Before embarking on my lifestyle change, I had been conditioned that desserts were reserved as an occasional treat, maybe when we went out to eat (which was far less common when I was growing up), to end a holiday meal, or for a special celebration. As I got older, I doubly felt that desserts were mostly off-limits since I needed to lose weight. It was very unusual for me that the food program I chose included yogurt with lunch and dinner and an evening dessert choice. Along with eating breakfast and beginning dinner with a salad, incorporating sweet treats each day was probably one of the biggest reasons I was able to stick to my lifestyle change.
When I opted to follow a vegan regimen, I lost the low-fat yogurt option (though maybe that’s available now?). As I transitioned away from sugar and processed foods, I had to get more creative with that sweet ending I came to enjoy. One of my favorite lunch desserts is the peanut butter cups I make (okay, bars, because they take far less time to make). Sometimes I make haystacks (pecans, coconut, and chocolate with a dash of rum extract) or almond joy bars (all of which I’ll someday post- or let me know if someday is too far off).
Something else I really like, especially at this time of year with harvest time, is apples topped with almond butter and raw cacao nibs. The sweet, juicy, crispiness of the apple counterbalances the almost bitter, earthy crunch of the cacao. The almond butter smoothly holds it together, adding a creamy balance. Though I love peanut butter, it tends to overwhelm the flavor of the apple, while the almond butter is a much more subtle compliment that brings out the other flavors.
Dinner desserts are much easier, since I found an awesome low-carbohydrate cake recipe that I have now adapted for six more different varieties. If I don’t get around to making a dessert for the week, there is (rarely) a leftover piece in the freezer. Sometimes I’ll opt for 3 squares of chocolate with a cookie. I’ve found that Back to Nature lemon cookies or Newman’s super gingery ginger snaps go best.
It took a massive overhaul of my attitude toward the role of sweets in my life to help me find a healthy balance. Deprivation only led to caving and binging on a bag of doughnut holes or having an ‘unwarranted’ dessert and feeling really guilty. But learning portion control helped me to realize that food isn’t good or evil; it’s just food. And that even a daily indulgence can lead to–and more importantly, sustain–a healthy body.