When you think of dessert, it’s a good guess that sugar, calories, and fat come to mind — not protein or nutrition. However, it's entirely possible to craft up after-dinner desserts that not only satisfy your sweet cravings, but also supply adequate nutrition to fuel your mind and body before heading off to bed. Adding additional protein doesn't automatically make an otherwise unhealthy food healthy, but it can certainly make sweets more satisfying, helping you resist the urge to go back for more.
Here are six great ways to bulk up the protein count in dessert, so you’ll go to sleep without a grumbling stomach, an elevated blood sugar level, or a nagging craving.
Protein-Rich Dessert Ideas to Add to Your Next Sweet-Tooth Craving
1. Enjoy a Greek Yogurt Bowl
Swap those 1,000-calorie ice cream pints for creamy, thick Greek yogurt and add some sweet toppings that offer a punch of protein.
“Take a single-serve container of vanilla Greek yogurt and mix in a tablespoon of powdered peanut butter and a teaspoon of mini chocolate chips," Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club, says. "Depending on the yogurt you choose, you'll pack 15-18 grams of protein into your treat."
2. Make a “Nice Cream”
Save money on store-bought frozen treats by cranking out healthier, protein-packed ice cream in your own kitchen. Make homemade "nice cream" by blending a frozen banana with 2 tablespoons of chocolate protein powder and a teaspoon of cocoa powder, Harris-Pincus suggests.
“If it’s too thick, add unsweetened nut milk until you are happy with the consistency," she suggests. "In minutes, you'll have a dessert with no added sugar and 10 grams of protein.”
3. Have Pizza for Dessert
“Make a dessert pizza by toasting a taco-sized, high-fiber tortilla and topping it with 1/4 cup skim ricotta cheese, sliced fresh berries, and a drizzle of honey,” Harris-Pincus says.
This simple, healthy dessert packs about 12 grams of protein, any way you slice it.
4. Grill Some Peaches
Use cultured cottage cheese and a drizzle of honey as a topper for sliced, warm grilled peaches, suggests Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.
“After cutting a peach in half and removing the pit, grill it flesh side down or cook on a grill pan," she says. "Then, slice the peaches and mix them with 4 ounces of cultured cottage cheese and 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey."
The cottage cheese brings 14 grams of protein to the party. If you’re vegan, buzz firm tofu, lemon, and honey in a food processor to make a dairy-free version.
5. Make a Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seed pudding isn’t just for breakfast.
“Mix 1/3 cup of ground chia seeds with 1 cup of milk or soy milk, 1/3 cup of cacao powder, 4 tablespoons of maple syrup or raw honey, a splash of vanilla extract, and dash of salt,” Jones says.
Pour the mixture into four dessert bowls to share with friends — it makes four servings, each with 6.5 grams of satiating protein — or enjoy one and save the others for later in the week. Let the pudding sit in the fridge at least 2 hours before serving to chill it.
6. Buzz a Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake
Even if you're vegan, you can still have a delicious peanut butter chocolate milkshake to settle a sweet craving. Blend a frozen banana with half of a scoop of plant-based chocolate protein powder, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a tablespoon of cacao powder, and 2/3 cup of soy milk.
“You’ll get 17-20 grams of protein, thanks to the 8-10-gram boost from just a half of a scoop of protein powder,” Jones says.
Double the batch, and you’ve got a post-workout pick-me-up for tomorrow, too.