It is true: eating healthy means saying no to fatty and high sugar foods more times than saying yes. As a pastry chef I am surrounded by 5-pound bags of good chocolate and the enticing smell of cakes, cookies and pastries coming from the oven. And, like all of us, I'm bombarded by images of sweet, salty, gooey treats all day long.
All of this has contributed to the country's obesity problem, to the rise in Type 2 Diabetes and out of control healthcare costs. All of the sugar and fat is clogging our arteries and our society.
But dessert does not have to kill us! Over the last few weeks, many of you have shared your ideas about what is #dessertworthy and we're starting the conversation about how to return dessert to its rightful place in our diets.
As this conversation grows, many asked how to resist the urge. It's hard. I have had to train myself to not constantly eat, eat, eat, as I make the treats that our customers at Marlowe, Park Tavern and Cavalier enjoy.
Here are some of the tricks I have adapted over the years to help me eat healthier and truly enjoy those special treats I make with friends and family or enjoy when I eat out.
• No sugar before noon. I start my day with an egg, tomato and toast or almond butter on toast. (You can make your own almond butter by processing toasted almonds in the food processor until smooth but buying it is simpler. I like Justin's and Trader Joe's.) Most muffins are about as healthy as a piece of layer cake. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit (out of season frozen fruit is available without added sugar). Offer your brain or body some good "fuel" to get you through the morning.
• Create some comfort foods in your food arsenal that are healthy. (For me that's brown rice with olive oil and Maldon salt, whole wheat pasta with red sauce, avocado and sliced tomato, a handful of toasted almonds with a couple small pieces of 80% chocolate), leftover roasted veggies. If you have a bad day and that chocolate chip cookie is calling your name, it's good to have other go-to options.
• When I cook veggies for dinner I always make extra. This way I have some to snack on the next day. Here's a recipe from my friend, Lidia Bastianich, for delicious veggies that are even better the next day.
• Look at food packaging and avoid all processed food with added sugar. Save your sugar calories for real desserts and real pleasure. I limit my sugar consumption to desserts - not snuck into food as a preservative. When I eat something I ask myself if it's for physical nourishment or emotional pleasure. Both are important but you have to be honest with yourself.
• When you do enjoy an occasional dessert, don't feel guilty. Guilt destroys the pleasure both physically and emotionally of the dessert and then it's a double waste of calories. When I have a dessert I enjoy every bite. Make it a conscious choice. For me an all-time favorite is a simple chocolate chip cookie.
• Portion Control: It works, I promise. Have a few bites or a thin slice of a cake or pie -- not a supersized piece. The second half of a big piece doesn't taste nearly as good as the first.
• Don't give in. Keep control. When you splurge, recognize your body chemically loves sugar and will want more. After I finish testing a lot of desserts for articles or a new restaurant menu it takes me a couple of days to not crave sugar. Instead of giving in to the craving, I will go for a walk, munch on a few nuts, call a friend or do a load of laundry - anything that keeps my body moving and my mind occupied.
• Don't eat leftover desserts. Tarts and pies taste much better the day they are made. If you have leftovers, pack them up and give them to a friend or colleague. One pie, split between 12 people at work, is better for everyone.
• At home, unless I am testing desserts or having people over for dinner, I never have desserts in my kitchen. I save desserts for when I go out to a restaurant or am entertaining.
• Know your weak points. Unlike my sister-in-law who has amazing willpower and won't touch ice cream in her freezer, my willpower is zip. If I am working at my computer or even cleaning the house, the ice cream will be calling my name, trying to lure me in, so I don't keep it in the house.
• Get pleasure out of things contradictory to desserts. Yes I like a warm juicy pie fresh from the oven but I also like not having a big butt. Life's a trade-off and you can't have everything all the time. It's the same with food.
Overall, make your dessert choices #dessertworthy. We are all so pressed for time and bombarded with quick and easy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just because they are quick doesn't mean that they are good for you or even that they taste good. By making smart choices along the way you can both eat healthy and enjoy a special sweet treat.