By Hilary Sheinbaum
Anyone with a sweet tooth can relate to after-dinner cravings for sweets. Do I raid the freezer for ice cream? The pantry for cookies? What about that left-over slice of cake in the fridge? (Ahem: us, to ourselves, every day.)
Indulging in a favorite dessert is (quite literally) a treat — but if you’re looking for healthier snacks that will satisfy your sweet tooth, we have good news! There are options ranging from nut-butters and fruits to smoothies, and more.
For some guidance, we asked two nutrition pros for their recommendations in this category. At first, we were skeptical, but then we were 100% convinced. (To be honest, some of the experts’ suggestions actually sound much better than that leftover cake.)
Gather your spoons and bowls — dessert is getting a healthy makeover.
“I’m always craving something sweet to top off the day. Who isn’t? For me, it’s not ‘candy’ or traditional sweets. It’s something with a little fat, a little sweet and a little salty crunch,” says Katie Thomson, an MS, RDN, and co-founder and CEO of Square Baby. “Make your own Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls with natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter, dark chocolate, coconut flour, honey and a pinch of sea salt.”
“This is a great hack and something we should all just have on hand,” says Thomson, who is based in Orinda, Calif. “It’s super easy and requires no prep — except the foresight to put them in the freezer a few hours prior to the craving — and it satisfies the sweet tooth. Zero guilt. Loads of antioxidants and a little fiber.”
“I love a big bowl of fresh strawberries — or any fruit you have on hand — with a dollop of whipped cream or greek yogurt,” says Thomson. “It’s fun, full of fresh fruit and provides fiber and antioxidants. I recommend splurging with a full-fat, natural whipped cream or yogurt. A little fat helps satiate you and fulfill that craving for something comforting. Add a little drizzle of honey, or a small handful of granola or chopped nuts if you need a little more excitement.”
“Dates are what I like to call ‘nature’s candy,’” says Kim Rose, an RD and the in-house nutritionist for Splendid Spoon. “For starters, they’re sweet, chewy and bite-sized. And did you know dates are loaded with fiber? This is important because fiber keeps you full longer, supports a healthy digestive system — gut health for the win! — and may improve your cholesterol. And, they’re even better when paired with nut butter.
To enjoy this treat, carefully slice a few dates down the middle with a paring knife — removing the pits, if necessary. Then, put a little dollop of your favorite nut butter in the hollow, and top with cacao nibs or unsweetened coconut shreds. These little bundles are yummy, gooey and full of fiber.
“Food allergies and sensitivities are serious,” says Rose, who is based in Lakeland, Fla. “A lot of times, sweet treats contain ingredients we may need to avoid. If you suffer from food allergies or sensitivities, there is a sweet treat that keeps it simple. These bars are free of wheat, tree nuts, and eggs. Plus, they’re made with fruit; that’s it! According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, roughly 80 percent of the U.S. population does not get the recommended serving of fruit. To up your fruit intake in a safe and satisfying way, nibble on a That’s It! Fruit Bar. It will calm your post-dinner craving for sweetness.
“Their Coconut Lime Smoothie puts a healthier spin on key lime pie,” says Rose. “Because it has avocado and blue-green algae, it’s loaded with antioxidants that prevent cell damage and support the systems of the body. So when you want a fresh and festive party for your tastebuds, Splendid Spoon’s Coconut Lime smoothie is definitely a great choice.”