Sticking with a healthy eating plan can be hard. Often, we equate “eating healthy” with “no dessert,” but that doesn’t have to be the case.

If you follow Vitaerobics, then you know that we believe in the 90-10 rule. This means that you should eat healthy 90% of the time, but also leave yourself some space for small indulgences. These “treats” will keep you from feeling deprived of the foods you love and make staying on that healthy eating plan much harder.

You can still enjoy dessert if you eat smart and learn to make some healthy substitutions. The key is to pay attention to what you are eating and eat it in moderation. Here are 6 tips for enjoying dessert without feeling guilty:

Watch what you eat. Not every carrot cake or chocolate chip cookie is created the same. Some have loads of extra butter, nuts or frosting. You can still eat great tasting desserts, but try to pick the ones with less fat and sugar.

Try the “5 Bites” rule. Studies show that we get the most pleasure from the first 3-5 bites of a particular food. After that, our taste buds are “dulled” and the pleasure reduced. So, next time you eat dessert, really enjoy the first 5 bites and then put your fork or spoon down. Most times those initial bites will be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Pick fruit first. Some fruit, especially pineapple, plum and mango, can be the basis for great desserts because they are naturally sweet. They also include lots of vitamins and fiber, so they are much better for you than cookies or cakes. Try a fresh fruit parfait or just cut up some fruit and top with whipped cream.

Substitute in recipes. If you’re making your own desserts, try substituting healthier ingredients to reduce the fat, sugar and calories. Apple sauce is a great substitute for oil or butter in baking. You can also cut the amount of sugar in many recipes by 1/4 or more and barely even notice the difference.

Go for the (dark) chocolate. If you really need a “chocolate hit” then go for the dark. Dark chocolate is healthier for you because it contains more phytonutrients and anti-oxidants than milk chocolate. It also contains far less sugar (and fewer calories) than milk chocolate. And it just tastes better!

Drink your dessert. Try a fruit smoothie or milk shake for dessert. Because of their liquid volume, they are more filling you up faster and since you just finished a meal, you should have less “volume” to fill. You will likely find that you will be satisfied with just a few ounces, or when eating out, you can split one with a friend.

So, eat healthy and enjoy dessert! Remember, healthy choices each day can transform a family for generations! What choices will you make today?

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