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 causes us to feel more relaxed. Further, we are creatures of habit, and a study from the Journal of Nutrition shows the regular consumption of sweets can become a hardwired habit, causing neurochemical changes in our brains. This means the more we indulge our sweet tooth, the more our brains will tell us to eat sugary foods. The process is similar to addiction, and recognizing these patterns is important to making healthy changes in our diets.
If you find yourself craving dessert, go for it, but make wise choices. 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 blend of ripe peaches, crunchy granola and a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt with 284 calories and nine grams of fat per serving. Feel free to use any in-season fruit to make this dessert your own.
2. Grilled Pineapple with Mascarpone Whipped Cream
Grill slices of fresh pineapple for three minutes per side and top with one tablespoon of mascarpone whipped cream, for around 150 calories and 10 grams of fat.
3. Frozen Bananas with Warm Melted Chocolate
Slice one banana per serving, and freeze for one hour. Melt one 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 scoop of nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, topped with one tablespoon of semi sweet chocolate sauce and one tablespoon of crushed nuts. Only 254 calories and 11 grams of fat.
5. Phyllo Apple Pie
A warm, crispy galette-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 to make this 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 canned, unsweetened pumpkin and one tablespoon of honey or agave nectar to make two servings of this delicious fall-inspired mousse. Top each serving with one teaspoon of toasted almonds for a dessert that is only 184 calories and three grams of fat.
8. Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Shake
Blend one frozen banana with two tablespoons of natural peanut butter, one cup of nonfat 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 to have 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 meal and uses less sugar than the original recipe, bringing it to just 99 calories and five grams of fat per warm, gooey serving.
Indulging in the occasional dessert doesn’t mean you can’t stick with your healthy-eating goals. There are hundreds of recipes out there that incorporate good-for-you ingredients like fresh seasonal fruit, protein-packed nuts, and calcium rich low-fat dairy products. Give them a try and retrain your brain to crave these healthier options.