I'm Not Paleo, But I'll Only Make Paleo Desserts. Here's Why

Image by Ellie Baygulov / Stocksy

People often ask me what type of diet I follow. I have, after all, spent most of my career talking about how to eat well and interviewing many of the country's best doctors and registered dietitians about how they fill their plate. People want me to take all of this info, process it for them, and give something my editor's seal of approval: paleo, vegan, pegan, keto. Anything.

Alas, I always end up disappointing them. I've never been one to want to put labels or boundaries on my eating: If anything, my extreme exposure to information has shown me what I'd be missing if I eschewed all types of diets for one hero plan (this includes chickpeas, a staple food of many long-lived eaters and a personal favorite; grass-fed beef, which helps with my chronically low iron levels; and so, so much more).

Rather than adhere to one way of eating, I adhere to a dietary-buffet philosophy, picking the best bits of everything I'm exposed to. And one of those bits is paleo desserts.

To caveat: There's a lot of debate about what constitutes a proper paleo diet, which is modeled after what our ancestors ate before the invention of agriculture. This means avoiding grains, vegetable oils, legumes, most dairy, most types of sugar, and anything processed. Paleo eaters typically fill up on healthy fats (like eggs, coconut oil, and avocado), vegetables, and various types of meat.

While I'm no anthropologist, I'm fairly certain that our ancestors weren't making almond flour birthday cakes in their rudimentary oven-like open fire. Paleo desserts are sort of a gray area, particularly because they typically still include sugar (albeit coconut- or maple-derived).

However—because I'm not trying to follow a strict paleo diet, I can waltz right over that gray area and celebrate the fact that paleo desserts are some of the healthiest around. Whenever I'm baking at home and need recipe inspo, I'll search for "paleo cinnamon rolls" or "paleo chocolate chip cookies."

The secret is in the blood sugar balance. Paleo desserts tend to be nut-based and thus heavy on protein and healthy fat, meaning they won't cause the blood sugar spike and crash of many other types of traditional, vegan, or gluten-free desserts. The sugars used are enough to assuage my sweet tooth but tend to be lower glycemic and higher in fiber, which, again, helps eliminate that uncomfortable roller coaster ride. They include eggs, unlike vegan desserts, which add a fair bit of protein, among other nutrients.

Finally, because the ingredients used make them a lot denser and richer, I usually eat far less of a paleo dessert than I would, say, a gluten-free, rice-flour-based cookie. And while eating some dessert makes me feel good (mostly in my soul), eating too much dessert always makes me feel terrible.

Want to give it a try yourself? Here are a few of my favorite paleo dessert recipes:

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