15 truly healthy sweets

A few months ago, a client came to me completely frustrated with himself for his inability to control his sweet tooth.  He kept a food journal for a week prior to our appointment and was shocked to realize he ate sweets up to five times a day.  He knew how bad it was for his diabetes, but he felt trapped by his sweet cravings. 

We delved a little deeper into the situation and found that he usually first turned to some type of sugar free or diet sweet to satisfy his sweet cravings.  It never really did they trick (do they ever?) so eventually he would go back for more.  And after 2 or 3 (or 4) trips back to the pantry, he would finally give in and have a big slice of cake or a giant bowl of ice cream.  
Diet sweets rarely are satisfying, or for that matter, healthy.  Some research indicates artificial sweeteners may trigger more sweet cravings by confusing our brains way of regulating caloric intake.  Because fat is satiating, so you may not receive a signal that you're full with fat free foods.  Also, the “free” or “low” label can play jedi mind tricks and fool you into eating larger portions than you normally would.  If it's rich flavor your craving, diet foods rarely taste very good, if anything just passable.  So this viscious circle my client was stuck in wasn't altogether surprising.  
If you’re craving a sweet, I feel it's better to indulge in a small amount of the real thing rather than rely on diet food.  But there are so many healthy, satisfying and most of all, delicious sweets made with real foods that don't rely on refined flour, butter and added sugars.  Here's a list of my fifteen favorite truly healthy sweets.  

1. Okay, so it’s an obvious one, but dark chocolate really is good for you.  Plain ‘ole dark chocolate gets a little boring, so I like to look for interesting flavor combinations.  Endangered Species is one of my favorite brands, not only for their sustainable business practices, but their delicious flavor combinations.  The organic line is packed with interesting South American superfoods like lucuma, acai and maca.  Trader Joe’s has a great variety too – their dark chocolate with sea salt is to die for! 2. I shared a breakfast chia pudding with you, which is simple to adapt into a chocolatey dessert simply by adding cocoa powderOther fun add ins - cocoa nibs, toasted coconut flakes, a swirl of full fat coconut milk, pure maple syrup or fresh berries. 3. Many are surprised to learn popcorn is a whole grain.  Pop popcorn using my handy brown bag trick or with a little coconut oil in a skillet (with a lid – duh).  Drizzle with a little honey or pure maple syrup, then dust with cinnamon. 4. I am literally drinking (and loving!) this as I type – blend half a frozen banana with ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder and a couple ice cubes for a healthy chocolate milkshake.  I put Oaxacan spin on mine with ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne and a tablespoon of cacao nibs.  5. Admit it.  You were one of those people who used to squirt redi-whip straight onto your tongue.   Coconut whipped cream is much healthier totally simple to make.   Swirl in berries pureed with a squirt of lemon juice for a healthy take on Martha Stewart’s fool recipe.    6. There’s a nasty rumor going around that sorbet is a healthier alternative to ice cream.  Sure, it’s lower in fat, but most are simply fruit flavored sugar water.  The average sorbet has 4-5 teaspoons in a half cup serving, about the same amount as an equal sized serving of Ben & Jerrys.  Unless your choosing a sorbet made with 100% fruit ("made with real fruit" isn't the same thing!), that sugar isn't the natural fruit sugars.  Luckily, you're just minutes away from the richest, fruitiest sorbet you've ever tried.  Blend frozen chunks of fruit, like mango or pineapple with a squirt of lemon or lime juice and maybe a couple fresh mint leaves until it forms a creamy sorbet. 7. There are a million and one recipes for raw balls.  Don't know what a raw ball is?  Don't worry, I just made the word up.  Raw balls are basically made from ingredients like oats, nuts and almond meal bound together with dried fruit, nut butter or coconut oil.  Try these coconut snowballs, oatmeal chocolate chip balls, or this homemade take on coco-roons. 8. Did you know instant  hot chocolate is a hidden source of icky trans fats?   Now that it’s getting cooler out, I like to sip on homemade hot cocoa, which is just as simple to make. Just heat up a cup of your choice of dairy and stir in a scoop of dark cocoa powder. Sweeten with a little honey or pure maple syrup.  9. Secret ingredients for vegan pudding?  Silken tofu and a food processor 10. You've heard of banana ice cream by now, right?  If not, this trick will change your life.  Take a frozen banana, cut into cubes and blend until it forms a creamy "ice cream".  No sugar needed!  It’s pretty awesome on it’s own, but I've seen all sorts of creative takes on it like this banana, nutella and pistachio popsicle or this decadent sundae 11.   Another banana treat – slice a banana lengthwise and roast it in the oven with a little coconut oil or butter, cinnamon and honey.  Make it even more decadent with a dollop of coconut whipped cream and chopped, toasted nuts. 12. I always laugh when I read nutrition articles that urge you to reach for a yogurt instead of ice cream, cause seriously, when has yogurt ever been a satisfying alternative to cake?  That being said, I did get hooked on this cookie dough Greek yogurt, made with a scoop of peanut butter, honey, vanilla and chocolate chips! 13. Can you eat chocolate sauce by the spoonful?  I sure can.  Especially when it's made with cocoa powder, almond milk and dates. 14. Toast almonds in a small skillet with a little coconut oil.  Dust with cinnamon and maybe a drizzle of maple syrup. 15. I hardly ever eat candy anymore, not just for health reasons but I find most commercial candy bars pretty chalky and icky tasting.  But when I did eat them, Reese's were one of my favorites.  I even had a distinct way of eating them - bite off the thicker chocolate layer around the sides, then peel away the top layer of chocolate with my teeth, then finally, eat the remaining cup.  These almond butter cups kinda remind me of Reese's cup.   What are your favorite healthy treats?