Restaurant portions are so large that a typical restaurant dessert can contain a whole day's worth of calories, with most of these calories coming from sugar and fat. Avoiding these fat and calorie bombs will help you stay within your daily calorie budget so you don't gain weight. However, desserts can be part of a healthy diet if you choose wisely.
Many desserts are high in sugar, fat and calories. A piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting has about 550 calories and 27 grams of fat. This is 28 percent of your daily calories if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, and 42 percent of the daily value for fat. Top that with a scoop of premium ice cream and it adds another 178 calories and 12 grams of fat. Cheesecake is even less nutritious, with each slice of cheesecake containing about 581 calories and 41 grams of fat, and if you eat a slice of double-crust apple pie, you are gobbling down 32 grams of fat and 627 calories.
Dessert doesn't have to be ice cream, chocolate cake or pie. Instead, use dessert to help you get the recommended amount of nutrient-rich foods like fruits and whole grains in your diet. Basing your desserts on these foods will help you increase your vitamin, mineral and fiber intakes for the day. Bake a cored apple filled with pecans, raisins, oats and a sprinkle of brown sugar, or make a smoothie with low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit for dessert. Another delicious option is a fruit parfait with low-fat yogurt, granola and fresh fruit.
Make Recipes Healthier
When you are really craving a less-healthy dessert, alter the recipe to make it healthier. Replace up to half of the fat with mashed banana, applesauce or pureed prunes, and cut the sugar by about one-fourth in baked goods and they will still be moist and delicious. Limit decorative toppings, like frosting, drizzles of caramel, chocolate sauce and whipped cream, since these add a lot of calories.
Watch Your Portion Size
No matter what you eat for dessert, watch your portion size. The more you eat, the less healthy it is. A small square of dark chocolate can be healthy, because it contains beneficial plant chemicals called flavonoids, but eating a large amount of chocolate isn't healthy because it is high in fat and calories. Serve yourself a portion containing no more than 150 calories, recommends Epicurious.com. If you do splurge on a restaurant dessert, split it with your friends or family so everyone at the table gets a taste without consuming too many calories.
Make It an Occasional Treat
Totally avoiding your favorite treats can cause you to crave them and overeat, so it is healthier to eat them in small amounts occasionally. Have fruit for dessert most days and save desserts that are higher in sugar, fat and calories for special occasions. Plan for these treats and eat mainly nutrient-rich foods that are lower in calories on the days when you are going to splurge.
- Help Guide: Eating Well on the Cheap
- Family Doctor: Changing Your Diet: Choosing Nutrient-rich Foods
- Epicurious: Slimmed-Down Sweets
- National Diabetes Education Program: Fat and Calorie Counter
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: 14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.