll often reach for a handful of prunes, also known as dried plums. They're naturally sweet and a serving of six carries just 100 calories," registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant, Christine Palumbo tells us. "I keep the single serve packets Sunkist sells in my car's glove box, but you can save money by purchasing them in a lidded container."
4. Brew Tea
"When I'm craving a sweetened beverage, I brew some hibiscus tea with orange segments and cinnamon sticks," says Cavuto. "Hibiscus is naturally sweet and it's delicious hot or cold." Registered dietitian Isabel Smith relies on dessert-inspired teas when her sweet tooth strikes. "Chocolate teas are definitely a favorite of mine when I'm in the mood for something sweet. They're delicious and a good source of antioxidants and nutrients." (We love all of these 18 Teas That Taste Like Dessert.) Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN also recommends tea but typically turns to the dandelion or licorice root varieties. "Both teas are naturally sweet and take the edge off. Plus, they give you something to do with your hands and mouth and they have volume so they fill you up," she explains.
5. —Or Make a Latte
When she's not in the mood for plain tea, Shapiro will whip up a homemade low-calorie latte. Here's her recommended recipe:
Steep a chai tea bag in a cup of unsweetened almond milk.
Heat the liquid slowly over low heat in a pan with a cinnamon stick and a few cardamom pods.
Right before it boils, pour into a mug and enjoy. Add stevia as needed for sweetness.
6. Reach for Berries
"I love berries," says Palumbo. "They're sweet and there's a bit of an indulgence factor, too. Interestingly, a recent small study in the journal Appetite found that young women who ate a cup (65 calories) of mixed berries consumed about 20 percent fewer calories an hour later than women who ate the same number of calories in candy." Translation: "Eating berries (which just so happen to be one of the 42 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss won't just quell your cravings, they'll ward off overeating, too."
7. Try Sweet Veggies
They may not be the first things that come to mind when you want candy or cookies, but Cavuto says that sweet-tasting vegetables like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and carrots are a great choice when you are craving something sugary. "Their natural sweetness, which is concentrated if you roast them, paired with their nutrient density and high fiber content makes them a great choice to curb sweet cravings," she says. For some creative ways to cook carrots, check out these 20 Carrot Recipes for Weight Loss!
8. Make Nice Cream
"One of my favorite ways to satisfy a sweet tooth is to make homemade soft serve ice cream," registered dietitian nutritionist Liz Weiss tells us. "My secret ingredients include a frozen banana for natural sweetness, frozen mango or pineapple, a splash of orange juice and zest, a drizzle of agave, and low-fat cottage cheese. The cottage cheese adds protein, a creamy texture, and it gives structure to the soft serve. I love adding natural 'sprinkles' on top, which include toasted sliced almonds, chia seeds, and unsweetened coconut." For the full rundown on making Weiss' dessert, click here. Shapiro has a simpler approach to the frozen treat: "Take a frozen banana cut into chunks and add it to your blender or food processor. Add some cinnamon, vanilla, cacao powder, or a teaspoon of almond butter, blend and enjoy!"
9. Mix Chocolate with Fruit
"I'm a nutritionist with a serious sweet tooth," Smith tells us. "To indulge without going off the deep end, I'll often melt one or two squares of 70 to 80 percent dark chocolate and drizzle it over berries. This provides the sweetness I crave, along with antioxidants and filling nutrients like fiber." Registered dietitian, Libby Smith, has a similar go-to snack when she craves something sweet. "I melt chocolate made with 70 percent cocoa and dip banana slices in it. Then, I'll top off the bites with unsalted chopped peanuts or unsweetened coconut flakes and pop them in the fridge to harden up a bit. It's the perfect summer treat and it's filled with flavonoids." If you want an even easier idea, simply mix some chocolate PB2 with some water and spread the mixture on a medium banana. "PB2 is a delicious alternative to high-calorie spreads like Nutella. Pairing it with fruit makes for a sweet, yet satiating dessert," Leah Kaufman CDN, MS, RD tells us.
10. Keep Healthy Desserts On Hand
"I keep a few healthy desserts in my fridge at all times to combat sweet cravings," says registered dietitian nutritionist Stephanie Brookshier. "I make these great peanut butter protein balls that are packed with protein and healthy fats. They're a great naturally-sweet snack that I can take on the go. One or two is the perfect portion size." Here's how to make them:
Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2/3 cup protein powder, and 3 tablespoons honey in a bowl.
Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.
Toss them in unsweetened coconut or flax seeds, or add a few dark chocolate chips.
Lay them on a plate, cover with foil and place in the fridge to harden.
11. Make Hot Cocoa from Scratch
"Consider making a cup of homemade hot cocoa to quell your sweet tooth. All you need is unsweetened cocoa powder, a sugar or sugar alternative of choice, milk, and a splash of vanilla for flavor," says Heather Mangieri, RDN, CSSD, LDN. "Making homemade hot chocolate allows you to control the sweetness and calories while still getting the health benefits found in the other ingredients. Cocoa powder is particularly high in flavonoids and the milk contributes to your daily protein, vitamin D, and calcium needs. Plus, the liquid will boost feelings of satiety."
12. Crack a Coconut
"Coconut is rich in satiating fats, and it has a naturally sweet flavor. Try munching and crunching on unsweetened coconut chips or shreds, or add coconut milk to oatmeal or coffee," suggests Cavuto.
13. Distract Yourself
"If you find yourself wanting something sweet after a meal, it may be more of a habit than an actual craving," says Mangieri. "Consider an alternative to a sweet dessert after meals, such as a cup of tea or a piece of gum. You can also try brushing your teeth immediately after you eat or go for a quick walk before you clean up the dinner dishes. The majority of the time, removing yourself from the situation will remove the craving."
14. Fire Up The Grill
"It's never too early to start grilling! I love grilled pineapple wedges that have been sprinkled with cinnamon and clove," registered dietitian Libby Mills tells us. "Serve them warm or chilled with a dollop of low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt and some lime zest. Not only is this treat refreshing and sweet, the protein helps staves off cravings."
15. Freeze It Out
"My clients love Yasso Greek Yogurt pops because they are individually portioned, have some filling protein, and just the right amount of sweetness," says Shapiro. "Plus, they only have 80 to 100 calories each. These are definitely worth trying as a healthier dessert alternative."
16. Sprinkle on Some Cinnamon
"Thanks to its natural sweetness, cinnamon can help curbs sweet cravings," says Cavuto. Plus, the spice may help lower your fasting blood glucose levels, according to a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Sprinkle it in yogurt and use it as a fruit dip, or add it to popcorn, oatmeal, coffee, or homemade almond milk.
17. Go on a Quest
"I love Quest Bars because they're low in sugar and calories, but high in protein and fiber. With delicious flavors like Cookies and Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie, they also satisfy my sweet tooth," says registered dietitian and nutritionist Lauren Minchen. Registered dietitian and personal trainer, Jim White, is also a fan and adds that he likes to zap his in the microwave to make the texture similar to that of a dessert straight out of the oven. Yum!
18. Stash Kind Bars
Another sweet snack bar nutritionists love? KIND bars! "KIND bars are absolutely delicious, filled with healthy fats, fiber, and a bit of protein. The Dark Chocolate, Nuts,&Sea Salt flavor always kills my cravings, says Kaufman. "It's salty and sweet so it takes care of both cravings while still providing your body with nourishment. When shopping for KIND bars, always look for varieties with 5 grams of sugar or less." To discover our go-to picks, check out our exclusive report, Every KIND Bar—Ranked!
19. Try Beans
"Dense like a brownie, the chocolaty goodness of a slice of garbanzo bean cake never disappoints," says Mills. To make it, simply process 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, 4 eggs, ¾ cup of sugar, and a 19-ounce can of garbanzo beans, and bake on 350°F in a 9-inch round cake. "I like to cut the cake into pre-portioned slices, individually wrap them, and keep them in a sealable plastic freezer bag." For more healthy dessert recipes check out these 45 Chia Pudding Recipes for Weight Loss.
20. Make a Parfait
"For a sweet snack that packs on the protein, try a tasty Greek yogurt parfait," suggests Kaufman. "I like to top a plain zero or two percent Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut flakes, and almonds. It's a treat that's sure to satisfy." We also love the idea of layering fruit and cold quinoa with yogurt, as pictured above. For even more delicious ways to use Greek yogurt, check out these 20 Delicious Yogurt-Based Recipes for Weight Loss.
21. Freeze Grapes
Before digging into anything super indulgent, Marisa Moore, RDN, Owner Marisa Moore Nutrition turns to fruit to satisfy her sweet tooth. "Freeze grapes and savor a handful for a long-lasting sweet snack. It's like a handful of mini fruit sorbets. Plus, this sweet snack is a natural source of antioxidants and other polyphenols that can contribute to heart health."
22. Blend a Fruit Slushie
Another frozen concoction Moore loves? Fresh fruit slushies. (And no, these are nothing like the kinds you find in 7-11.) To whip up this craving-crushing sip, "freeze, then blend cantaloupe or watermelon chunks into a sweet and satisfying slushy," Moore explains. "When these melons are sweet, there's no need to add any sugar."
23. Or Try a Cold-Pressed Juice
"When I'm craving something sweet, I'll grab a cold-pressed watermelon juice," says Toby Amidor, MS, RD. "There's something about the cool, refreshing, and sweet fruit flavor that tends to do the trick."
24. Nosh on Flavor-Dusted Nuts
"Cocoa dusted nuts are a nice crunchy way to quell a craving for something sweet or chocolatey," says Moore. We're also fans of cinnamon and vanilla roasted nuts.
25. Mix Salty With Sweet
"I always keep some peanut butter and dark chocolate chips around the house for those days when I need something sweet," says Brookshier. "The healthy fat and protein in the peanut butter make this a satisfying treat that cuts the craving. But watch out for added sugar and fat in your peanut butter! Choose containers that only list peanuts and salt on the ingredients list."
RELATED: The 36 Top Peanut Butters — Ranked!
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