By Kelsey Albright, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow
The new year almost inevitably brings dieting difficulties for many of us, but many people realize that a diet isn’t always the best approach to losing weight and keeping it off. Changing your eating and exercise habits can have lifelong effects on your health, but doing so is more easily said than done. It can be a struggle, especially at the end of the day when you feel like you have eaten so healthfully and you just need a little something sweet. It’s important to remember at these times that small indulgences are necessary for a balanced diet—so you don’t find yourself binging after too much deprivation.
Try getting your sweet fix in with some of these healthier options:
Banana and peanut butter: A great option because of the decadent texture. Make sure to not go overboard with this because it still has a lot of sugar in it but it also has a lot of redeeming nutrients like protein and potassium.
Greek yogurt and frozen berries: A fast and easy dessert, frozen berries are easier to keep on hand for when you need something sweet, and the Greek yogurt is a super food with plenty of lean protein.
Pomegranate seeds and dark chocolate: The pomegranate seeds are a challenge to separate from the rest of the fruit but it can be fun and satisfying to take your time eating them. A little bit of dark chocolate balances the pomegranate seeds out and provides antioxidants.
Apples and honey: Another traditional sweet snack, honey has antibacterial properties and you know what they say about having an apple a day.
Popcorn: Popcorn can be a slippery slope with outrageous amounts of sodium and fat when things go awry. However, I maintain that this can be a healthy, whole grain snack when it’s done right. Buying the kernels loose instead of pre-bagged allows you to make it yourself on the stove, giving you total control about the amount of butter, salt and flavors you add (no more fake butter!). If you want savory, go ahead and add Old Bay or other spices or seasoning (just watch the salt); if you’re looking for sweet, add sugar to the pot you’ll be popping it in for some homemade kettle corn.
Chocolate milk: Typically chocolate milk evokes memories of childhood, but it can actually be a satisfying dessert. It’s especially good as a post-workout snack, with the necessary sugars and protein that your body needs for recovery.
Wine: A great standby, wine can be the perfect dessert to wind down before bed as long as you don’t go overboard (no more than one glass). It might even lower your blood pressure and provide you with excellent antioxidants. Be careful though, alcohol can be known to stimulate appetites. If this describes you, it might be prudent to opt for a different dessert.
Tea or hot cocoa: Tea can be an excellent antioxidant filled option with virtually no calories (unless of course you take sugar and cream in your tea). If you are looking for something sweet, hot cocoa might fit the bill. It doesn’t have many nutritionally redeeming qualities, especially if you are making it with water not milk, but calorie-wise you aren’t doing much damage, and sometimes you just need something sweet.
So with these new tools to curb your nightly sweets craving, go forth and embrace the new year, knowing that a more healthful lifestyle isn’t out of reach.