Episode 67: How Often Should You Indulge In Dessert?

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Thanks for joining us for episode 67 of The Ancestral RD podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show!

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“I really enjoy desserts. Is it better to have a treat each day, or set aside a few days a week to indulge? What is a general rule of thumb for how much of a treat to have, for example one cupcake, or a small ice cream cone; and the estimated caloric value, for example 200 calories a day dedicated to treats versus 400 calories for 3 or 4 days a week?”

Whether it’s our favorite ice cream or just a cookie, dessert for some of us can be the best part of the meal!

Are you satisfied indulging every once in a while, or do you avoid sweet treats knowing you will devour the entire box of cookies?

Join us today as we discuss how to discover your own personalized approach to dessert intake. We’ll be talking about the importance of knowing how your body reacts to sweets, explaining how making values-based decisions can be more effective than creating rules around indulging, and even sharing our personal experience with sweet treats.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • Why there is no general rule or calculation to the frequency or amount of dessert you should consume
  • Laura and Kelsey’s personal experiences with sugar intake and desserts
  • How paying attention to how your body reacts to sweet treats will help you determine how often you indulge
  • The pros and cons of short term sugar restriction for people who have difficulty controlling sugar intake
  • The importance of eating adequate calories and carbohydrates in reducing sugar cravings
  • The value of working with a nutrition professional to objectively evaluate your dietary intake
  • How factors involved in the preparation and quality of a dessert can influence how much you eat of the treat
  • Why approaching treat intake as a values-based decision as situations arise can be more effective than creating rules around dessert

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode 67 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is Kelsey Marksteiner.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: We haven’t recorded in a little bit. We did a little bit of a two in day recording set up for a little bit because I’ve been traveling, and maybe Kelsey’s been having kind of a normal schedule. But, any updates that have happened since our last recording, Kelsey?

Kelsey: My life is pretty boring, but I did go camping. That was really nice.

Laura: Oh yeah!

Kelsey: Yeah, to kind of like reset, and oh man, saw the Milky Way. It was beautiful. It was awesome. That was really fun and I feel a little bit refreshed which is very nice. But other than that, life is kind of boring.

Laura: Did you get to see any shooting stars?

Kelsey: I did, I think I counted five that I saw.

Laura: Five?

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Because we’re in this shooting star zone right now and I didn’t even know this, but I was in Ohio visiting my boyfriend for the last, I don’t know, week and a half or something. And one of the nights we were driving home from a baseball game I was like the stars look really cool tonight, let’s go out and look at them because middle of nowhere Ohio, I feel like that’s going to be better star gazing than downtown Raleigh where I live.

It was funny, we were out in his truck bed just looking at the stars getting used to the darkness and I kind of jokingly said oh now I just want to see a shooting star and it’ll be perfect. Literally, I want to say like a minute after I said that, I saw the brightest shooting start I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: It was insane. I just kind of was like, oh my gosh! Is that seriously, was that a shooting star?  My boyfriend was like, yeah that was so cool! We saw a bunch of them and we looked it up and we found out that we are in the middle of an actual meteor shower kind of time apparently every August.

Kelsey: Oh, okay.

Laura: Apparently every August there is a meteor shower because of this one comet that is in circulation or something. It’s not unusual to see shooting stars in early August, but apparently there’s something about this particular year that the amount of shooting stars that you’ll see are doubled. I don’t if this is going to be relevant for when this podcast actually comes out, but I think the peak is going to be August 13th and then it’ll kind of get less and less from there.

Kelsey: Okay, yeah I thought I read something today about there being a meteor shower this weekend or something. Maybe that’s what I was reading about and didn’t really dig too deep into it. So thank you, Laura, for updating us on that August meteor shower.

Laura: Right. We just couldn’t believe how many we were seeing and we were like there has to be something happening right now.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Yeah, it was really cool. I might have to do a little trip out to the country on the weekend or something and go see the peak of it because apparently it’s going to be like one every two to three minutes or something.

Kelsey: Oh that’s awesome. I love meteor showers. They’re so fun to just lay there and watch the stars shoot over your head. It’s so cool.

Laura: Yeah, and the only downside is that I think the timing of when you’re supposed to be out there is pretty late.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I was telling Kelsey before we got on the call today that normally I’m in bed by like 10 – 10:30 and I prioritize my bedtime. And it was funny because I thought when I was going to go out to Ohio, I was like well there’s not going to be a lot to do, we’ll probably go to bed earlier. Of course we were up later doing that kind of stuff than even when I’ve been on vacation throughout the summer.

So I’m running on very little sleep. It’s just funny because it’s like I feel like sleep is one of those things that I put on the top of my totem pole when it comes to health and just feeling how brain dead I feel with even just a week worth of sleep deprivation is…I just don’t understand how people live on less than 7 hours of sleep a night.

Kelsey: God, I know.

Laura: I feel like if I ever have kids, I’m going to be in a lot of trouble. I’m like seriously, if I can speak English throughout this podcast, I will be very pleased with myself.

Kelsey: We’ll be rooting for you, Laura.

Laura: But if anyone follows me on Instagram, they would have seen that I did a lot of really fun stuff up there which I wasn’t sure what were were going to do, but we ended up having a really good time. I feel like I kind of like a slower pace of life. I don’t necessarily want to live on a farm out in the middle of nowhere, but being able to kind of escape the city and escape responsibilities for a week and a half was really nice.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I did some things that I haven’t done before like shoot a gun, and ride a motorcycle, and just kind of getting a little bit more of an experience of what people do out in the country for fun.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: We had a good time and it was funny because my boyfriend lives on a…they call it a centennial homestead in Ohio. They have centennial and bicentennial farms and that basically just means the farm has been around for at least 100 years. If it’s a bicentennial farm I think it’s 200 years or older, so pretty old buildings and that kind of stuff. My boyfriend’s family’s farm is a centennial farm, so I think the house that we were in, it’s been added onto, but the main house itself was built in the 1860s.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: Yeah, a lot of the barns are that old. It’s kind of cool. His family does have a conventional pig farm, which some people might think is…they’re offended by a conventional farming or something.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I thought it was kind of interesting to see how things were done around there because obviously that’s their livelihood.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So they have to do what they have to do to make a living with farming. Having been at, for example, Joel Salatin’s farm multiple times and seeing the difference between that and the way that farmers that grow normal crops or raise animals in a normal way, just kind of seeing the difference. And I don’t know, I definitely felt like the pig’ environment was not optimal, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Definitely smelled pretty bad, but as far as the humaneness of it, there was windows, and they had fresh air coming in, and they weren’t in crates or anything so they had room to move around and stuff. I don’t know, I had mixed feelings about it. But like I said, it wasn’t quite as bad as I had expected.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Then they also had a few cows on the farm that they raise for meat which was interesting because we always talk about eating local, and knowing where your food comes from, and supporting local farms, and that kind of stuff. Most of the meat I ate when I was there if we were cooking came from that property. Literally the cows that were there eventually would be turned into some kind of meat product, and the pigs that were there….they basically rent the barns so they don’t even own the pigs, but if a pig gets injured the people that own the pigs don’t want to use that pig for the meat.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Then the farmers can do whatever they want with the animal and so my boyfriend’s family will just kind of take care of the pig, and raise it, and then sell it for their own meat.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Everything that I was eating from a meat perspective was from literally like 100 yards away.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: A lot of the plants like vegetables and stuff I was eating came from…a lot of them will have gardens. My boyfriend’s dad has a really big garden which has corn, and zucchini, and all these veggies and stuff. It was funny because even though the stuff wasn’t organic, free range, all the fancy Paleo stuff that we mostly would promote, grass fed, all that, it was still kind of cool to know that their family knows exactly which animals that they’re eating. They go to a small butcher to get the meat processed. They’re not getting the meat from this huge industrial slaughter house.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s like a really small producer that they know the person. It just kind of felt cool to have that closeness with the food supply.

I also had some deer meat while I was there, which my boyfriend literally had killed a deer the year before and knows exactly which animal we were eating. Which again, it’s sort of unusual living in a city. You don’t really have that experience of being like I know exactly what animal I’m eating right now.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But it was cool. It was like I said, not this pristine, bucolic, grass fed animal farm. I remember at Joel Salatin’s farm the pigs were running around the forest and stuff. So it was a little bit more appealing as far as the animals’ conditions were concerned. But there was something cool about, like I said, being in a community where they do a lot of their own self sufficient eating, which was really cool to experience that.

Kelsey: That’s awesome. I think it would be interesting to see that kind of farm. Living in a city myself too, you don’t get that experience of, like you said, knowing exactly what animal you’re eating. You just don’t have that closeness to it all which I think can be a good learning experience probably. That sounds like a fun experience.

Laura: Yeah, it was cool. I definitely don’t want to live on a pig farm the rest of my life.

Kelsey: Yeah, right.

Laura: The scents, and there was a couple farms nearby. One was a dairy and then there was another one that apparently part of the way that they fertilize crops in the Midwest is that they’ll spray water that’s come from the runoff of some kind of industrial animal farm. A lot of times they’ll use chicken poo runoff to spray the crops because it’s fertilizer.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But oh my gosh, that is a smell that you don’t forget. If I was going to live on a farm at some point, it would be small, couple of animals, that kind of thing. Literally the barn that my boyfriend’s family operates has 1200 pigs in it.

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: Yeah, and they’re building another barn now. Next time I visit there may be over 2000 pigs.

Kelsey: Wow. That’s a lot.

Laura: Yeah, it’s pretty intense. But like I said, it kind of gives you a better understanding of where most food comes from.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Like I said, I mean you kind of have this idea of industrial farming as being this disgusting, dirty, just horrible, really inhumane thing. And I’m not saying that the pigs have some great life and that I would prefer animals to be raised that way.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But like said, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Kelsey: Yeah, I’m sure there’s a spectrum.

Laura: Right. Like I said, I liked knowing that they have this little small town butcher that they’ll take their animals to.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like that’s a process that you really want to have control over because when it’s those big industrial slaughter houses, a lot of stuff can go wrong.

Kelsey: Right, yeah.

Laura: Anyway, it was kind of cool and like I said, I’ll be heading back up there at some point and getting double pig exposure.

Kelsey: Smelling more chicken poop.

Laura: Yeah, hopefully not. It was really hot the week that I went. It was unseasonably hot, so I think that makes it worse.

Kelsey: Yeah, I bet.

Laura: I probably experienced the worst of northwest Ohio as far as the smell is concerned. If any of our listeners are from that area or live there now, I did have a great time. I really enjoyed myself, but I don’t think I could live there because of the smells and it’s a pretty quiet area, that’s for sure. It’s definitely not the level of busyness that I’m used to.

Kelsey: Right, fair enough.

Laura: I’m sure Raleigh would feel like that to you living in New York.

Kelsey: Maybe. I feel like I could do with less busyness. I‘m sure I’d like Raleigh.

Laura: Who knows, maybe one day I’ll leave the city and start a farm or something. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Kelsey: We’ll see.

Laura: Yeah. Well, anyway, that’s my little update. If anyone follows me on Instagram, I have some cool photos of stuff that I did at the farm and stuff.  Feel free to check those out. Maybe next time I’m up there it’ll be Fall and maybe have some different experiences like an Ohio State football game or something like that.

Anyway, enough about my life. Why don’t we hear a word from our sponsor and then we’ll get into our question for today.

Alright, this question comes from Maureen and she asks:

“I really enjoy desserts. Is it better to have a treat each day or set aside a few days a week to indulge? What is a general rule of thumb for how much of a treat to have, for example, one cupcake, or a small ice cream cone; and the estimated caloric value, for example 200 calories a day dedicated to treats versus 400 calories for 3 or 4 days a week?”

Kelsey: Alright. Interesting question, Maureen. Thanks for submitting this because I think this is probably something that a lot people wonder about. To preface this whole thing, I have to say that everybody is very different when it comes to their ideas about treats, how much they even like treats to begin with, and what sort of fits in their eating plan, and how that makes them feel.

For example, I have some clients who they would just eat treats and sweets all day long if they could and they really can’t kind of stop themselves at a certain point. Once they have something sweet, it just turns into this huge craving and then they find that they really can’t stop eating those sweets.

For those kind of people, at least in the beginning, typically I do have them restrict fairly severely. Some people I have on zero sugar. Anything that kind of triggers those kind of cravings for them, I have them take that out for a time with the idea being that eventually we can get them to the point where they can have a treat and it doesn’t have to turn into a binge of eating all these sweets in one sitting. There is this end goal for people like that to be able to have a treat or two and not have it turn into something where feel really guilty about it afterwards or they really blew away the goals that they had calorically or anything like that. That’s one end of the spectrum.

Then on the other end of the spectrum, there’s people who it’s not a big a deal if they have sweets or treats kind of whenever and it doesn’t turn into a binge fest or anything like that. They can just have a square or two of chocolate and no big deal.

You do, I think, need to determine where you fall on that spectrum because it helps you determine how often the treat should be in your plan. If you’re someone who likes to have a little something sweet after dinner and you can easily stick to that small amount, feel free to have something every day. That’s perfectly fine. If you want to have something like dark chocolate like I was mentioning before, something small that isn’t going to be a giant sugar bomb or be a large amount of calories, and again, this totally depends on sort of what you’re goals are and what’s in your own eating plan. But that’s totally fine, so feel free to do that.

If you’re kind of like the person I just described earlier on the other end of that spectrum where you feel like anytime you eat something sweet you go totally overboard, you may want to experiment a little bit more with restriction. I hate to use that word to be honest, I really, really do. But this is one of the cases where I do find that restricting the triggering foods can be very helpful in the beginning. And of course like I mentioned before, the idea is to progress to a point where emotionally and mentally, and physically I guess you don’t get those cravings when you eat something sweet.

Do you have clients like that, Laura?

Laura: Yeah, I mean I can even just speak from personal experience with some of this stuff because I’ve been on a variety of the spectrum. I don’t think I ever would have qualified myself as a sugar addict or whatever, which I don’t even like that term because I feel like comparing sugar to drugs is kind of inaccurate.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But there’s people out there that they say like I can’t have any sugar because as soon as I start eating it I will just go crazy.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I don’t think I was ever like that. I will say that I’ve experienced the weird bingeing of desserts that comes from excessive restriction.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: In the past when I used to do super strict Paleo, and avoid sugar all the time, and not have dessert ever, and be really worried about my diet, and be more focused on what my body looked like, I wasn’t eating that much dessert. But whenever I would let myself have dessert like on special occasions, or parties, or whatever, I would eat so much that I would literally feel sick.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That happened a couple times and I’m just like, why do I do this? It’s so gross. Why can’t I just have a little and enjoy it and not go crazy? This was probably, I don’t know, like 5 plus years ago at this point. But it was like the more strict I was all the time, the less I felt…I don’t want to say in control because it’s not even about control, it’s about feeling the desire to overdo it was so much stronger. I’ll say that nowadays I’ve been pretty loose about that kind of stuff as far as I’ll eat dessert when I want it, but I don’t buy ice cream that often.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But if I want to have ice cream, I’ll have it. The other day we had bought these frozen banana slices. They were dark chocolate coated. Honestly, it was like 100 calorie packs, so I don’t even know if I want to call that dessert.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s more like a snack. But I would crave something like that if it was hot out. I’d have it and I’d be like, okay, that was good and not go and have three more packs worth.

On the other hand, like I said especially while I’ve been traveling a lot and kind of in a more of like a celebratory eating mode in the last couple months…

Kelsey: The last couple of months.

Laura: I know, I was going to say weeks, but I’m like actually it’s been like two months at this point. I’ve been having way more dessert than I would normally have. But the thing is, I can enjoy some of it and I don’t necessarily have that desire to go crazy or eat a ton of it.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I’ve actually really enjoyed being in this place where I can guilt free enjoy desserts, and not stuff myself, not feel sick afterwards, or not feel like it’s affecting my health, or my weight, or anything like that.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: It doesn’t have as much mental impact on me as it used to.

Kelsey: Sure.

Laura: I don’t know, I mean like I said, I haven’t been on the side of the spectrum where I feel like if I have any sugar I go crazy. To be fair, I do think that a lot of people in that situation are actually feeling that way because they’re so restrictive. I’m not saying everyone is, I know that there’s some people that really do better just avoiding this stuff. But I think a lot of the clients I’ve worked with, the reason that they feel so out of control when it comes to things like sugar is because not only they’re avoiding sugar in general and really being maybe overly restrictive with it, but then a lot of times they’re even restricting things like carbohydrates in general and so their body is actually craving sugar because they need the carbs.

A lot of times I’ll see clients with sugar cravings that they can’t control themselves when they’re eating sugar that if they’re eating an appropriate amount carbs, that sugar craving issue goes away and they’re able to just have a small amount to enjoy themselves and they don’t have that serious, I don’t know, just their brain kind of takes over and makes them want to eat more.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I don’t know, I mean I feel like the person that literally can’t touch sugar without going crazy is rare. I know that there’s people that have binge eating disorders and over eating tendencies where they just do better without it.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with abstinence when it comes to desserts, or sugar, or whatever people decide that they’re better off avoiding. But I just want people to keep in mind that abstinence isn’t necessarily the best choice for everybody and sometimes abstinence can actually cause more craving and more out of control behavior when you do break that abstinence than if you just allowed yourself to have it once in a while.

Kelsey: Yeah. I would highly suggest if you find that you are on that end of the spectrum to work with someone because it can be really hard for you personally sometimes to tell if you’re restricting carbs too much or you’re restricting calories too much.

I agree, Laura, I’ve definitely seen that play a huge, huge role these kinds of people where they just feel a little bit out of control when it comes to sugar. You need to make sure that you’re eating a calorically appropriate diet and a carbohydrate appropriate diet. Without those two, you’re kind of setting yourself up for failure when it comes to sugar.

But that can be hard to tell for some people on their own especially if you come from a history of eating disorder or even just your thinking being a little bit off when it comes to food. Having a person who can come in and be an objective voice in the whole thing is very, very helpful.

If that’s you, I agree, 100% abstinence is not necessary sometimes. Especially if you figure out that you were under eating or under eating carbs and just adding those things in kind of solves the problem, perfect. But for some people it can be a useful tool, but I do think that it’s important to do that under the care of somebody else who’s looking over the whole situation and making sure the restriction itself is not causing more problems than it’s solving for you.

Laura: Definitely.

Kelsey: Yeah. Just to talk about my experience a little bit. Same boat as you, Laura. Never been on that end of the spectrum where I felt really out of control when it comes to sugar or anything like that. I tend to be the kind of person who I don’t want to just have a small amount usually. If I’m going to eat dessert, I’m going to eat dessert. I’m going for it. I’m not going to eat a huge amount of it, but I’d like to be able to eat a piece of cake and not feel bad about that. For me, I’m not the kind of person who gets that sugar craving after meals or after dinner, anything like that. I typically don’t have dessert most days.

Laura: Mm hmm

Kelsey: I would say I’m for of a special occasion kind of person, and I can have months at a time where like you’re experiencing now, Laura, where those special occasions or celebratory feelings are more common. But then there’s also months at a time where I maybe won’t have dessert at all.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: You kind of go through these cycles, at least that’s how it tends to work for me. I love treats and desserts, and stuff. But I also know that I’d rather kind of save them for the special occasions rather than eat them every night, especially when I don’t have that craving to eat it every night. But I knew if I had stuff in my house, I probably would eat it every night. So I make that choice, like you said, not to buy ice cream all the time or not have those things at home all the time because if it was there, I’d probably get the craving more often just because it was around.

Laura: Yeah. Something else that seems to help me with that kind of stuff is the quality and price that I pay for certain treats.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: For example, I have some chocolate in my pantry that we bought I think back in mid or early July and it was from a local chocolate company, well I guess a chocolate factory that’s downtown Raleigh. It’s very small and each bar was like $8, and they’re not big bars.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: They’ve just been sitting there. I think me and my boyfriend got though like half of each bar and now the other halves are just sitting in there. I’m sure I’ll eat them at some point. Obviously I don’t want them to go to waste.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But the quality and the price means that I’m not going to eat half a bar in a sitting. Same goes we stopped at this place, if people are familiar with DeBrand’s, it’s a kind of famous chocolate place in Indiana. We got truffles from there and we had one of them each as a dessert. They’re pretty big. I mean they’re like golf ball size or something.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But we each had one as dessert and we never even ended up eating the other two while we were hanging out. I’m like when things are expensive and really high quality, and really delicious, and kind of like special, I tend to save them and not just eat them for no reason.

Whereas if you have a gallon of Haagen-Dazs or something, or I don’t know, turkey Hill ice cream or something in the freezer it doesn’t feel as special and it doesn’t feel like you need to save it. Depending what kind of desserts you like, maybe sticking to things that are a little more special like homemade cookies instead of Chips Ahoy or something.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Or like something like a nicer ice cream versus something that’s just like gallon bulk size or something.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: That’s something that tends to work for me. I know some people, they’d rather have something every night, and in that case you may not want to be getting $8 bars of chocolate if you’re going to have it every night. But trying to hit a balance between frequency and quality and not necessarily getting cheap stuff just because you want to have it a lot.

Kelsey: Right. I also think adding in the effort piece of it can help too. That’s kind of what I do. I have no real rules surrounding desserts for myself. If I want something, I’ll have it. But I also, like I said, don’t keep those things in my house. I have ingredients to make cookies probably all the time, but then I have to go through the effort of making homemade cookies so that I can have one. A lot of times I’m like, eh, that sounds like too much work. I don’t want it that much. But other times it’s a perfectly valid option. I’m like, yeah, I want cookies so I’m willing to put in that effort to make those.

I think kind of making sure that they’re not putting obstacles in your way necessarily, but just kind of like what you were saying, making it special or making it homemade, just things that aren’t so readily available to you all the time can definitely make it easier to keep a bit more balance in your life.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: So that said, I mean there’s really no right amount of treat or right amount of desserts for anybody, or any general rule I would say.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: You don’t have to have rules around dessert either if you don’t want to. For some people the rules work really well. If you say, okay, three days a week I’m going to have this amount of calories for dessert. And that unfortunately, we can’t really answer. I know this person asked the estimated caloric value and rule of thumb for how many times a week to have it. There really is no general rule.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: It’s totally up to you and what works for you, how those things make you feel depending on how often you eat them. Those are things you’re going to have to experiment with yourself and just see what works for you. For some people, if they ate something sweet every day, that would kind of push them away from their goals. For others, it’s totally fine and it fits well within their eating plan, it fits well within they’re trying to achieve, and it makes them feel healthy. It really, really depends, but you don’t have to have any rules if you don’t want to.

Laura: I know I don’t.

Kelsey: Yeah, I don’t either and I don’t think I’ve ever really had rules about dessert. I mean I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but when I travel I like to indulge. I like to try things that I haven’t tried and that includes desserts and things. I really don’t like having rules surrounding food in general I guess I’d say.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: But desserts specifically, even in everyday life. If I’m at a party and I see something I want to eat, I do evaluate how much I think I would enjoy it. If it’s just because it’s there and I’m like I want that maybe just because I’m hungry, maybe I try to eat something else first that’s a little bit of a healthier option for me or a better choice for me in that moment.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: See how that makes me feel. If I still want it, then sure, I’ll go for it and I’ll have one, I’ll really pay attention to it, see how much I enjoyed it. If I really enjoyed it, heck if I want two, I’m not going to say no necessarily to that either depending on what I’m working toward in my own goals.

Laura: I try to approach things like dessert from more of a value approach as opposed to a rules approach. I value my health and I value my physical fitness. I’m not as…I don’t want to say obsessed. I don’t know if I was ever obsessed with it back in the day like college and stuff, but I definitely was a lot more neurotic about it. But I also feel pretty good about the way my clothes fit and I don’t want to gain weight.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: So it’s like that’s a value to maintain my weight. Then also valuing enjoyment, and celebration, and that kind of stuff. If you’re really clear about what you value, then you can make decisions in the moment that align with those values. For me, having dessert every single night probably isn’t aligned with those values because first of all I stop enjoying it as much if it’s every night. I also will tend to be more emotionally eating it if it’s every night as opposed to just eating for enjoyment.

But on the other hand, when I’m out for a nice dinner or if I’m with somebody and they want to go have ice cream or whatever, like the other day when my boyfriend’s sister and her family came over and they were like let’s go get ice cream. I don’t remember what day it was, but we ended up having ice cream instead of dinner that night because we hadn’t eaten yet and I was like whatever, let’s just do ice cream. Normally I wouldn’t have gone out and done that, but because it was a social thing and it was just a little unusual, it was part of my values to go do that.

Kelsey:  Right.

Laura: I didn’t finish the whole thing. I had like 2/3 of it and I got to the point where it’s like I don’t really want this anymore. That’s another value is being able to say I eat dessert and I enjoy it, and if I’m not enjoying something, I don’t have to eat it. That could be that the dessert itself isn’t that good and you are like, oh never mind, I don’t want this.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Or it could be you’re halfway through something and you’re like I’m not rally enjoying this the way I was in the beginning because a lot of times when desserts are super strong flavored, at least for me I’ll get to a point where I’m like ugh, I can’t eat anymore of this, I’m kind of done with the sugar.

Being able to be very clear about what your vales are and not necessarily having these rigid rules that are like oh I only have desserts on Saturday. and I only eat these desserts, and I only have desserts that are X number of calories. I don’t see that as being a very good long term strategy because once you get into situations where your rules get thrown off, like I said my boyfriend’s sister wants to go  get ice cream and it’s not Saturday, oh my gosh, I can’t do that. I feel like that’s not a good way to live your life. I typically recommend my clients to be more value based in their decision making as opposed to rules based, if that makes sense.

Kelsey: Yeah, that makes perfect sense and I really like that way of thinking about it because that way you can make decisions in the moment. You’re not, like you said, held to these specific rules and on specific days you can do this, or you can’t do this. You can make those decisions as those choices come to you. Sometimes they’re going to come more often than others and it’s going be harder to make those choices, but if you have that value system in place and you can make that decision based on how often you’ve had these treats lately, how often these sort of situation have come up, and where you are in your current…like if you’re trying to lose weight because you value your health or you value the way that you want your clothes to fit, that kind of thing, you make a decision based on those values rather than strict rules. I like that.

Laura: Yeah. I mean it’s definitely a process. It’s not something that happens overnight. But my experience has been that the amount of mental energy that that approach takes versus coming up with a specific rule book that you follow is just so much easier. I don’t know, I just feel like short term if you have a goal, like if you’re trying to lose weight or if you’re trying to have a certain health goal that you’re accomplishing, then yeah, being a little bit more specific about things can be really helpful. But I think from a long term perspective, getting to the point where you can make these decisions on the fly and not have these really strict rules that you have to follow is always the ideal.

Kelsey: Yeah, perfect.

Laura: With the calories question just real quick, there’s so many factors that affect that. Again, goals are important, the amount of activity that you’re doing is important. If you’re super active and you’re exercising heavily 5 days a week, then you probably not only can get away with more dessert, but maybe you should be having dessert to make sure you’re not under eating.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: If you’re doing a lot of running, or if you’re doing a lot of weight training, or something, then dessert might actually be an important part of your diet to make sure you’re getting even just the calories in that you need. But I wouldn’t say that there’s a specific amount of calories. But one thing that can come in handy is if you do want to have something sweet but you realize that having ice cream every night isn’t going to help you maintain your goals that you’re working towards, or just like we were saying before, maybe you’re at your happy weight, but if you had ice cream every night you know that you’d put weight on and you don’t want to gain weight, then knowing that there are maybe some lighter dessert options that can satisfy that craving that don’t necessarily….it’s not like fat free cookies or something that tastes like cardboard.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But, one of the examples from before that I used with those sliced frozen bananas covered in dark chocolate, that was only 100 calories, and they were satisfying, and I enjoyed that similarly, maybe not as much as a good ice cream.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: If that’s something that I just want something a little cold and sweet, but I don’t want to have ice cream, then knowing that you can go with something that’s “healthier” or lower calorie amount if that’s going to support your goals, that’s fine. Maybe just making the decisions like on the weekdays I just have some frozen berries or something like that as a dessert, but then on the weekends I’ll go a little bit more indulgent.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: And again, that again that kind of sounds like a rule, but I find that having options with dessert, like if you know you’re craving something but you don’t want to go for something like ice cream or cookies or whatever, then having lighter options that are maybe a little healthier that wouldn’t impact your goals as much during the week or on a regular basis is always good to have some ideas about what options you have.

Kelsey: Definitely.

Laura: I just mentioned those frozen bananas because they were really good.

Kelsey: They sound really good.

Laura: I didn’t try them, they also had pineapple and strawberries so I might have to do a little tasting of these because the bananas were really good.

Kelsey: That sounds awesome. This is stuff that makes me feel bad that I have super sensitive teeth and chewing on anything frozen makes me want to die.

Laura: Aww.

Kelsey: Lucky you.

Laura: Well see that’s value based decisions, right?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: You value having no teeth pain so you’re going to avoid things, and I value having something cold and sweet so I’ll chose the frozen bananas.

Kelsey: To each their own, right?

Laura: Yes. But, anyway I think that is a good answer to that question. If anyone has any further questions about the dessert topic, we like talking about desserts apparently, so feel free to ask some further questions over on our website TheAncestralRDs.com. You can get through to us on the contact tab at the top. But anyway, thanks for joining us today and we will look forward to seeing you guys here next week.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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