It’s easy for us to tell patients to just stop consuming sweets, but this doesn’t have to mean the end of enjoying treats. After all, a kid’s gotta be a kid. Parents and their kids feel so dejected when we tell them they have to stop “free sugar” to protect their livers and prevent them from becoming diabetic. “So, he can’t have any sweets, ever again? No dessert?” Not quite. Just try to tell an angsty 11-year-old they can’t have any treats ever again. It won’t go well. It’s (thankfully) not that simple.

It is part of normal human development to share pleasurable moments with food. To completely deprive a person of this with no end in sight would just be torture. As Michael Pollan put it in Food Rules: “treat treats as treats.” Many folks are inadvertently eating dessert multiple times a day. A cup of sweetened strawberry yogurt at breakfast? Dessert. A glass of juice to go with that? Dessert. Packaged, processed salad dressing (Yes, really. These are loaded with added sugars. Try to find bottled salad dressings that don’t have any added sugar or worse, artificial sweetener)? Dessert. Afternoon pick-me-up Frappuccino? Dessert. Almost 80% of all foods that come in a package in the United States have added sugar in them, and they aren’t even sweet. This is what we cut out full stop. We break the vicious cycle of sugar addiction.        

One will much more enjoy REAL dessert made with Real. Food. when one is intentional about the dessert. A good rule of thumb we tell families is that they can plan for a sugar-laden homemade dessert once a week. Think strawberry shortcake in the summer, apple pie in the fall. Made at home. Made with love. Meant to savor. Plus, it just plain tastes better than the store-bought stuff laden with chemical preservatives, trans fats, and who knows what else.

For those days that you are not planning on savoring your special sugar treat, there are enjoyable treats that are metabolically friendly. I myself love a good square of dark chocolate after dinner. Look for 70% or higher, where the amount of nutrients will outweigh the negative effects of the small amount of sugar in there. Plus, dark chocolate has fiber in it! When I’m feeling particularly ~fancy~ I split open a date (or a few), spoon some raw cashew butter or other nut butter in there, and top it with some dark chocolate and a few flakes of sea salt. Protein, fat, fiber, gooey, rich, satisfying, bits of crunch, heaven. No deprivation.

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