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How To Make Healthy Dessert Choices

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(credit: CBS) Natalie Nyhus
Natalie Nyhus joined the WCCO-TV team in January of 2011. She repor...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you’re watching you weight, it’s probably best to skip the dessert. Sugar is a quick way to blow your diet. But if you just have to have a sweet treat, you can make choices that are better than others.

When it comes to sugar, The American Heart Association recommends that women eat no more than 6 teaspoons a day, or about 100 calories. For men, the recommendation is no more than 150 calories or 9 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Yet most Americans get about 350 daily calories from sugar, enough to gain almost 40 pounds a year.

Here are some tips from Web MD that can keep you on the right track when it comes to sweets.

When it comes to cakes and pies, you’d think that a slice of fruit pie would be better for you than a wedge of chocolate cake. That’s actually false. Apple pie starts with a healthy ingredient, but add sugar and two buttery piecrusts, and an average piece has about the same calories as a piece of chocolate cake with frosting. The best advice here is to eat a sliver of pie and skip the crust.

Perhaps the biggest problem with desserts is that portion sizes are much larger now. Twenty years ago, the average chocolate chip cookie was about 55 calories, and you could fit two side-by-side in the palm of your hand. Now just one is the size of your palm and has a whopping 275 calories.

If you make your cookies matchbook-sized, then two cookies with a glass of nonfat milk is a reasonable 200 calories.

Speaking of cookies, we all love Girl Scout cookie season, but it’s so easy to polish off a whole sleeve in a sitting, and you know that’s not healthy.

Girl Scout cookies get a merit badge for having no trans fats, but the most popular — Thin Mints and Tagalongs — are among the least healthy. Tagalong peanut butter patties have the most total fat with 9 grams from two cookies. And, despite their name, a four-cookie serving of Thin Mints adds up to 8 grams of fat.

Try the Do-Si-Do cookies. A two-cookie serving of those contains 110 calories and only 1.5 grams of unhealthy saturated fat.

If you must have a brownie, make them yourself so you know what’s in them. For fewer calories and close to the same taste, swap all or some of the oil or butter in a brownie recipe with unsweetened applesauce.

For a sweet and slightly fruitier flavor, switch oil or butter with mashed banana, pureed raspberries, or other fruit.

Coffee drinks can be an alternative to desserts. Just make sure you’re not getting the large sizes. A 16-ounce (i.e. “grande”) coffee with steamed whole milk and mocha syrup can be 330 calories. Even a “skinny” version with nonfat milk and no whipped cream can be 140 calories.

Here are three options that are 40 calories: a nonfat cappuccino, a coffee with two tablespoons of half-and-half, or coffee with two tablespoons of whole milk and a teaspoon of sugar.

The American Heart Association says most of our sugar consumption comes from sodas and other sweetened drinks.

When you’re craving something sweet, the best thing to do is stick with fruit or fat-free, no-sugar-added yogurt.

Another hint comes to us courtesy the banana split. Splitting desserts is a great way to please your sweet tooth. In the case of a banana split with the works, you can save about 500 calories.

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