Is Eating Dessert Daily Healthy?
Baton Rouge Clinic made a pithy observation about the word dessert which we share with you:
Ever notice that the word “desserts” turns into “stressed” when spelled backwards?
The reality for most people is that dessert can be calming, can be an almost instant mood booster. There is a reason why dessert is on the list of what some folks like to call “comfort food.”
Having made mention of this, the “happy effect” associated with dessert – the sugar in dessert – is not long-lasting and can lead to something of an energy crash. This response to eating dessert and sugary foods is not the prime focus of this article. Nonetheless, it was important to mention at the outset so that there was no misleading of a reader in regard to the transient nature of the pleasant effect associated with eating dessert.
With these preliminary points dispatched, we reach the prime question of this article, which is:
Is Eating Dessert Daily Healthy?
The quick answer to this question is that a small dessert consumed daily that is integrated into an otherwise healthy diet can be acceptable. While the dessert itself likely adds very little to a person’s overall health, and while it can have only a transitory impact on an individual’s wellbeing, an appropriate portion of dessert eaten on a regular basis (perhaps no more than a small service once a day – or less) is likely acceptable for many people. There may be medical conditions – diseases like diabetes – that preclude this approach to dessert, however.
Portion Size is Fundamental
When it comes to eating dessert on a regular basis, portion size is crucial. You are likely to be surprised, if not alarmed, by what constitutes a “healthy” portion size of dessert. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to nine teaspoons a day for men. This translates into 36 grams. This also translates to only 150 calories a day from added sugar for men.
A woman should limit her sugar intake to six teaspoons per day. This equates to 24 grams or 100 calories.
Considering All of Your Sugar Intake
The recommendations regarding the amount of sugar you can consume in a healthy diet each day actually doesn’t mean that you can enjoy a sweet treat with 100 calories (if you are a woman) or 150 calories (if you are a man). You need to pay attention to any other foods or drinks that you have consumed during a given day that have added sugars.
The reality is that if you are like most people, you add to your daily sugar total and exceed it without even realizing what you have done. The types of foods and beverages that contain added sugars is extensive and include such items that many (if not most) Americans consumer eagerly, regularly, and abundantly:
- Bottles teas
- Protein bars
Risks of Consuming Too Much Sugar
There are very real risks associated with consuming too much added sugar on a routine basis. Examples of the types of illnesses, conditions, and diseases that are associated with consuming too much sugar include:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
Five Suggested Desserts That Can Fit Into a Healthy Diet
In addition to controlling portion size as we have just discussed, you also need to focus on selecting desserts that leave you feeling satisfied and not craving even more. There are some dessert options that fit the bill – some that might even surprise you as being a possibility when you want to focus on healthier eating. These include:
- Ice cream
- Frozen fruit
- Acai bowls
Like many people, your immediate response to ice cream as a dessert possibility is that it is off-limits if you want to pursue a healthy diet. There actually are some nutrients in ice cream that are not found in other dessert selections. These include:
- Vitamin D
Other associated or similar dessert options include:
- Frozen yogurt
- Frozen fruit pops
A key to enjoying these types of desserts in small portions is to steer clear of brands with artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives. You should strive to stick to one-half a cup or less to keep the sugar content in check.
There are homemade options. These include pureeing sliced frozen banana with 2-3 tablespoons of plant-based beverage and any other fruit of choice in a food processor. The end result is akin to frozen yogurt, but healthier.
If you are a fan of chocolate, consider small amounts of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains nutrients that are necessary in a healthy diet:
Dark chocolate typically contains less sugar than milk chocolate. Chocolate that is 70 percent dark of higher is in this category.
You do need to keep in mind that dark chocolate nevertheless is rich in calories and fat. Therefore, portion size and moderation are crucial.
You will also want to take a look at frozen fruit as a dessert option. Frozen grapes or blueberries can be a delicious and healthy option. An option to consider is to dip the fruit in yogurt and freeze on a tray. Use plain or Greek yogurt which has less sugar. Avoid yogurt with artificial sweeteners.
You likely do not think of nuts immediately when you want dessert. However, they can be a healthy option on their own, mixed with other foods (like fresh fruit, dried fruit, granola), or as a topping.
Nuts are a good source of:
- Health fats
Nuts are calorie dense. Therefore, and yet again, you need to pay attention to portion size.
There is a dessert cheat to bear in mind when it comes to nuts. Chocolate covered nuts, in moderation, are a good dessert option. The reality is that in many cases to ratio of chocolate to nut is relatively small.
You may not be familiar with Acai or Acai bowls. Acai is described “an antioxidant-rich superfood.” In order to ensure that an Acai bowl is as healthy as possible, you need to select healthy toppings. These include such things as:
- Fresh fruit
Provided you pay close attention to portion size, focus on healthier dessert options (like those mentioned in this article), and monitor the overall amount of sugar you consume each day, including a treat in your diet does not throw off an overall health diet.