In the wellness industry, few things are less cool than dessert. Oat milk? Yes. Cauliflower everything? Also, yes. But when it comes to dessert (or anything having to do with sugar) most people would rather do naked hot yoga in Times Square at high noon than own up to the fact that they even eat dessert, much less enjoy it.
Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised to hear ’90s icon and Foodstirs co-founder Sarah Michelle Gellar wax poetic about the merits of dessert in a recent interview. “I love dessert, I’m not afraid to love dessert,” she says. “I think we all should have beautiful, sweet things. I’ve never believed in cutting all that out.” She could have said vampires are real and I would have been less surprised.
This isn’t a new thing with the actor, either—she says that has always been a part of her overall approach to food. “Obviously I’m known for being athletic, but I’ve always indulged in dessert,” she says. “I would rather have one good, delicious bite of whatever that sweet thing is than a junk-filled trendy version of the opposite. It’s all part of the overall holistic approach to how I take care of my body.”
“I would rather have one good, delicious bite of whatever that sweet thing is than a junk-filled trendy version of the opposite. It’s all part of the overall holistic approach to how I take care of my body.” —Sarah Michelle Gellar, actor and FoodStirs co-founder
This isn’t just someone who has good genes talking. Many experts agree that regularly eating the foods you crave, no matter what they are, is effective way to stick to an overall healthy eating plan (rather than denying yourself and then going overboard on so-called “cheat days” later). “When you eat what you want to, and the sense of restriction or scarcity has gone away, you’re able to tune into your body and listen and actually decide if you want a certain food or not,” Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, previously told Well+Good.
Gellar says when choosing dessert, her focus is on quality ingredients. “I love a healthy lifestyle but I don’t believe in denying yourself. I believe you should always have the best,” she says. The best, in her book, means organic, non-GMO, ethically-sourced ingredients without a ton of added sugar, additives, or artificial ingredients—all while being mindful of portions. Seems like a pretty sound approach, IMO—and one that echoes what health experts recommend.
This ethos is the bedrock of her company Foodstirs, which launched a ready-to-eat line called Junk-Free Bakery in June with six new grab-and-go items (like blueberry muffins and mini powdered donuts) at Whole Foods and Fred Meyer stores nationwide. Traditionally focused on baking kits, the brand’s expansion (and new packaging) reflects the co-founders’ desire to give people the dessert they truly crave without it feeling like a betrayal of their health values.
“It’s almost 2020, and there shouldn’t be any compromises,” says Greg Fleishman, president and co-founder of Foodstirs. “I think up until this point, to be ‘better for you’ required some sort of compromise usually on the taste or convenience side.” Certainly no one is arguing that sugar is a health food (considering excessive consumption of sugar has been linked to health outcomes like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and even anxiety). But sometimes the effort to make a dessert “healthy” and sugar-free results in an ultra-processed product that can be unsatisfying and potentially no better than the original treat. FoodStirs aims to balance the two things by using higher-quality organic flour, cocoa, and sugar (all of which the co-founders argue add flavor without requiring a ton of sweetness) and a dash of stevia. The result: products with 50 percent less sugar than their traditional counterparts, says Galit Laibow, CEO and co-founder.
As for what dessert Gellar goes for (you know, as part of her wellness practice), she tells me that she’s all that mid-afternoon pick-me-up. “I’m not the sweets-at-night person; I’m the 4 p.m.-coffee-and-I-want-something-perfect person,” she says. You’ll see her reaching for a blueberry muffin rather than a hyper-processed vegan cookie.
Certainly, the approach won’t appeal to all—not everyone is as into dessert or wants to work it into their everyday eating plan. But for this ardent chocolate lover, I’m going to take a page out of Gellar’s book and own my love of sweets. Dessert as self-care? Hell yes.
On the subject of dessert, here’s why one registered dietitian will never, ever cut carbs. And if you’re more in the DIY dessert mood, check out these Mediterranean diet desserts.
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