In fact, eating dessert every day can be an essential part of any effective diet. Dumping whole food groups–especially favorite food items–from your diet completely can cause your weight loss efforts to plateau or in some cases fail miserably. And while desserts are often the first to get the boot, they really don’t have to.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, a Registered Dietitian in private practice in New York City and the Founder of the popular F-Factor Diet, offers a few simple rules: “Stay away from—or minimize—the amount of added sugars, avoid high-calorie options by choosing desserts between 50 and 100 calories and be wary of nutrition claims: Just because something is labeled ‘low-fat’ or ‘sugar-free,’ does not mean it’s a healthy option.”
Here are her top 20 dessert items—end your meal with a fresh start. And to discover more simple swaps that can help you lose 20, 30 or even 40 pounds, don’t miss our essential list of 50 Habits Making You Fatter and Fatter!
Halo Top Ice Cream
Many “good for you” ice creams have a health halo—using marketing doublespeak, they trick you into thinking they’re healthy, when they’re actually filled with fake sugars. Not this one. “Halo Top ice cream is made with all natural ingredients and is high in protein, low in calories and sugar, and still tastes like full-fat premium ice cream,” says Zuckerbrot. Top it with fruit, not guilt.
Most chocolate-centric desserts tend to be full of sugar and calories, but with a fruit-based choco-snack, you instead get a dose of healthy vitamins and filling fiber. “Dole Dippers are chocolate covered banana bites that come in 100 calorie packs [and are great dessert options],” says Zuckerbrot. For an equally fruity and chocolately treat, blend up a smoothine with the perfect blend of protein, fiber and healthy fats. There’s 100+ weight-loss recipes in the new best-selling book, Zero Belly Smoothies!
Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt and Greek Yogurt Mousse
Skip the froyo joints—which can fatten you up with too many toppings—and curl up with a creamy cup of yogurt at home. Brands have gone above and beyond the traditional plain and vanilla varieties, now boasting more rich tasting options that closely resemble your favorite desserts. “The light variety is 80 calories per serving and offer decadent flavors fit for dessert like Caramel Macchiato, Cherry Chocolate, Salted Caramel, and Strawberry Cheesecake,” says Zuckerbrot. Or choose from any of these creamy and delicious 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss!
Swiss Miss 25 Calorie Hot Chocolate Packets
A cup of hot cocoa may not be your go-to in the Summer—unless you’ve got that AC cranked—but these chocolatey packets can do more than make a rich cup of hot chocolate. “Mix these with hot water to make a low calorie, chocolatey drink or stir into plain Greek yogurt for a mousse-like spoonable treat,” says Zuckerbrot.
Cocoa Mint Mate
Reminiscent of the oh-so-famous Girl Scout Thin Mints, this tea blends together cocoa peels, yerba mate, peppermint, honeybush, and spearmint forming a delicious and waist trimming cup of tea. One study published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medicine found that the scent of peppermint suppresses hunger, so sipping this decaf blend after dinner will help you curb those midnight snack cravings and keep you on track for those better-body goals. Check out these other Teas That Stop Snacking.
Don’t expect these pints to replace your Ben and Jerry’s staples in terms of taste, but the upside is that they’re significantly lower in calories and therefore won’t destroy your diet like an entire pint of the real thing would. “ Arctic Zero desserts are lactose-free, gluten-free, Kosher, fat-free, and have an array of varieties from chunky or creamy pints to chocolate dipper bars in a variety of flavors, ranging from 35-80 calories per serving,” says Zuckerbrot.
Enlightened Ice Cream Bars and Sandwiches
Low in calories, fat and sugar–these dessert bars will be sure to lighten up your evenings. “There are many store bought dessert products and homemade recipes that won’t sabotage weight loss efforts. Enlightened treats have an array of flavors between 70-110 calories, are low in fat and sugar and contain no artificial sweeteners,” says Zuckerbrot. For more indulgent eats, clock here for our list of the 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss.
With only three ingredients on the nutrition label–fruit puree, water and organic cane sugar–these pops are one of the best choices in the freezer aisle. “The fewer the number of ingredients there are listed on a package the better. Less additives, preservatives, and fillers make for a more wholesome treat,” says Zuckerbrot. They’re only 60 calories a pop, so enjoying one after dinner each night won’t even come close to unraveling your diet.
Kind Bar, Dark Chocolate Almond Mint
Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition admits she’s a big fan of snacking on KIND bars after dinner because they offer your body healthy fats and satiating protein. Their dark chocolate almond mint flavor in particular is more decadent and is a much healthier alternative to traditional candy bars. While most chocolate bars are loaded with sugar, this sweet choice boasts just 5 grams! Or simply munch on any of these amazingly delicious 50 Snacks With 50 Calories or Less!
Justin’s Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
“Justin’s makes a great dark chocolate hazelnut butter and sometimes I’ll have my clients eat a spoonful of that for dessert,” says Smith. As long as you’re able to stick to a spoonful this is another healthy option, which serves as the more natural version to popular Nutella. Hazelnuts are heart healthy and are also rich in magnesium, calcium and vitamins B and E–supporting healthy skin, bones and digestion.
SO Delicious CocoWhip
Whipped cream has an amazing ability to turn just about anything into dessert. This dairy-free option finds its base in coconut oil and only has 2 grams of sugar per serving. “SO Delicious just came out with a coconut whipped cream that I love. It’s half the fat of regular whipped cream and only about 15 calories per tablespoon,” says Smith.
Kashi Oatmeal Raisin Flax Cookie
One cookie isn’t going to ruin your diet, but you ultimately want to choose options that are more nutrient dense. “Fiber is really helpful [when it comes to incorporating dessert each day]. A whole grain oatmeal raisin cookie made with whole oats and a few chopped walnuts and chia seeds would be a good choice. If you can find one with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving that would be ideal,” says Smith. Kashi’s version has 4 grams of fiber per serving and is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. “Fiber is the non-digestible part of a carbohydrate, so it adds bulk to food, without adding calories. It also helps fill you up, so it helps you to generally eat less,” adds Zuckerbrot. Speaking of cookies, see if your favorite brand is one of the
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Yasso Greek Yogurt Popsicles
Don’t forget about protein when it comes to dessert! “Popsicles made with greek yogurt are good choices because they contain protein and have greater nutritional value, especially if you make them on your own by blending and freezing them,” says Smith. If you don’t have time to whip up some homemade pops, Yasso’s line is a good place to start with flavors like mint chocolate chip and peanut butter cup. Each pop champions 5 grams of protein for about 80 calories on average.
Green & Black 85% Dark Chocolate
If you plan to eat dessert every single day, dark chocolate should be one of your main go-to’s as it will provide you with some of the best possible health benefits when eaten in moderation. Dark chocolate in particular contains flavanols that have been found to lower blood sugar, decrease body fat and reduce inflammation in the body. The darker the bar the better, because they tend to contain less sugar overall and more concentrated levels of cacao (where all those great health benefits lie). IS eating dark chocolate one of the
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Nestle Outshine Fruit & Veggie Bars
Made from real fruits and veggies, Nestle’s Outshine bars are rich in vitamin C and low in calories, containing 35-60 calories per pop on average. These wholesome bars are tangy and sweet and the best part is–they’re made without high-fructose corn syrup and sans any artificial colors or flavors.
While gummy bears and sweet hard candies every night are still a no-go, you can get your sweet fix a more natural way with frozen fruit. “When grapes are frozen people tend to eat them slower, and thus feel fuller on less. One serving is 17 grapes,” says Zuckerbrot. The frozen element also makes them feel much more dessert-like, similar to a sorbet or fruit Popsicle. Enjoy them along with these amazing 30 Foods That Melt Love Handles.
Baked Apple With Cinnamon
Fruit will always be one of the best options for dessert as it is naturally sweet. Rather than shoveling a calorie dense, sugar-rich piece of apple pie in your mouth, opt for a similar tasting yet much healthier alternative like homemade baked apples. “Coat apple slices with lemon juice, cinnamon, and non-nutritive sweetener and bake them in an oven-safe dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until tender. Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and boosts your metabolism, and one medium apple contains almost 5 grams of fiber,” says Zuckerbrot.
Watermelon may not be the most exciting option pitted against rich brownies and decadent ice creams, but it’s versatility lends it to some great dessert options. Whether you snack on the fruit alone or blend and freeze into popsicles or slushies, watermelon is incredibly hydrating, low in calories and subtly sweet. “[Watermelon is a great dessert choice because it’s] naturally hydrating and rich in vitamins A and C,” says Zuckerbrot. For more fat-blasting foods, click here for
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Whether you like it salty or sweet, noshing on a fluffy bowl of popcorn after dinner has been given the dietitian stamp of approval, as long as you choose wisely. While air popping will be the healthiest way to prepare, healthier single serving microwaveable options exist for convenience. “Popcorn is gluten free, low calorie and contains fiber. [Some good choices are] Naturally Sweet Skinny Pop, which has no artificial ingredients, is non GMO, and peanut free and also Pop Secret’s Kettle Corn 100 calorie microwave popcorn, says Zuckerbrot.
“To incorporate dessert into your diet healthfully one needs to be eating a well-balanced diet daily and choosing a dessert that is responsible and properly portioned. Red wine specifically is heart healthy and the ellagic acid in red wine can boost fatty acid metabolism in the liver, speeding up the breakdown of fat,” says Zuckerbrot of healthy alcoholic drinks. As long as you stick to a true glass, portion control takes care of itself!