Sweets & Treats

Because everybody deserves to have sweet in their lives.

I was reminded of this at a conference recently when a colleague, who is truly a grande dame of healthy nutrition if ever there was one, mentioned that when she travels she always packs some gluten free fig newtons. She finds them energizing, comforting and a welcome treat on the road, when she’s speaking to audiences, engaging with participants, in high energy mode. When she gets back to her room for some quiet time, it feels good to have a little something special with a cup of tea.

And why not? These are a good choice as cookies go, since the figs provide fiber, iron, and antioxidants, even though the added sugars aren’t great, if you are eating vibrantly healthy food most of the time, as she is, a small deviation is fine. It’s okay to have a piece of birthday cake at your child’s party! Everything in moderation, EVEN moderation, as I’m fond of saying :) 

Sweet is the first taste we come into the world with. 

There is definitely wiring in the brain for sweets and tweets. 

Sweet is the first taste babies are drawn to. Breast milk is sweet — what a powerful connection! Baby’s and children’s taste buds are extremely sensitive. Of the five flavors – sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami — babies are quite turned off by bitter and sour early on, only gradually acquiring a taste for those later in childhood. If you’re trying to get a child to eat dark leafy greens, you might like to add just a tad of maple syrup or raisins to counteract the natural bitterness. 

These days, I encounter so many adults who feel bad about eating ANYTHING sweet, especially in the cancer world, where people want to give themselves every opportunity for health. And yet if you don’t learn about healthier sweets you can have, you might get stuck in deprivation mode OR  you might not be able to stand it anymore and go off the sweet rails and make, shall we say, unwise choices.

Is there a way to enjoy sweets in your life and not feel bad about it?

Oooh, yes, there is!

As a psychologist friend of mine says, “Man cannot live on kale alone.” We’re hardwired to enjoy sugar; the key, of course, is choosing the right kinds of unrefined sugar and practicing moderation. There’s no refined sugar in any of the sweet bites that follow, nor any gluten, so rest easy if that’s an issue for you. 

Chocolate Cherry Walnut Truffles (see photo above) — oh, my! A hugely popular sweet bite from The Healthy Mind Cookbook, and understandably so. Dates, cherries, and walnuts, smothered in chocolate, and rolled in coconut and curry make these worthy of a standing ovation. Studies suggest walnuts may boost memory, while chocolate, as we all know, is the ultimate mood-boosting agent. One bite of this dessert and you’d be hard-pressed to feel any stress, I can assure you!


These Sweet Potato Bars remind me of a healthier version of the lemon bars I used to make as a kid. Probably because this is a treat any youngster would like, a great combination of a vegetable-based sweet snack and a nutty, gluten-free crust. Sweet potatoes and cinnamon have great antioxidant and blood sugar regulating capacity, making them a great anytime bar. They’re so nutrient dense it doesn’t take much to feel completely satiated, and the tastes are so delightful that you’re blissfully aware of every bite.

Roasting strawberries reminds me of Carly Simon’s song “Anticipation.” When you can take your time in the kitchen — or at least wait awhile for something to cook — magic happens. When you roast strawberries sloooooowly — I’m talking 90 minutes — the alchemy that occurs is wondrous. Their flavors become so condensed and intense as they shrink. In this recipe, the strawberries are bathed in pomegranate molasses and maple syrup before roasting, for even more flavor. The last step, post-roast, is a mouth-blast of basil (a super anti-inflammatory). Family and guests will find the resulting flavor unforgettable. 

One more! Because I can’t resist adding Lola’s Favorite Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

These flourless chocolate chip cookies will call to you like the Sirens called Odysseus. The scent of a batch cooling in the kitchen enticed our Portuguese Water Dog Lola to leap up on the table like a mountain goat and purloin 8 of them. (Aside for dog lovers: Fortunately, the chocolate content was low enough, and Lola big enough, that the vet said she’d be fine, as indeed she was.) A mesmerizing blend of almond butter, egg, vanilla, cocoa nibs, and chocolate chips. The chocolate is guaranteed to elevate your mood. It sure elevated Lola’s!

THUS PROVING: YOU NEEDN’T DO WITHOUT SWEETS! JUST CHOOSE WISELY, FOCUSING ON HEALTHY INGREDIENTS AND CULINARY MAGIC TO CREATE MEMORABLE, MOOD-ENHANCING, HAPPINESS-INDUCING MOMENTS OF YUM! YOU DESERVE IT :)