According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the definition of dessert is: “A usually sweet course or dish, as of fruit, ice cream or pastry, served at the end of a meal.” In England, this dish is actually often fruit (real fruit, not strawberry-flavored lollipops or orange sherbet), but here, in the good ol’ wide-load-coming-through U.S. of A, our desserts tend to fall under the ice cream/pastry category and we tend to eat them way more frequently than just at the end of a meal. From Ben & Jerry’s to smores to cherry pie to designer cupcakes to trendy gelato to Oreos and Twinkies, Americans are suckers for the sweet stuff. Yes, these dainties are yummy, but you don’t have to be a genius to know they aren’t very good for you.
So, are you now sighing and rolling your eyes, assuming you’re about to read another article that suggests you swap grapes for gummy bears or nonfat yogurt for New York Super Fudge Chunk? You’ll have to read this one-year anniversary edition of the IE Weekly’s “Mind Body Spirit” column to find out.
Truth be told, I, your trusty health-fanatic M.B.S columnist, love dessert. And, having been raised a hippie-kid who had to endure a whole lot of whole-wheat, molasses, carob-chip cookies, I can tell you that now I insist upon the biggest, baddest, most decadent desserts in town. Thus, unless you’re Diabetic, I’m not going to tell you to live life sans sugar.
That said, there are certainly some smarter ways to dine on your favorite delectables.
Usually loaded with fat and sugar, most desserts pose a problem because they pack a lot of cholesterol and/or calories into relatively small packages. The key is to watch your portions. I don’t believe in “Everything in Moderation” because that would have to include whip-its and licking a deadly blowfish, but dessert in moderation is definitely doable. Try to limit your dessert intake to once a day at the very most (plus, you’ll enjoy it more the less you have it), and then maintain control over how much you eat. For instance, most ice cream is around 150-200 calories for a half-cup. Instead of sitting down in front of the TV with the whole carton and a spoon, measure out a serving, top it with sliced bananas, strawberries, Hershey’s syrup and/or a reasonable slice of angel food cake, and you have a satisfying dessert that you can deal with in a healthy diet.
Also keep in mind that some desserts are better than others. A slice of pumpkin pie (1/8 of a nine-inch pie, no whipped cream) is about 320 calories, which isn’t actually all that bad. Pecan pie, on the other hand, comes in at about 500 calories for the same size slice of pie. Make your selection based on how many calories you’ve already taken in/plan to take in that day. Then, before eating something really bad for you, decide if it’s worth it—your mom’s red velvet cake is probably way better than generic ice cream from Denny’s. If you just have to indulge in a higher-calorie treat, try to bump up your exercise a little more the next day (running one mile burns about 100 calories).
If you just need something sweet, sometimes a Fig Newton, a PowerBar or fresh fruit with a dusting of powder sugar will do the trick. But if you really, really want a brownie, eat the brownie (just one) as otherwise you will most likely eat four Fig Newtons, an apple and then a brownie anyway.
Yes, Inland Empire’ers, you can have your cake and eat it, too.