How to Indulge in Dessert Without Ruining Your Diet and Undermining Your Performance

STACK Expert Sara Haas offer 5 tips to athletes on how to indulge in dessert without ruining their diets or damaging their performance.

Treat yourself! Of course I tell all my clients to do just that. Because, frankly, I do it too. But here's the deal: You have to be smart when it comes to sweet treats. Though they are delicious, many don't have much nutritional value, and as an athlete, you need to fill up on nourishing foods that help your body perform at its best.

How to intelligently indulge in desserts.

Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

Size Matters

We have been led to believe that sky-high cake slices and giant mixing bowls filled with scoops and scoops of ice cream constitute an acceptable portion. That's just not true. In the land of super-sized treats, you have to restrain yourself. When you indulge, go with something small. A good clue: choose the kids portion! Its diminutive size is most likely what we should all be enjoying.

RELATED: Don't Get Tricked by These 6 Foods With Wildly Unrealistic Serving Sizes

Content Counts

A grilled peach topped with a small dollop of whipped cream is delicious and even nutritious (at least the peach part!). But a peach-flavored ice pop holds no nutritional value at all. Make a conscious decision to choose whole fruit-based desserts. Grilled stone fruits and melons are great, and so are cobblers made with real fruit. Even pureed fruit pops make a great treat and are easy to make at home. Note: foods labeled "flavored" often mean they contain little or none of the listed flavoring. Read ingredient labels to be sure.

RELATED: Registered Dietitians Reveal Their Favorite Ways to Eat Fruit

Relish and Enjoy

How many times have you inhaled a dessert as soon as you got it? Instead of scarfing down your dessert, relish it. That's right, slow down, take small bites and enjoy each moment. Doing that will prevent you from eating more than you need (or want) and will make you happier because your dessert will last longer.

Time it Right

Dessert isn't a meal, no matter what anyone tells you. Remember, you need proper nutrition to excel at your sport, and desserts don't provide that. Instead of making dessert "dinner," save that 1/2 cup of chocolate chip ice cream to savor after you've enjoyed a nourishing dinner.

RELATED: Delightful Desserts for the Grill

Share it!

Sharing dessert with someone else is a great way to smartly indulge your sweet tooth. Think about it. You'll feel better because you didn't eat the whole thing and you'll love having someone to share the experience with. That means fewer calories for both of you—but plenty of great memories.

Want to try your hand at making your own mini-desserts? Try my recipe for Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich Bites. Besides being small, the cookies and ice cream can remain frozen, so you can make a batch once and enjoy them over time. Remember, relish and enjoy!

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock