I'm on a Diet! What Can I Have for Dessert?

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Once, when working in a health food restaurant, a disgruntled mother approached me. It was an open kitchen and one of the servers had pointed me out as the pastry cook. She wanted to know what her children could eat off the dessert menu since they were lactose-intolerant, gluten-intolerant, allergic to nuts, and didn't like chocolate.

"Fruit?" I suggested.

She threw my ingredient book at me and stormed off. I wasn't trying to be cheeky, but I really didn't have much dessert-wise that would fit every dietary issue her kids had. We did gluten-free, but those options included nuts. We did ice cream, but it used goat's milk. And chocolate was all over that dessert menu.

In restaurants, most adopt the attitude, "If we can, we will." I gladly would have cut some fruit for her kiddos. We want you to have the best experience as well as a great meal in our establishment. Unfortunately, not only do we not know the guidelines for every diet that exists, but there are times when we just don't have the ability to make substitutions.

See also: Make Your Own Nut Butters

Since Paleo, Eco-Atkins, and Whole 30 have become words I hear dropped in restaurants and I even have customers come and ask me what I offer that is (fill in the diet)-friendly, I have been trying to keep up with different diets and what their requirements are. Can I just say there are a lot of diets out there?

I'm all for people eating in a manner that works for their bodies, especially if it means cutting out processed foods. We are all vastly different in what our body needs and will tolerate. Even though you're on a diet, we do all often crave a little sweet, so what can we do to feed that craving?

PALEO- No: dairy, grains, refined sugar (coconut sugar, honey and maple syrup are okay), no peanut butter/peanuts. Yes: Nuts, seeds, fruit (in moderation), coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut flour, nut flours, dark chocolate (most Paleo sites I've been looking at say as long as the chocolate is 70 percent or higher, it's good for the Paleo diet), cacao nibs, 100 percent cacao. I've also read that grass-fed butter is okay, but then it says no dairy, so on that point I'm confused.

But there are a crazy amount of tasty Paleo dessert recipes out there. Personally, I'm an ice cream freak, so I would make up a little coconut milk ice cream (steep your coconut milk with mint to make a mint ice cream) and top it with chocolate magic shell.

Chocolate Magic Shell:

4 ounces 70 percent (or higher) chocolate bar, chopped into pieces 3 ounces coconut oil (depending on the chocolate you buy, you may have to adjust your oil to a little more or a little less) 2-3 tsp honey (optional)

Melt everything over a double boiler (or zapped in the microwave), stirring often.

Place in a squeeze bottle or spoon over ice cream.

WHOLE 30 - Whole 30 seems to be a slightly stricter version of Paleo. Still following in the theme of no dairy, grain, refined sugars, no peanut butter/peanuts, no protein powder. Yes: Nuts, seeds, fruit, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flour, 100 percent cacao. The Whole 30 website straight up calls you out before you even think of cheating, and disallows any Paleo-esque baking creations or making of date-egg-coconut milk creamer for your coffee (I'm not into creamer, but that sounds delicious!).

Sorry, Whole 30 friends, and please don't throw my ingredient book in my face, but I think you're looking at some fruit for dessert here. You can always whip up a little chilled coconut milk to mimic whipped cream. No vanilla extract though, use some vanilla bean powder to give it a little something extra.

Or try the frozen banana in the blender to make a tasty banana ice cream, but no chocolate unless 100% cacao.

ECO-ATKINS - My mom lost a lot of weight on Atkins, and my in-laws currently practice an Atkins diet. The new Eco-Atkins is a vegetarian version of the Atkins diet, with participants eating 31 percent plant proteins, 43 percent plant fats, and 26 percent carbs. Some do incorporate chicken and fish into this diet, but for the most part, it is advised to stick to plant-based foods. No: processed food, breads, sugars, honey, maple syrup, limit starches, dairy and fruits. Yes: high-fiber foods like low-starch veggies, oats, barley, nuts, vegetable oils, soy products, avocado, lentils, seeds, peanut butter, artificial sweeteners.

I guess the reason I don't love the Atkins or even Eco-Atkins diet is that I hate artificial sweeteners, and since even natural sweeteners like dates and honey have more carbs in them due to the natural sugars, these are a big no-no on the Atkins diet. However, I did find an awesome recipe for low-carb peanut butter chocolate fudge, that I would make, but I'm planning on substituting coconut sugar for the artificial sweetener.

Also, as you progress in the Atkins diet, they allow for small amounts of fresh fruit, which is a great option for your sweet-tooth cravings. I'm also thinking you could do an amazing little fruit with baked oats, using oats, almond butter, nuts and seeds tossed together as the crumble over some apples with cinnamon. There are tons of Atkins/Eco-Atkins friendly dessert recipes on pinterst.

RAW FOOD DIET - Raw diet means you can only heat food to a temperature of 115 degrees, because it states that once you go past that temperature, it destroys the nutritional value of the food. No: Processed foods or heating over 115 degrees. Yes: Anything raw.

I always associated raw food diet with Woody Harrelson, who is kind of an odd duck. While I don't plan on giving up cooking my food over 115 degrees anytime soon, there are so many awesome raw food dessert recipes out there, that I'm kind of excited to try some of them. Raw Strawberry Twizzlers? Or these Raw Almond Joy Bars that I've just bumped up to the top of my must make list?

To all my friends out there with food intolerances, issues, or just wanting to create a healthier lifestyle, I commend you. I cannot stay on a diet at all, so I realize it is not an easy thing to do and I hope you are still eating well and feeling great!

Rachel Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, and single-handedly keeps her local cheese shop in business. You can get more information about her pastry at www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or on her blog at www.croissantinthecity.com.

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