I have a die-hard dessert habit.  I love to end my meals with something sweet (chocolate, cookies, ice cream), but I think I’m starting to put on pounds because of my sweet tooth.  What can I do cut down on dessert? –Sugar High

Well, Sugar High, there’s nothing wrong with having cake on your birthday or an ice cream cone on a warm summer evening, but it does get out of hand when lunch and dinner on any given day both warrant dessert to follow.  The key is to find healthier options that still satisfy your craving for something sweet, and then eventually maybe wean yourself off the need for that sweetness altogether.  But baby steps first. 

Fruit is nature’s candy, and it’s a great way to end a meal.  Keep it exciting by buying a different fruit each week or preparing seasonal fruits in different ways.  There’s so much more to fruit than fruit salad!  Vanilla Greek yogurt topped with berries or cherries, sprinkled with ground flaxseeds or hemp seeds, and a drizzle of honey tastes indulgent and has protein, fiber, omega three fatty acids, and antioxidants.  Apples taste (and smell!) delicious when baked with cinnamon.  “Banana soft-serve” has swept many of the food blogs: freeze peeled bananas and toss them in the food processor for an amazingly creamy, dairy-free, ice-cream-like dessert.  These are all ways to pack in some fiber and vitamins to an otherwise nutrition-less dessert routine. 

As an alternative to eating something sweet, you might enjoy a hot cup of tea with honey after dinner.  Herbal teas can be a great way to help digest your meal and settle your stomach, and the honey helps satisfy that sweet tooth in a natural way.  You might just find that the craving to eat more will vanish with that last gulp of tea! 

And, lastly, perhaps the answer isn’t edible at all!  Try setting up an activity after dinner (reading, watching a favorite TV show, catching up with friends via phone or Internet) that will keep you occupied so you don’t crave dessert.  Maybe you can meet a friend for a walk.  Oftentimes, people eat because they are bored, worried, or to fill time, so before you indulge in dessert, ask yourself do you really need this?  My guess would be probably not, so bring awareness to this time and make another choice.

– Stacey Antine, M.S. R.D., author, Appetite for Life and founder, HealthBarn USA

Do you have a confession to share with Stacey?  Want to learn how to improve an unsavory habit?  Send your stories our way to [email protected], and Stacey will help!

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