August 12, 2023
What if there could be a way to have your cake and eat it too? Hy-Vee registered dietitians believe you can both savor something sweet and feel your best by following a few key tips. By doing so, you’ll see how you can skip the food guilt and satisfy your hunger in the evenings. It turns out there is an optimal time during the day to enjoy your dessert for increased energy, improved blood sugar control, and better sleep.
One may wonder if it would be best to avoid sweets all together. However, we know restrictive diets statistically are likely to fail or even backfire. When we restrict, the brain tends to focus more on wanting what is put off limits. As dietitians, we believe food should be enjoyed and savored and that all foods can fit on our plates – including sweets. We want to promote eating without guilt. We believe in both eating for health and enjoyment. We also know there are a few effective tips and tricks for the most optimal timing of sweets that can be beneficial for health. For many this may be a more realistic meet-in-the-middle approach.
So, when is the best time to eat sweets? Research has found that there is actually an optimal time to eat dessert. The best time to eat something sweet is right after a balanced lunch or dinner after you’ve already eaten fiber from vegetables and adequate protein and fats. The fiber, protein and fat in your stomach will slow down digestion and prevent the sweet food from spiking your blood sugar as high as it would on an empty stomach. Plus, since you know you can still have sweets, you won’t feel restricted. Rather, when a craving is calling, it is easy to set aside the sweet to enjoy after your next balanced meal. If you are used to snacking before bed, try moving up that snack to fall directly after dinner instead.
Snacking before bed is super common, especially since it can be a time when cravings kick in. This isn’t ideal since eating something sweet right before bed is more likely to spike blood sugar. Between the blood sugar spike and your digestive track having to work overnight, eating before bed can disrupt sleep. One symptom of a blood sugar spike followed by a crash during the night is waking up sweaty and with a pounding heart. To avoid this, try the following tips.
To set yourself up to be satisfied with one portion of something sweet, make half of your dinner plate vegetables. Try doubling up on vegetables at the start of your meal. Perhaps enjoy both a salad and a cooked vegetable, then move on to the protein on your plate, and end the meal with your sweet food as dessert. The fiber from the vegetables and the protein from your meal will help provide satiety, so you won’t even have to think much about “portion control” of the dessert. You will be surprised to see how satisfied you feel with a few bites of something sweet at the end of a balanced meal. This will come more intuitively if you are first filling up on vegetables and protein.
With an adequate-sized balanced dinner, you may be surprised to find you do not need a snack in the evening before bed. However, if you do notice yourself feeling hungry later at night, try to choose a more protein-rich snack rather than something sweet. Some ideas are a handful of nuts, a string cheese, some Greek yogurt, peanut butter and celery, a protein shake, a glass of water or a cup of tea. The goal is to help you fall asleep easily without any hunger pains but while also avoiding a stomach that is feeling too full. Notice if you are experiencing hunger versus reaching for something out of habit or to cope with emotions like stress, boredom or feelings of sadness.
One of the most common comments from customers is they feel extreme hunger and cravings in the evening if they go all day without eating much. Eating a balanced breakfast and a balanced lunch can help you be more in control of your cravings later in the day. For breakfast, aim to choose something low in sugar with a good source of protein. Try to find something that keeps you feeling satisfied for about 4 hours. Research has found that by avoiding sugar and staying balanced at breakfast, you will then be able to enjoy dessert later in the day, such as after dinner, and stay more balanced then too! For a filling breakfast, try our Dietitian Picks of the Month: Catalina Crunch cereal with Ripple Plant-Based Milk.
Catalina Crunch cereal has 0 grams of sugar, 11 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, making it a better choice for stabilizing blood sugars. Made with a plant-based blend of pea protein, potato fiber, corn fiber and chicory root fiber, Catalina Crunch is a healthier breakfast cereal option or great as a topping for yogurt. It is sweetened with natural sweeteners allulose and stevia.
Ripple Foods is a leader in developing innovative and delicious dairy-free products. Using protein from yellow peas, Ripple Foods creates creamy and protein-filled products like Plant-Based Milk, Protein Shakes, and Half & Half. Ripple delivers on both high-quality taste and nutrition. Ripple products are gluten-free, 100% vegan and made without nuts, lactose and soy.
Here is one idea for a dessert recipe to try after dinner to satisfy your sweet tooth!
Summery Peach Cobbler
All You Need:
1/3 cup vegan butter
1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of cinnamon
1 cup Ripple Original Milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 to 5 peaches, peeled and sliced
All you do:
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Melt the butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon; add Ripple milk and vanilla extract – stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).
- Lay the peaches over the batter in a single layer, do not stir or mix.
- Bake for 30 – 45 minutes.
- Serve warm or cool!
Recipe adapted from: https://www.ripplefoods.com/blog/recipes/milk-recipes/summery-peach-cobbler/. If you’re unsure how to get started, consider speaking with a Hy-Vee registered dietitian who can help you create a plan that works for you. Learn even more tips like these from Hy-Vee dietitians and our new Balancing Your Blood Sugar Program. This is an action-based group program for those with prediabetes, diabetes or gestational diabetes. It’s also suitable for individuals looking to lower inflammation, reduce their sugar intake and control their cravings. Register online now. The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.