The keto diet, which shuns carbs and ramps up healthy fats, may seem impossible to anyone with a sweet tooth. Sugar is an absolute no-go—even many fruits are difficult to squeeze into a day’s tiny carb allotment—which, sadly, leaves little room for typical carb-laden desserts. Plus, though Paleo and vegan treats line store shelves everywhere, pre-made keto goodies are pretty much nonexistent.
So if you really want to get your dessert fix on keto, you’re going to have to get creative. Luckily, these keto-savvy experts have a few easy tips and tweaks for having your cake and staying in ketosis, too.
1. Swap Your Sweetener
Though they may not look like table sugar, agave, honey, coconut sugar, and other natural sweeteners are still sugar, so they’re off-limits on keto. Your fix: Sub a sugar- and calorie-free sweetener into baked goods (and that morning cup of Joe).
There’s Stevia (the popular sugar substitute made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant), of course, but monk fruit (which is made from the Asian lo han guo plant) is also a popular sweetener for keto eaters, says Katherine Brooking, R.D., co-founder of nutrition consulting group Appetite for Health. Just be aware that these sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. (Monk fruit is reportedly 150 to 200 times as sweet as sugar…)
Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans, also recommends Swerve Sweetener, which is made from fermented sugar alcohol and plant fiber. “It measures cup for cup like sugar, has zero glycemic impact, and zero net carb count.”
Though no scientific evidence suggests they cause cancer or other serious health problems, it’s worth noting that non-calorie sweeteners shouldn’t become a daily go-to if you’re focused on eating an overall healthy diet, says Brooking. These sweeteners don’t offer the nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber of whole-food sources of sweetness like fruit.
2. Fix Your Flour
If you just can’t avoid baked goods, trade in your usual wheat flour for almond flour or coconut flour. “Almond flour has 75 percent fewer carbs and 50 percent more protein than white or whole wheat flour, while coconut flour has 25 percent fewer carbs and more than three times as much fiber as whole-wheat,” says Kimball.
Each offers a unique texture and slight natural sweetness. Start experimenting by swapping out a quarter of a recipe’s flour for either almond or coconut flour to familiarize yourself with each flour. (Coconut flour is very dry and tends to require extra liquid.) Or, keep things simple by following a keto-friendly recipe—like this Keto Chocolate Cake In A Mug from Ruled.Me—that already incorporates them.
3. Go Crazy For Cocoa
Chocolate is one of the most crave-worthy treats out there, but considering a mere tablespoon of milk chocolate chips packs 43 grams of carbs and a whopping 26 grams of sugar, it’s tough to fit into a keto lifestyle.
But you don’t have to back away from the chocolate entirely: You can use cocoa powder or unsweetened dark baker’s chocolate in all sorts of keto-friendly recipes. “I love mixing cocoa powder, melted coconut oil, and Swerve sweetener, for a quick treat,” says Kimball. Pour the mixture into a baking pan, pop it in the fridge to set, and voila, you’ve got keto dark chocolate.
For more chocolately goodness, Kimball recommends these Keto Chocolate Salted Peanut Butter Fat Bombs from Swerve, which are basically vegan, keto peanut butter cups. (Or, whip up one of the decadent fat bomb recipes we rounded up.)
4. Befriend Berries
While super-sweet fruits—like bananas, pineapple, and anything dried—are off the table on keto because of their high sugar count, there is one exception: berries. Half a cup of raspberries and blackberries each pack just four grams of sugar, so they’re an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth (not to mention load up on antioxidants). You can snack on berries fresh or frozen—just watch your portions!
Rule For The Road: Check The Macros
Since carbs should account for less than 10 percent of your daily calories on a standard keto diet, someone who eats 2,000 calories a day has room for just about 25 grams of net carbs (carbs minus fiber) a day. To enjoy these sweet treats without putting ketosis in jeopardy, Kimball recommends sticking to servings that contain about two to three grams of net carbs, two to three grams of protein, and 15 or more grams of fat.
Pin this infographic for keto-friendly desserts, anytime: