If you read last week’s post The World Is on Your Plate, you know that my mom came for a Mother’s Day visit – lots of cooking and eating ensued! While I don’t have a big sweet tooth (an amazing chocolate mousse being the exception), both my partner and mom do really love their desserts. And since food is definitely one of my love languages, I like to please them in this way and maintain what feels like a healthy and sane relationship with sugar at the same time.
If you look at my weekly menu, you will see that, after a lovely Mother’s Day brunch out, and not really being hungry enough for a full meal at dinner time, we pretty much had ice cream for dinner that night – we’ve got a Jeni’s downtown – it is soooo good! Interesting flavors and high-quality ingredients — sign me up!
So, I thought this might be a good time to fill you in on how to eat dessert. You might think there are no instructions necessary, but it is no secret that loading your system with a ton of sugar is not the best thing for it. Nevertheless, I want you to be able to enjoy fully and do so in a way that causes the least negative repercussions for your system.
This is the most “science-y” thing I’ve written here yet. I believe it’s good to use this sort of information as a tool, and not something to beat yourself up with. I’d love to know what you learn and incorporate, so without further ado..
- Save Room for It – One of the main issues with eating sweets after a meal is that we are often doing so on a full stomach. Any time you eat past the stage of being sated and lightly full, you are over-eating. When your body does not need to use the food, you are eating as fuel at the time, in its wisdom, it stores it as fat for later use. Doing this too often prevents us from ever actually using those fuel stores and your weight will reflect that. If you know there is a great dessert you want to enjoy, eat a smaller meal (or none – more on that below) so you are actually still hungry when you have it.
- Eat it Right after Your Meal instead of waiting – This might take some getting used to – especially if you conclude from above, you’ll eat dinner, wait ‘til you’re not quite so full and then have dessert. But here’s what happens…every time you eat, your body produces insulin to aid in metabolizing and digesting. Even a very nourishing meal produces an insulin spike. That is not a problem. But what does become problematic is having several rather than a few of these insulin spikes during the day. This can cause blood sugar to get out of whack and produces feelings of overhunger. This is one of the reasons intermittent fasting is becoming more widely practiced. And when that insulin spike coincides with mainly sugar in isolation, that of course exacerbates the problem. So, it is best to consume sugar as part of your meal (when you have room for it) rather than as a separate eating event. If you really want a little pause, a good strategy may be to clear the table, perhaps wash the dishes, etc., and then enjoy your dessert fully!
- Choose the highest quality ingredients you can – It is worth it to make or eat desserts with good quality ingredients in as far as you are able – dark chocolate, organic or even heirloom flours and sugars, pastured eggs, grass-fed milk, cream and butter, coconut milk and coconut oil rather than vegetable oil. Most grocery stores have at least some of these ingredients available as well as prepared desserts that use them (Kerrygold is a widely available butter – even at Walmart — that you should be using for all your butter needs). These ingredients are more nutrient dense and less full of pesticides, hormones, etc. that are not recognized as real food by our bodies. Also, the higher quality, generally the better the taste, and the more satisfied we are with less quantity. If you are interested in more details here, feel free to ask me your questions in an email or comment!
- Dial down hidden sugars – I like to save my sugar for desserts (and wine). There are many ways that sugar sneaks into savory food. One of my favorite things about the Paleo movement is that it has increased this awareness and begun to make available many condiments and other products that are made with better quality ingredients and no refined sugars. Ketchup, salad dressings, mayonnaise, etc., are now all available in body-friendly formats. If you know you are having a great dessert with some meal, reduce sugar in the rest of your day.
- Have dessert for dinner! – Now this isn’t my go-to, but I did do that this week! And I’ve done it on occasion…there is this lovely restaurant in New Orleans, Le Crepe Nanou. They serve wonderful dessert crepes and also Moules Frites. I always started the meal wanting a dessert at the end, but never had room for it. So, on a couple of occasions, we simply made the dessert dinner. The best type of dessert to do this with would be ice cream and custard-y things because of the protein and fat in the eggs, butter, and cream. These are more well-rounded options than cake since the refined flour and sugar are a bit of a double whammy. Even better would be to have something with a little fiber right before – a small serving of a cooked vegetable, sort of a blend of my first suggestion and this one.
- Choose a healthier option and/or have a smaller portion – Sometimes we want a little taste of something sweet, and really, a little bite or two is all that is needed. Or something like a few squares of dark chocolate or fresh berries and whipped cream (coconut cream, even better!) will do the trick. Really savor as fully as you can and pay attention to the moment your need for the sweet taste has been sated. Another tip here is simply to brush your teeth after dinner or sip on some mint or licorice tea and see if that takes the desire for sugar away.
I’d love to know how this experiment turns out for you! Let me know!
May your days be truly delicious and satisfying!
Hi! I’m Laura Jarrait and I work with women who adore good food but feel like it’s running or ruining their lives. They don’t want to diet or quit socializing around food but are tired of feeling less than their best and guilty, obsessive, or confused about what they eat. I help them keep the pleasure and drop the stressful thinking and extra weight, so they feel confident, light and free — all without ending their love affair with food!
I would be thrilled to help you do the same! Get my free Beautiful You guide that teaches YOU how to eat with pleasure and thrive at your natural weight or learn more about how I can support you in your eating, body love, and weight-loss goals.