By Sheela Prakash
I am pretty sure I am the only member of my family who was born with a sweet tooth. It’s so strong, in fact, that I often think I somehow obtained my father and sister’s, too. I protest when they don’t even want to glance at the dessert menu when we’re out to dinner or when they politely decline the cookies I bake for them when they visit. This is all to say, I know how to handle a sugar craving because, well, I get them frequently. While I will always ask for that dessert menu, my preferred way to curb the desire for something sweet is to reach for something that has the added benefit of making me feel good. Here are 5 of my favorites:
1. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate may not be as sweet as milk or white chocolate, but I’ll argue it even more fiercely satisfies a sweet tooth. That’s because instead of it simply being a sugar bomb, it’s got complexity — it’s a bit bitter and extra rich. This makes even a small square taste more decadent than a whole bag of M&M’s ever will. Oh, and dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, which I am pretty sure makes my heart happier and therefore, a little sweeter, too.
If you need an immediate rush of sugar to your brain, grab a date. This sticky fruit is jam-packed with sweetness and could easily be considered the truest form of nature’s candy. It’s not all sugar, though. Dates are also fiber-rich, which means you’ll get balanced energy from their sweetness that’s actually good for you. How you want to enjoy them is up to you. Snacking on one or two all on their own is near perfect but I will say I really love stuffing them with things like nut butter, almonds, soft cheese, and unsweetened shredded coconut.
3. Roasted Sweet Potato
This is often how evenings go at my house: I begin to crave dessert even before we’ve sat down to dinner, usually when I am just beginning to cook. I make a plan to have a scoop of ice cream or chocolate after dinner but then I sit down to a meal involving sweet potatoes and magically find my sweet tooth completely satisfied by the time dinner is over and my interest in that ice cream is lost. It might sound crazy that a vegetable can kick my dessert craving but it’s absolutely true. I find the natural sweetness of the tuber is strongest after it’s been roasted, so that the sugars caramelize and become their best selves. Try it and I think you’ll quickly see what I mean.
4. Banana Ice Cream
Speaking of ice cream, when I do feel I need my sweetness with a side of cold, creaminess, 1-ingredient banana ice cream has my back. I’ll never say no to traditional ice cream but this clever hack is a fun twist that’s a little lighter and extra feel-good since all it’s simply frozen bananas that have been blended into a soft serve-like texture. If you’re up for adding a second ingredient, chocolate chips, ground cinnamon, or a drizzle of honey take this treat to the next level.
5. Herbal Tea
Herbal tea, and really all teas, aren’t typically considered sweet unless you stir sugar or honey into them, but take another sip before you add sweetener and you might be surprised by how much natural sweetness some varieties actually contain. An after-dinner mug of chamomile, rooibos, or cinnamon tea can settle a sweet tooth without the need for a slice of cake (though I don’t need to tell you that a slice would of course pair quite well). Let a few whole spices like cardamom pods or star anise steep in your cup with your tea for an extra note of natural sweetness and flavor, too.