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4 Tactics To Health Up Dessert And Survive The Fattening Fall Season

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For many, the start of fall marks the beginning of pumpkin season, and with it, a wave of delicious treats that everyone loves to nosh on. But if you’re not careful, all of your clean eating efforts will be ruined by an endless spree of cookies, cake, and other seasonal temptations.

I know that it’s a tad on the early side, but having a game plan ready for the holidays—especially when you’re trying to live a fit lifestyle—is key to surviving this gluttonous season. Use these tactics to revamp your favorite desserts, avoid unnecessary snacking, and navigate high-calorie events that are likely to hinder your diet efforts.


Tactic #1: Learn The Best Substitutions

What’s a hungry guy (or gal) to do when he/she really wants a treat, but doesn’t want to ruin their plan to get ripped? Finding healthy recipes that aren’t crazy high in calories, but still taste pretty good can be a challenge.

Use these easy substitutions to “health up” your favorite cookies, cakes, and other decadent sweets:

  • Expand Your Flour Arsenal — Instead of using refined, all-purpose flour, try using whole grain flour. Whole wheat flour is a great alternative and can be used to cut the amount of white flour in a recipe by half. If you’re gluten/grain-free, seek out alternatives like amaranth flour, buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, or even green banana flour (it sounds weird, but trust me it’s worth it). Using fiber-rich flour will keep you fuller longer, even when you’re eating sweets. Whole grain products also tend to produce a smaller inflammatory response when compared to their refined counterparts.
  • Sweeten Smarter — There are plenty of sweeteners you can use other than white sugar. Try using coconut sugar, stevia, or even raw honey in moderation. Avoid products like brown sugar (it’s just as refined as white) and agave nectar (it actually yields a higher glycemic load than white sugar).
  • Use Fruit — Don’t be afraid to add fruit as a way to naturally sweeten desserts. Mashed banana, applesauce, and pumpkin are three easy alternatives, but carrots and zucchini work wonders as well. Just don’t fall for the trap that adding fruit to your dessert suddenly makes it healthy. Simply think of it as a better way to sweeten cookies and pastries without adding refined carbs.
  • Chia Power — If you’re vegan, want to cut out all forms of dietary fat, or just ran out of eggs (probably from your omelet in the morning), you can make a ‘chia egg’ out of water and chia seeds. Simply combine one tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes before adding to your dough or batter.
  • Shrink It — This isn’t exactly a substitution idea, but it definitely makes for healthier baking. Make your cookies, cakes, muffins, and other baked goods in much smaller sizes. Mini-cupcakes and cookies create automatic portion control. You’ll think twice about reaching for a third or fourth cupcake—even if they’re super tiny. Miniature sized versions of your favorite desserts will help you feel like you can have your cake and eat it too—literally.

For more information about baking substitutions, check out this fantastic infographic.


Tactic #2: Learn How to Navigate High-Sugar/Derailing Situations

Without a doubt, there are going to be Halloween parties, fall festivals, and other get togethers before the holiday season starts. That’s why it’s best to test out strategies now at low-risk situations to see what works for you. Are you the kind of person that struggles to resist the candy jar or dessert table at work? Or do you tend to overdo it at happy hour on drinks and high-cal, fattening appetizers?

Figure out those triggers now. Determining what tips you over the edge and leads to binging or overeating is crucial, especially when you’re at parties, family gatherings, and other events that can potentially derail your diet.

If you struggle with cookies, candies, and treats that are brought to your office every week, stock your desk with healthy snacks that you can reach for instead. Better yet, always try to keep a low-calorie beverage at your desk—like a bottle of water or herbal tea—to curb cravings. Or take a route that avoids where the food is.

Bottom line, finding out what sets you off food-wise is crucial during the holiday ‘off season.’ You’ll have a much better handle on things when you find yourself at two Thanksgivings in one day (yes, this has personally happened to me) or a slew of holiday parties and gatherings.


Tactic #3: It’s Just a Cookie

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Let’s say you went a little overboard at an office party. Remember that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you are going to indulge and overeat. It happens to the most diligent trainers and even the cleanest eaters.

Keeping yourself in a state of deprivation is only going to contribute to anxiety, cravings, and a potential binge session. Allowing yourself a weekly cheat simply helps keep you sane in a season fraught with temptation.


Tip #4: Whip Up a Lean Recipe

And of course, not every delicious fall food is bad for you. Need a few lean, dessert-like indulgences? Whip up any of our healthy fall recipe ideas — they’re loaded with protein, fiber, nutrients, and seasonal fall flavor.

Taji Mortazavi

Taji Mortazavi

Contributing Author at LeanItUP
Taji Mortazavi is the founder of We're Talking About Food. Devoted to democratizing health, Taji believes that anyone CAN live a healthy lifestyle regardless of medical condition, career, budget or other secondary factors.

Besides contributing to Lean it UP, Taji has been published for her health and fitness advice in journals like Thought Catalog. Taji has been supported by numerous health and fitness companies such as Navitas Naturals, Glutino, and Holystic Hut. Support Taji by visiting her site and finding her on Facebook and Twitter.
Taji Mortazavi
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