Everyone who knows me knows I love dessert! There are times I indulge in cupcakes, soft-serve ice cream with sprinkles, and other tasty treats, but for the most part, I try to keep my added sugars in a healthy range. Eating low-sugar desserts can help tame your sweet tooth and manage cravings by reducing your overall sugar intake. And staying within a healthy added sugar target is associated with health perks. Meanwhile, lowering your added sugar intake isn’t about depriving yourself! Here are some of my favorite, super-easy and delicious low-sugar desserts to buy.
Who should eat low-sugar desserts?
Just about everyone could benefit from eating low-sugar desserts. The majority of Americans exceed the American Heart Association’s added sugar recommendations, which suggest no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men. Desserts are a top source of added sugar in our diets, so if you’re regularly eating sweets, switching to a low-sugar dessert can help you reduce your added sugar intake.
Plus, eating sweets habituates your taste buds to prefer sweet foods, so healthy foods, like vegetables, plain yogurt, unsweetened oatmeal, etc., taste blah. On top of that, when you eat dessert and other foods sweetened with added sugar, you activate the brain’s reward system, similar to addictive substances. This phenomenon makes it more likely that you’ll want to eat more sugary desserts and other sugary foods, reinforcing your cravings. Therefore, enjoying a low sugar dessert instead of a typical one can help you feel more in control around sweets. (Find out my step-by-step process for managing sugar cravings.)
Additionally, desserts can cause blood sugar spikes because they contain refined carbs and added sugars. This combo is especially harmful since both of these substances get absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. Over time, repeated blood sugar spikes can lead to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
How often can I eat low-sugar desserts?
That’s for you to decide! The healthiest diets are low in added sugars and heavily processed foods and high in wholesome plant foods. But there’s a lot of leeway in this advice. I firmly believe that you’re in the best position to decide what’s sustainable and appropriate for you, but if you need a little guidance, here are some ways to think about it.
Are you feeling restricted or deprived about your dessert situation? When you’re feeling this way, it can promote stress, which isn’t a healthy tradeoff. But, many people get used to enjoying healthy sweet snacks, and it can be a helpful and sustainable habit.
Do you feel flexible around food? This means that you feel comfortable choosing less healthy foods sometimes while also recognizing that you may not need them all the time.
Do you feel powerless around food? A sugary diet can promote cravings, but it’s just one factor. Still, if you’re having trouble controlling cravings, you may want to consider limiting very sugary desserts, eating smaller portions, or swapping them for low-sugar desserts.
Are you in tune with when you feel hungry and full? The hunger/fullness tool can help you determine how much to eat, so you stay within your comfort zone.
Do you practice staying present when making food decisions and eating? Eating is much more enjoyable when you take a moment to decide what you’re in the mood for. Maybe it’s a texture you’re craving (crunchy or creamy) or a temperature (hot or cold). Maybe you want a full-on party with numerous textures and flavors on your plate. Whatever the case, once you’re eating, practice tuning into the taste, flavor, and texture.
Are you eating lots of plant foods? Remember that this is a hallmark of a healthy diet. If you’re not filling about 75% of your plate with plant foods, there may be an opportunity to include more of these gems. (Here's how to get started on a plant-based diet and why a variety of plant foods is beneficial.
How consistently are you practicing these and other health behaviors? Being healthy isn’t just about what you’re eating or how many desserts you have per week. It’s about how you’re taking care of yourself as a whole. Are you getting some form of movement most days? Do you get enough sleep? Stress is unavoidable, but do you have some tools (such as deep breathing, exercise, and therapy) to help you cope?
How do you feel? You’re probably striking the right balance of healthy to less healthy foods if you’re feeling energetic, experiencing good digestion, and your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammatory markers are in a healthy range.
Easy, low-sugar dessert recipes
I don’t know about you, but I like keeping things easy in the kitchen. So, here are some low-sugar and low-hassle desserts! But I discourage you from devouring them in a few minutes. Instead, I encourage you to sit down, use a plate or another device (a mug, a napkin), and enjoy your healthy sweet snacks mindfully.
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Coconut sundae. Spoon some low-sugar coconut yogurt, such as my favorite siggi’s coconut yogurt skyr, into a small bowl or ramekin. Top with chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut, and toasted walnuts.
Chocolove Chocolate Bar in Dark Ginger Crystalized. Confession: Most days, I eat dark chocolate for dessert, and this is one of my favorite bars. The pairing of chocolate and crystallized is sweet with a mild, zesty heat. Trust me on this one!
That’s it Truffles. I was thrilled to partner with That’s It this year because I’ve long enjoyed their products. The truffles are a staple in my house, and hands down, they’re the healthiest truffle I know of. That’s because the first ingredient is organic fruit. The Dark Chocolate Fig truffles are my fave, and they have 4 grams of fiber and just 1 gram of added sugar, yet they taste so decadent. If you can’t find them online, see if you can get them at your local retailer.
Skinny Dipped Almonds. I always recommend these lower sugar cocoa-coated nuts because they have more nuts than coating. And, they’re low in added sugars without using any alternative sweeteners.
Quinn Microwave Popcorn Vermont Maple Kettle Corn. I like the fact that there are no chemicals or other icky ingredients in the lining of these bags, and I also like the fact that this low-sugar kettle corn is sweetened with maple sugar. This kettle corn is lightly sweet, semi-salty, and super crunchy. Plus, popcorn is 100% whole grain, and since it’s airy, the portion is generous and filling.
If you're looking for even more ideas, head here for some of my favorite healthy sweet snacks. Happy snacking, friends!!