It may seem obvious, but it can’t hurt to repeat it: Successful weight loss is associated with decreased desserts, sweetened drinks, and fried foods, according to a 2012 study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. Makes sense, right?
OK, but then there’s the issue of sustainable weight management. Staying on a strict diet without letting yourself indulge once in a while can be difficult to stick with. So how do you cut back on desserts, sweets, and treats without depriving yourself completely?
First of all, it’s 100% fine to enjoy desserts and treats ... in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a reasonable portion of your favorite oozey cake on occasion or dabbling in a slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
Second of all, rethink your idea of dessert. That after-dinner treat that you just can’t live without doesn’t have to be a triple-layer chocolate cake. You can squash cravings with healthier foods that are just as satisfying (or, you know, close enough). After all, a major tenet of the Mediterranean diet is to enjoy fruit for dessert.
A little bit of creativity goes a long way to keep calorie counts down without sacrificing the je ne sais quoi of a satisfying dessert. These six healthy dessert ideas are all under 200 calories per serving and are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
1. Homemade fro-yo.
Frozen yogurt had its moment back in 2010, but we’re bringing it back—in an even tangier, tastier way. What passed as fro-yo back in Pinkberry’s hayday contained three kinds of sweeteners, added flavors, and a bunch of additives to give it an ice cream-esque consistency.
Real frozen yogurt has a pow of tangy flavor, and you can sweeten and flavor it with real fruits. Try mixing 1/2 cup of vanilla Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup frozen dark cherries. Whip it up in a food processor, and then let it set in the freezer.
Check out this cherry frozen yogurt by Hello Creative Family, which has just 120 calories.
2. Avocado-banana chocolate pudding.
You *could* make a chocolate pudding with whole milk, sugar, butter, and melted chocolate chips … or you can hack it and make a creamy, fiber-packed chocolate pudding using avocado and banana.
It sounds crazy, but it works: Once blended, the avocado and banana make a silky texture that’s chocolatey and sweet (but not excessively so). You can even send it to the freezer to get a frozen chocolate mousse. And don’t fret about the fat: It’s healthy, unsaturated fat.
Find out how to make this avocado-banana chocolate pudding by Detoxinista for about 115 calories.
3. Frozen grapes.
If you don’t believe in eating fruit as dessert, try it like this. Frozen grapes are a simple treat that somehow feel more luxurious than they really are. You could basically say they’re nature’s popsicles.
The best part: there are only 90 calories in 1.5 cups of frozen red grapes.
4. Baked apples with pecans.
If you love apple pie (honestly, who doesn’t?), a baked apple with simple fixin’s can cure your craving, while saving you time *and* calories. But be careful: Just because it’s an apple doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy. Your preparation matters, too. Stuffing your baked apple with butter and brown sugar will most certainly result in a high-calorie treat—which is fine if that’s what you’re going for.
If you want a light treat, though, ditch the butter. Simply core the apple and cut it down the middle. Put it on a baking sheet (cut side up), sprinkle with cinnamon and raw pecans, and bake. (You can also cheat and zap it in the microwave.) When it’s ready, top it with 2 tablespoons of plain nonfat yogurt, if you’d like.
This dessert is 160 calories with the yogurt, or 145 without (but it varies depending on the size of your apple).
5. Dark chocolate-covered almonds.
Not everyone is tempted by the thought of “just a square of dark chocolate after dinner,” and that’s OK. Try almonds enrobed in dark chocolate, which has the healthy fats, protein, and salty crunch of almonds *and* the soul-pleasing power of chocolate.
When buying dark chocolate, look for cacao percentages above 70 percent, if possible. This usually translates to less sugar and more flavonoids, an antioxidant present in raw cacao. Here are more rules for buying healthier dark chocolate.
One ounce of dark chocolate-covered almonds contains 150 calories, as well as 2.5 grams of protein.
6. Piña colada smoothie pops.
Piña coladas scream “vacation,” so what could be more satisfying? Well, how about a piña colada with a fraction of the calories, sugar, and saturated fat? Yep, we got your attention now.
By using real pineapple and light coconut milk, you’ve basically got a simple piña colada smoothie that you can drink straight or freeze into popsicle form. Using popsicle molds makes it easy, but you don’t need them. Hack your own popsicle mold using a muffin tray, paper cups, or empty yogurt containers.
You can use any smoothie recipe in a popsicle mold, but check out this recipe from Pinch and Swirl for piña colada smoothie popsicles that have about 45 calories for a 3-ounce pop.
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