The 80/20 rule states that following the Paleo diet 80% of the time allows us to experience 100% of the benefits of this framework for choosing foods. The 20% (about 3 meals per week) in which we veer off the Paleo straight and narrow is important for finding balance, beating back any sense of deprivation, giving us flexibility while traveling or visiting friends and family, and allow a mechanism to enjoy the occasional treat. Of course, how we choose exactly what constitutes that 20% is depending on many factors (listen to TPV Podcast Episode 216: The 80/20 Rule for detailed discussion). Common choices for that 20% this might be dairy (see The Great Dairy Debate), sweetened Paleo treats, gluten-free grains like white rice, dark chocolate, a gluten-free cookie or alcohol.
But what about those times we’re craving a treat and don’t want to compromise? These five treats will satisfy your cravings without breaking the nutritional bank—they’re healthy enough that I’d argue they “don’t count” toward your 20%!
Bananas are naturally sweet, and these tasty frozen treats take advantage of their flavor! I love that you can vary the overall sweetness of the “recipe” depending on the ripeness of your bananas and how dark you choose to make your chocolate. I use very ripe bananas and bittersweet chocolate for my kids, but I think adults could handle much less sweetness (and might even prefer it!). Play around with these pops when you’re craving ice cream!
This dish isn’t just a nutritional wash—packed with gut-healing gelatin, it’s actually a healthful part of your 80%! Summer berries are delicious and packed with antioxidants, but they’re also relatively low in sugar when compared to other fruits. While this dish includes a small amount of honey, it’s completely optional if you’re avoiding added sugar. Plus, this dish is cool and refreshing enough to satisfy your sweet tooth!
This bark is the perfect alternative to a traditional candy bar. By playing around with different chocolate “strengths,” you can make this bark as sweet or savory as you like! I like to use 85% dark chocolate or higher and include plenty of nuts for a play on texture. If you’re committed to being very low sugar, try 95% dark chocolate or above. You’ll still get the pleasing flavor of dark chocolate (full of polyphenols) but won’t be consuming much refined sugar. It’s a win-win!
I love small treats because I find them easier to portion. And when they include veggies like these carrot cake bites, that’s a win-win! I consider these lightly sweetened because the only sugar comes from dates. Dates are a great alternative to refined sugar because they’re a whole fruit, meaning they include all the fiber, micronutrients and minerals that were packaged to go along with all that natural sweetness. These bites have all the flavor and texture you’d want from a treat, but are relatively low in sugar. They’re perfect for an after-lunch weekday dessert!
Cookies that don’t count? Yep, you heard me! I actually consider molasses to be so nutrient-dense that I don’t include it as part of my 20% (see Blackstrap Molasses: The Sugar You Can Love for details!). So if you’re looking for a healthier alternative to holiday cookies, these Gingerbread Cutouts are ideal! Their traditional spicy flavor is totally nostalgia-worthy, and as long as you stick with a small serving they’re a perfectly reasonable treat that won’t break the bank.
If you’re going low-sugar this holiday season, don’t despair! Try out one of these holiday treats and you won’t have to worry about breaking the nutritional bank.