I’ve always been one of those people that needs something sweet after dinner. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just something to satisfy my sweet tooth and stop it from nagging me. But—especially around the holidays—sticking to just a small, sweet snack is tricky, what with all the leftover pumpkin pie, and apple pie, and pecan pie, and brownies, and … well, you get it.
But let's be honest: anything that seriously satisfies our sweet tooth isn't going to be the epitome of a healthy meal. Though all of these snacks contain (gasp!) sugar, we aimed to find lower-sugar options that offer something beneficial, whether it be a sneaky superfood (like strawberries and grapes) or additional nutrients like fiber or protein. So here are 33 less guilty ways to indulge any sweet tooth.
1. Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry
Combat chocolate’s not-so-healthy side by using it as a semi-sweet jacket on superfoods, like strawberries! Dip and let set in the refrigerator until the chocolate coating has hardened.
2. Choco-Nut Popcorn
Pop a small bag of natural popcorn and top with 1 tablespoon melted peanut butter and a dusting of cocoa powder. Crunchy and the perfect amount of sweetness! Not sweet enough? Try swapping peanut butter for Nutella.
3. Frozen Chocolate Banana
This is the perfect frozen sweet treat with some extra nutritional punch! Bananas are a great source of vitamins C and B6, and are also packed with fiber and potassium. Peel a banana, cut into two equal halves, and freeze. Once solid, take out and roll in melted dark chocolate. While the chocolate’s still melty, roll in whichever crunchy topping you like—sprinkles, nuts, and granola all work well! Return to the freezer until the chocolate is set (at least an hour). Enjoy!
4. Yogurt Parfait
Top 1 cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla) with your choice of toppings: crumbled graham crackers or granola, nuts, and fruit are all healthy choices. Add some shaved chocolate if you must!
5. Fresh Fruit
Can’t get more simple than this. Any piece of fresh fruit should offer enough natural sugar to fill those cravings. Plus, it’s definitely the healthiest choice and you get added nutrients and fiber!
6. Dark Chocolate
Sorry, friends—not any old chocolate bar will send you to healthful heaven. But dark chocolate (think more than 70 percent cacao), which lacks all the added fat and sugar of classic milk chocolate, can actually be a healthy treat in moderation. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and can even help regulate levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
7. Chocolate Milk
Not only is chocolate milk a great way to fit a hint of sweetness into your day, research shows it’s actually an effective post-workout recovery drink, too!
It’s easy to find an easy, healthy smoothie recipe for breakfast, a snack, or dessert. In fact, here are 54 healthy smoothie recipes sweet enough to fill any of those cravings.
We’ll admit it: A good portion of the Greatist office is addicted to peanut butter and jelly. Half of a classic sandwich on whole wheat bread (grape, strawberry, or whatever type of jelly you like) provides an excellent amount of sweetness with a little dose of protein and fiber to boot.
10. All-Fruit Popsicle
There’s no added sugar in these sweet and cool treats. Simply purée watermelon chunks and some lime juice, freeze, and enjoy. If it’s not watermelon season, try any other juicy fruit: Pears, peaches, or berries with a touch of apple juice for base will all make great pops.
11. Cafe Mocha
This is the perfect way to get a kick of caffeine and a serving of dark chocolate all at once. Opt for low-fat milk and stick to a small size to keep the calorie count low.
12. Banana Ice Cream
This one-ingredient ice cream is the perfect after-dinner treat. If you’re feeling fancy, try mixing it up and adding in a peanut butter swirl or a few teaspoons of cocoa powder for some chocolate flavor.
13. Nutella Yogurt Dip with Fruit
This is a healthier take on chocolate fondue. Instead of pure chocolate, mix Nutella with Greek yogurt and use as a dip with some fresh fruit or low-sugar cookies or crackers.
14. Cereal and Milk
You can make this one as healthy or unhealthy as you like. Opt for a high-fiber, whole-grain cereal if you're going the healthy route and sweeten with a bit of honey or cinnamon. Of course, if you feel like going the "naughtier" route, there's always chocolate chex.
Especially during warmer months, keeping a pint of healthy homemade sorbet on hand is the perfect way to fill sugar cravings without overdoing it on the white stuff. This super-simple plum sorbet doesn’t use any sugar—just 3 little tablespoons of honey per quart (and we promise there’s no lack of sweetness!).
16. KIND Bar
These are a Greatist HQ staple. Kind bars come in a ton of awesome slightly-sweet flavors (including a few drizzled in chocolate—yum) perfect for sweet tooth snacking. Plus, you get a dose of omega-3s and protein. Go for a full-sized bar if your stomach’s grumbling, or opt for a "mini" if hunger pangs haven’t quite set in.
17. Graham Cracker with Peanut Butter
This is a classic combo. The graham cracker is just sweet enough and the peanut butter adds a luxurious silky smooth texture. If you need a little more sweetness, opt for chocolate or cinnamon-flavored graham crackers. Bonus points for getting an extra dose of calcium when enjoyed with a small glass of low-fat milk!
18. Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pretzels
A little salty sweet combo can cure those sugary cravings. Microwave 1 square of dark chocolate and 1 teaspoon natural peanut butter until melted, and dip 1 large or 10 mini pretzel rods.
19. Frozen Greek Yogurt Drops
This one’s brilliant. It’s this simple to turn a cup of plain old Greek yogurt into a quick frozen treat that’s fun to eat: Combine 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup frozen berries and stir it all up until the fruit has broken down and the mixture has an even consistency. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and drop 1/4 teaspoons of the mixture onto the sheet, leaving enough room between each drop so they don’t touch. Freeze for a few hours until solid and pour all the drops into a plastic baggie. Store in the freezer until you’re ready to snack!
20. Fruit Leather
Fruit-by-the-Foot? Not exactly a healthier choice. But a low-sugar, fruit-only dried fruit leather can be a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Just make sure to find a brand with no added sugar.
21. Baked Apple
This treat is easy to make ahead and reheat, or whip up in an instant right when you want it. Stuff the apples with oats, nuts, and just a little honey for sweetness.
Chocolate, vanilla, pistachio—take whichever flavor you like most and whip some up with skim milk. Enjoy ½ cup without any guilt! Top with some fresh berries for added fiber.
23. Fruit and Cottage Cheese
Not only does this option satisfy sweet teeth, it provides a perfect serving of filling protein, too. If plain fruit isn’t sweet enough, try drizzling with honey or mixing in a teaspoon of cocoa powder.
24. Frozen Grapes
Pop a vine in the freezer for a few hours and out comes a long-lasting, slightly sweet treat packed with antioxidants and other nutrients. The biggest health boost? Resveratrol, which studies suggest may help lower levels of LDL cholesterol and promote blood vessel health.
25. Animal Crackers
A small handful of animal crackers is not just an ideal snack for kindergarteners. A good-sized handful (about 16 crackers) has just about 120 calories and only 7g of sugar.
26. Hot Chocolate
Skim (or soy) milk can make a healthful base to this slightly sweet drink—just don’t overdo it on the chocolate syrup.
Time to give that Eggo a makeover. Start with a whole-grain version of the classic frozen waffle. Toast to desired crispiness and slice in half. Top one half with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 2 sliced strawberries. Top with other half, and enjoy!
28. Flavored Greek Yogurt
Typically, we opt for plain yogurt with our own tailored flavorings to cut back on sugar. However, if you’re looking to indulge a bit in the first place, a small cup of flavored Greek yogurt is a great option. Even though it has some sugar, it also offers a good amount of protein and will keep you full until that next meal.
29. Cinnamon Toast
No, Cinnamon Toast Crunch doesn’t count. Instead, toast up a slice of whole-grain bread and top with ½ teaspoon of butter (or substitute), ¼ teaspoon of sugar, and as much cinnamon as your heart desires!
30. Trail Mix (with Dark Chocolate)
A small serving of a healthy mix of nuts like almonds and pistachios with a few nice chewy pieces of dried fruit (like cranberries or cherries) and some dark chocolate pieces makes a great snack mix with good nutritional value too.
31. “Banana Butter” Rice Cake
Here’s a surprise: Bananas are so sweet on their own they can help sweeten any treat. Mash ½ a ripe banana until mushy, and swirl in a teaspoon of peanut butter. Spread on a rice cake, and enjoy!
32. Yogurt Dipped Fruit
This one's sweet—literally. Start by making the yogurt coating mixture by combining 1 cup of your favorite Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar. Blend until completely smooth. Now get dipping: Coat your favorite fruits (grapes, bananas, apple slices, and strawberries work well) in the yogurt mixture and set on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Once full, place the sheet in the freezer until the yogurt hardens. (The sugar is what creates the semi-hard shell on the outside of the fruit. If you like, you can omit the sugar and just keep the fruit frozen so the yogurt "shell" stays intact.)
33. Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
When ice cream cravings hit, try whipping up some of this frozen blueberry-based treat.