Desserts & Sweet Treats

Fresh cherriesWho doesn't love a dessert, or look forward to it after a meal.  Most of us have a sweet tooth, and if we don't typically eat desserts, we may reach for a candy bar, pastry, doughnut, or other sweet snack during our day.

The only desserts we should be putting anywhere near our mouths are the ones that come from whole food ingredients.  These desserts are not only highly nutritious, but also provide us with the sweetness that satiate that sweet tooth.  Let's take a look at what type of ingredients these desserts have:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Natural sweeteners
  • Spices (e.g. cinnamon, star anise)
  • Extracts (e.g. vanilla, almond)

The variety of different desserts and textures you can create with these ingredients is truly endless.  At a health retreat I visited recently, I ate the best piece of strawberry cheesecake of my entire life.  What was even more amazing was that this was a raw food dessert, made from fresh strawberries, almonds, cashews, vanilla beans, coconut oil, and other fresh, raw ingredients.  No cooking involved, and the taste surpassed even the best gourmet cooked cheesecakes.

Which dessert choices & ingredients to avoid...

Which desserts should we be walking away from?  Let's take a look:

Most of the desserts on the market are highly refined, devoid of any real nutrition, and serve only to deplete our health.  They pack on the pounds and create a foundation for chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  They are also the main contributor to cellulite.

If your dessert comes in a package, inspect the ingredient list carefully.  If you see any of the following ingredients, put it back on the shelf.  If your dessert is a baked good (pastry, doughnut, croissant, cookie, cake), and there is no ingredient list, pass on it.  The likelihood it contains one or more of these ingredients is very high:

  • Refined Sugar
    The only sugars in desserts should be those from either fruits or natural sweeteners such as honey, coconut sugar, date sugar, sucanat (sugar cane natural), etc. and never from refined sugars.  Corn sugar and high fructose corn sugar are especially bad ingredients.  ...Read about natural sweeteners

  • Soy-based Desserts/Ice-Cream
    These are made from highly processed soy (usually genetically modified) that is in no way a healthy food product.  The only soy that should ever make its way into your mouth is non-GMO whole soybeans (also known as edamame) which is not typically a dessert food.  Nix processed soy from your diet completely.  ...Read about soy

  • Refined oils
    Desserts are often very high in refined oils, especially hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils which should be completely avoided.  If you are eating candy or desserts from a package or bar, unless labeled otherwise, assume the oil is refined.  Look for raw dessert and desserts with whole food ingredients that contains cold pressed (unrefined) nut or seed based oils such as coconut oil, flax seed oil, or avocado oil instead.  These choices are now very common in health food stores and the selection is steadily growing.  Check out Hail Merry's miracle tarts that are to die for, one of my favorite!

    If you are making a dessert and it requires oil, use it in very small quantities and aim for:
    - Unrefined / cold pressed
    - Non-GMO
    - Nut or seed oils (olive, coconut, avocado, walnut, flax seed, hemp seed, etc.)

  • Unnatural/Artificial Ingredients
    Most candy bars and desserts contain a variety of chemicals including flavorings, colorings, artificial preservatives, and other unhealthy ingredients.  Some of these ingredients are toxic and are banned in other countries, but are unfortunately quite legal in the US.  If you see anything on the ingredient list you don't recognize as a whole food or healthy ingredient, put it back on the shelf and don't look back.

  • Protein/Sports Bars
    Some of the worst offenders on the supermarket and supplement store shelves are sports bars.  These are highly refined foods that contain a variety off chemicals that serve only to acidify the tissues and cells of the body.  Far from enhancing athletic performance, they do the exact opposite.  

    Take the advice of Brendan Brazier, professional Ironman triathlete and best-selling author on performance nutrition:  Get your nutrients from healthy, whole foods instead!
Two Points About Fruits
  1. Avoid Cooking Fruits
    One of the worst things we can do with fruits is cook it.  The nutrients in fruits (especially the antioxidants) are very heat sensitive and are destroyed when cooked. 
  2. Eat Fruits First, Not Last
    Thinking of having fruit for dessert after dinner?  Think again.  Eat your fruit as an appetizer before dinner instead.  The reason for this is simple.  Because of their high water content, fruits digest far quicker than any other food type.  They take 30-45 mins to digest when passing through our system unhindered.  But when we eat fruit after a heavy meal (or after proteins and/or heavier carbohydrates which take several hours to digest), the fruit remains in our stomach for a much longer period of time.  It begins to ferment, causing a variety of gastrointestinal distress.  

    This is the main reason many people experience indigestion, heartburn, or stomach issues when eating melon or other fruits.  It isn't the fruit, it's the way they are eating the fruit.

Delicious Dessert Ideas

When it comes to making desserts, let your imagination run wild.  Play with chopping or blending your favorite fruits and nuts and see what ideas you can come up with.  Mix in fresh cacao or carob for a chocolaty flavor.  How about adding a few drops of vanilla or almond essence to a pineapple and mango smoothie?  Here are some ideas to get you started: