The scenario is likely a familiar one. You’re dining out at a restaurant for a special occasion, enjoying the company of those at the table, and as the dinner plates are being cleared, the server stops by and asks:
“Would you like to see a dessert menu?”
When striving to maintain a healthy eating plan, this may be a difficult question. You know restaurants often feature options filled with sugar, refined grains, and unhealthy fat, but when others at your table are interested in indulging, it can be hard to say no. It is a special occasion after all, right?
Though this is so often the case, restaurant customers should not be forced to undermine their health to enjoy dessert. Decadent cakes, pies, and cookies may be the norm—but they need not remain the only options.
Instead, try designing your own dessert by asking for a combination of the Three Pleasures:
- Fruit – A refreshing and naturally sweet option that brings a burst of color to the plate! Dried fruits can also work well.
- Nuts – Along with providing a satisfying crunch and a variety of flavors, nuts are a great source of healthy fat and protein.
- Dark chocolate – Depending on the brand and cocoa percentage, dark chocolate offers a wide range of complex and delightful flavors. Remember that the higher the cocoa percentage, the less sweet it will be. 70 percent or higher is a nice complement to the sweetness of the fruit!
*An optional fourth “pleasure” can also be a touch of spirit, such as port wine.
These ingredients are ones that restaurants will likely have on hand, and provide a healthy option for satisfying a sweet tooth. While this request could be answered with a simple fruit bowl, sprinkled with nuts, and served with a few squares of dark chocolate, we have found that chefs often meet the “challenge” with creativity and spectacular presentations:
Photos courtesy of Walter Willett, who has been “challenging chefs to redesign dessert” to focus on the Three Pleasures. [Read the full story at National Geographic’s The Plate or Dr. Willett’s guest article in FSR Magazine]
If you try this strategy when dining out, we want to hear about it! Email or tweet us (@HSPHnutrition) a photo or description of your Three Pleasures combination. National Geographic’s The Plate is also hosting a challenge and will be featuring the top photos on their site. Be sure to tag your creations with #3ForDessert.
With demand, perhaps it will become commonplace to be offered such options when dining out. Restaurants and chefs can also take the lead in featuring their own Three Pleasures creation on the regular menu.