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If you’re on a diet, you absolutely, positively should be eating dessert. Really. For one, deprivation isn’t sustainable. Deny yourself sweets for too long, and before you know it, you’ll wake up with an empty cookie tin and a sugar hangover that makes tequila look tame. Ultimately, you’ll gain back whatever weight you’ve lost and call the whole diet thing off.
Let yourself indulge in dessert on the regular though, and you may start to skip second and third helpings to save room for your treat. As long as you don’t overdo it on dessert, this could reduce your overall calorie intake and ultimately result in weight loss, says Vicki Shanta Retelny, Chicago-based registered dietitian nutritionist.
But don’t just give your sweet tooth anything it wants. Set aside no more than 200 calories per day for dessert, and choose a treat that doubles as a weight loss weapon. It should be portion-controlled and include all of the most satisfying nutrients: high-fiber carbs, protein, and a little bit of fat, Retelny says. Here are nine treats that fit the bill – none of which are boring fruit: Compared to regular brownies, which are made of butter and refined sugar, this treat is made with better-for-you cashew butter and is naturally sweetened with dates. Almonds and walnuts help rack up the 4 grams of filling fiber and 5 grams of satisfying protein in the bar, all for 180 chocolaty calories.
2. If You Crave Lots of Chocolate: Try Dark Chocolate-Drizzled Popcorn
First off, studies suggest that dark chocolate could decrease the expression of genes that make your body store fat instead of burning it. While one serving of dark chocolate chips (one tablespoon) has only about 70 calories, that’s a pathetically small portion that might will make you crave more. Instead of just doubling up, melt a single serving of chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and dump it into a 100-calorie bag of microwave popcorn (or in a paper bag with about 3 cups of air-popped popcorn, which has about 31 calories per cup). Then shake to coat the popped kernels and get a little bit of chocolate in every bite. While it’s more calories than a double serving of chocolate chips, the popcorn is naturally high in fiber to keep you full, but low in calories so you can eat a larger, more satisfying serving without doing too much damage. Tip: For an extra kick, shake with a touch of cayenne powder, which boosts fat burn and can suppress your appetite to help you stick to your diet later on. 3. If You Crave an Ice Cream Sundae: Try Greek Yogurt With Pistachios, Honey, and Dark Chocolate Chunks
Greek yogurt is incomparable to ice cream. However, it contains much less sugar and more protein than ice cream, and helps you get in a healthy serving of dairy, which is linked to greater weight loss and lower body fat among dieters. Toppings turn Greek yogurt into a surprisingly tasty swap: The pistachios boost your metabolism and lower blood glucose to keep your appetite in check and your energy levels up, the yogurt contains filling protein, and the honey and dark chocolate will give your taste buds something sweet to satisfy your cravings.
4. If You Crave Real Ice Cream: Do It Up
OK, so you know that gorging on ice cream won’t melt away excess pounds. But it might help you eat less over all: People tend to overdo it on low-fat ice cream and frozen yogurt because they’re lower in calories, but the treats still have a ton of sugar, says Frances Largeman-Roth, a Brooklyn, New York-based registered dietitian. Just stick to the ½-cup serving size of the real stuff, and serve it in a small ramekin with a teaspoon to trick your brain into thinking that the portion is more substantial. Top it with cinnamon, which contains antioxidants and steadies your blood sugar to fend off hunger later, and sprinkle on dried tart cherries — they contain compounds that help your muscles recover from any exercise you do to support your weight loss goals.
5. If You Crave Ice Cream (and Seriously Can’t Stop at a ½ Cup): Eat Arctic Zero Frozen Dessert
While experts agree that portion control is key for weight loss, there’s something enormously satisfying about scraping the bottom of a carton. Go for a low-calorie frozen dessert like Arctic Zero, which contains just 150 per entire pint(!). If you can fight the brain freeze, the sheer volume (and 12 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber that come in each pint) will really fill you up.
7. If You Crave Pudding: Try Homemade Chia Pudding
Chia seeds are full of filling fiber and healthy omega-3 fats that improve cognitive performance to fuel smart dietary decisions. (Right?!) Unlike processed pudding cups, which you can peel open on a whim, you have to wait for chia seeds to soak before you can safely eat them, so you have to really, really want dessert. To whip it up, combine 3 tablespoons chia seeds with ¾ cup chilled coconut milk.
Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes and top with fresh berries. You’ll get a treat with the same creamy mouth feel as pudding.
8. If You Crave a Cookie: Go for a VitaTops Muffin Top
COURTESY OF VITATOPS Sugary carbs without any fiber can give you a quick energy boost that can fade fast and leave you hungry. But these whole-grain treats (which come in flavors like CranBran, Pumpkin Spice, Fudgy Peanut Butter Cup, and more) are jam-packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all for a mere 100 calories.
9. If You Crave Cake: Eat a Starbucks Chocolate Cake Pop
Food, Ingredient, Cuisine, Dishware, Serveware, Kitchen utensil, Sweetness, Dish, Chocolate, Comfort food, COURTESY OF STARBUCKS It won’t stoke your metabolism or anything, but it will help you hit the spot without subjecting yourself to a whole cake containing god knows how many calories, or a cupcake, which can contain upward of 400 calories. Each cake pop has a reasonable 140 calories and tastes just as decadent as the real deal because it is the real deal — just smaller, which is what you’ll be if you keep picking smart desserts.