Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Show me Something Sweet.

I love desserts!  I really feel that a large percent of my early weight loss success can be attributed to keeping desserts a part of my normal eating routine.  My initial approach was to merely eat less.  By breaking everything down to a points value I simply started each day with a budget and subtracted as I went through my day.  Most days I was able to eat to satiety and still have a handful of points left for a bit of something after dinner.

My favorite everyday dessert is slow churned low fat ice cream (or frozen yogurt).  Perhaps like me you tried low fat ice cream a decade ago and, threw it away.  The texture was wrong, the flavors were limited, and it just did not satisfy a craving for something creamy and cold.  Well, hallelujah, times have changed!  Now I can go into most any grocery store and pick from a vast array of reduced fat options.  I still read the nutrition label when choosing among the flavors.  Some flavors start at such a high amount of fat that even after it is reduced there is more than I want in a single serving.  I try to stick with the flavors that come in at 4 grams of fat or less per serving.

On a regular basis I like to sprinkle my ice cream with a little something just to make it a bit more fun and add texture.  It adds a few more calories, but with a little creativity there are many choices that won't break that bank.  Here are a few sprinkle ideas: smashed graham cracker, semi sweet mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, a few mini chocolate graham cookies, any sliced fruit or berries, a few gummy bears, or a few toasted nuts.

The key to enjoying desserts and staying on track is to measure, measure, measure your portions.  If you want to eat straight out of the carton, get an empty carton, measure your serving into it, and then go to town.  My preferred way to measure is with a food scale.  By placing the bowl on the scale and then zeroing it out, I can measure the weight of my serving, saving my measuring cups for other tasks and often I get to eat more too.  I have found that the majority of the time when I use the scale to measure it yields more food than if I had used a measuring cup.  Hello, sign me up for that!

As much as I love ice cream it is not always what I am in the mood for.  I like to keep a box of No Pudge! Fat Free Brownies in the cupboard just in case I need them; sometimes I do.  If you haven't tried these you are missing out big time, (unless you don't eat chocolate in which case I'll catch you with the next one).  Go to the store and look for the pink box.  The basic directions are good but the alternate method with applesauce is out of this world!  Seriously.   I have a small toaster oven sized baking pan that works great for a single batch.  They come out pretty sticky so I foil line the pan and then spray the foil with cooking spray.  When they come out of the oven I lift the foil out and peel it off before cutting into the brownies.

Another favorite dessert in our house is a fruit crisp.  Pretty much any fruit makes a great crisp especially when it is in season.  While there are many recipes out in the world for making a crisp, I won't share a specific recipe at the moment because I don't have one.  I tend to experiment with slightly different approaches every time I whip one up.  I can, however, give you my collection of fruit crisp tips:

  • Use Splenda or Stevia, rather than sugar, to sweeten the fruit.  A little goes a long way and once you get the topping on you won't notice a difference in the taste.  
  • Stick to real brown sugar for the topping.  Streusel is all about texture and the brown sugar alternatives that I have come across just don't hold up in that department.
  • Use a butter alternative to cut calories.  I like Smart Balance.  Also, use less butter than the recipe calls for your topping will still be toasty and buttery and you won't miss the extra fat.  If it does look too dry you can add more but it is harder to subtract.
  • Graham cracker crumbs added to the oats in your topping add an unexpected flavor.
  • Use extra oats; they get a great toasty flavor and boost the overall nutrient content.

Finally, I have no qualms about starting the day with a serving of fruit crisp over a scoop of plain Greek yogurt.  Life, as they say, is short, and it is best to eat dessert first!

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