Although it takes a bit of thought and careful ordering, maintaining a healthy diet while dining out is certainly possible. But once you flip to the menu’s dessert section, you might find that your willpower is whisked away with your dinner plate. Knowing what to look for and which desserts to rely on allows you to satisfy your sweet tooth -- without wondering if you should just go ahead and smear that cheesecake right onto your thighs.
Fresh fruit is almost always the healthiest dessert option when dining out. Whether it’s berries, pineapple, bananas or peaches, the delectable dessert whets your whistle without expanding your waistline. Just avoid fresh fruit desserts that are doused in heavy syrups, which are often loaded with empty calories and sugar. For a bit of extra indulgence, ask for a small scoop of fresh whipped cream on top. Although it does contain calories and fat, a little goes a long way.
Sorbet or Frozen Yogurt
Maintain your focus on fruit and consider fruit-flavored sorbet and frozen yogurt to finish your meal. Although you’ll have to watch the sugar content, these options tend to be much lower in calories and fat than ice cream. Again, skip the syrups and extra add-ins. A healthy bowl of frozen yogurt quickly becomes an unhealthy option when you add chocolate chips, cookie pieces and hot fudge into the mix. Instead, mix fresh berries or a small amount of dark chocolate shavings into the frozen treat.
Although you typically don’t want to drink your calories, flavored coffee can be a healthy dessert option -- whether you choose the caffeine buzz or the decaf option is up to you. Have the drink made with skim milk and sugar-free syrups. If you just can’t fathom a drink without whipped cream, at least ask the barista to be light-handed when dressing the drink.
One major tip for dining out at dinner follows through to dessert. If you’re a health-conscious diner, you probably ask for your sauces and dressings on the side. The same rule applies to dessert. Request that your desserts be served with syrups, sauces and whipped toppings on the side. If the extra calories are piled on top, you can’t really tell how much you’re getting -- and you’ll likely end up licking the bowl clean. But if you can actually see the amount you’re served, you might find that you only need a small portion to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Indulge With a Bite
If you just can’t stop thinking about the double-fudge brownie or raspberry cheesecake, cut yourself some slack. Although you should try to eat healthy most of the time, making small, occasional indulgences can actually help keep you on track. And don't go for the "sugar-free" or "low fat" desserts. Although they might seem healthier, they tend to be less satisfying -- so you'll end up taking a few too many bites. There's also quite a bit of controversy regarding the safety of sugar substitutes. Although no definite connection has been made between artificial sweeteners and health problems, it's best to just indulge in the real stuff -- in moderation of course. When you do order a decadent dessert, ask for several spoons to go with it -- and share it with your friends or family. While an entire brownie sundae might provide a whole day’s worth of calories and fat, having just one or two bites isn’t so sinful.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.