There’s a science behind our sometimes irrational craving for sweets after dinner. Sugar causes our brains to release the chemical serotonin, which we know boosts our mood and makes us feel more relaxed. Plus, we’re creatures of habit, and a Journal of Nutrition study shows that eating sweets on a regular basis can become a hard-wired habit, causing neurochemical changes in our brains. This means that the more we indulge our sweet tooth, the more our brain will tell us to eat sweet foods. The process is similar to addiction, and recognizing these patterns is important to making healthy changes to our diets.
If you’re craving dessert, go for it, but choose wisely. Below are 10 healthier desserts you can eat that will still give you a sweet serotonin release, but won’t wreak havoc on your waistline.
1. Peach crisp
A quick mix of ripe peaches, crunchy granola and a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt with 284 calories and nine grams of fat per serving. Feel free to use any seasonal fruit to personalize this dessert.
2. Grilled Pineapple with Mascarpone Whipped Cream
Grill slices of fresh pineapple for three minutes on each side and top with a tablespoon of mascarpone whipped cream, for about 150 calories and 10 grams of fat.
3. Frozen Bananas with Melted Hot Chocolate
Slice one banana per serving and freeze for one hour. Melt a tablespoon of semi-sweet chocolate (per serving) and drizzle over the frozen banana. Only 117 calories and three grams of fat per serving.
4. Banana Splits
Half a banana with ¼ cup non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, topped with 1 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate sauce and 1 tbsp crushed walnuts. Only 254 calories and 11 grams of fat.
5. Phyllo apple pie
A warm and crispy patty-style apple pie with only 173 calories and one gram of fat per serving.
6. Low Fat Pound Cake with Sliced Fresh Strawberries
This lighter pound cake recipe is a great base for fresh fruit toppings. You can adapt this recipe and change the fruit to keep it interesting. Use two large strawberries per slice for 246 calories and about 10 grams of fat per serving.
7. Pumpkin Pie Mousse
Whip one cup of low-fat whipped topping with one cup of unsweetened canned pumpkin and a tablespoon of honey or agave nectar to make two servings of this delicious fall-inspired mousse. Top each serving with a teaspoon of toasted almonds for a dessert that’s only 184 calories and three grams of fat.
8. Chocolate peanut butter and banana shake
Mix a frozen banana with two tablespoons of natural peanut butter, one cup of skim milk, one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and two teaspoons of honey. This recipe serves two and has 226 calories and nine grams of fat.
9. Peach Frozen Yogurt
Blend frozen peaches with low-fat peach frozen yogurt for a smooth, refreshing dessert with only 130 calories and one gram of fat per serving. You can swap the peach for any frozen fruit you like.
10. Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies
This household favorite incorporates almond flour and uses less sugar than the original recipe, bringing it to just 99 calories and five grams of fat per warm, gooey serving.
Treating yourself to the occasional dessert doesn’t mean you can’t stick to your healthy eating goals. There are hundreds of recipes that incorporate healthy ingredients like fresh seasonal fruits, protein-rich nuts, and calcium-rich low-fat dairy products. Give them a try and retrain your brain to crave these healthier options.