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Healthy Desserts for Athletes

By Mike Samuels

Delicious, high-fat, high-sugar, tasty desserts aren't something that springs to mind when you think of the diet of an elite athlete. Athletes fuel themselves with good-quality carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and there aren't many desserts that fit this criteria. That said, desserts don't have to be off-limits to any athlete; you just might need to change a few things to make your favorite desserts more performance-friendly.

Protein Cheesecake

Picture a cheesecake and you probably think of a high-sugar base and a high-fat filling. Cheesecake needn't be either of these, though. Stephen Bergeron, coach at Built Lean, suggests making a basic cheesecake mix using fat-free cream cheese and Greek yogurt, eggs, stevia, milk, protein powder, vanilla extract and salt. Just whisk everything together, bake and then leave to cool in the fridge. You could add pumpkin, fruit, cocoa, peanut butter or crushed nuts for extra flavor and top with a berry coulis.

Going Greek

With its creamy texture and relatively neutral taste, Greek yogurt is an ideal dessert ingredient. In an interview with the Eating Well website, volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, swimmer Eric Shanteau and diver Nick McCrory all named yogurt among their favorite healthy foods. Mix Greek yogurt with protein powder, and put it in the freezer for high-protein ice cream, serve it with fruit salad for a super vitamin and mineral hit, or stir in a little light hot chocolate powder for a low-carb mousse.

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Bean Brownies

It may sound odd at first, but adding beans into a brownie mixture in place of sugar and flour is an effective way to reduce the carb count and boost the protein content. In "The 150 Healthiest Meals on Earth," nutritionist Dr. Jonny Bowden recommends making brownies using pitted dates, garbanzo beans, cocoa, macadamia nut oil, agave nectar and eggs. But you could substitute the garbanzo beans with kidney beans, the agave for honey and the macadamia oil for almond oil. Use low-fat cream cheese for a frosting if you wish.

The Real Thing

In moderation, there's nothing wrong with a little of the real thing, provided it fits within your plan. As an athlete, you're burning a high number of calories regularly, meaning you can eat more than the average sedentary person. Olympic weightlifter Mete Binay, soccer player Carli Lloyd and table tennis star Ariel Hsing all admit to consuming full-fat, sweet desserts in moderation.

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