12 Perfect Ways to Finish Off Your Paleo Meal

Yum… kiwi.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, in December I completed a 21-day no sugar challenge.   During those three weeks, I cut out all sugars, including those from fruit and sweet potatoes (with the exception of a daily granny smith apple), while maintaining strict paleo + dairy diet.  It was an interesting experiment but I doubt I will ever repeat it.  Cutting back out natural sugars made me feel restricted and a little preoccupied with brownies.  And ice cream.  And cookies.  I definitely had more sugary treats than usual in the month following the end of the challenge.

Just finally this week, I feel like I am settling back into my normal, comfortable paleo ways.   When I‘m buzzing along, I seem to naturally fall comfortably into eating about 90-95 percent paleo, but allowing myself to indulge in a really good dessert about once a week.   When I’m in this groove, it feels easy and natural. I don’t worry much about my food, my health, my workouts or my treats. I just eat and enjoy life — which is really the point of eating well.

If you have read this blog for any period of time, you know I am a dessert girl.  I grew up having a sweet treat after lunch and dinner.  That’s how you end a meal, with a dessert.   Although I avoid daily desserts, I still long for that “finisher”, that extra something to satisfy some primal part of my brain that thinks every meal should end with a treat.   Having a post-meal finisher helps me know the meal is done.

I like the finishers to be primal (meaning paleo and occasionally a little dairy) and exclude paleo-ized versions of anything — no paleo cookies, primal cupcakes or low-carb fudge.  These treats have their place but, for me, that place is not on a Tuesday when I am eating lunch at my desk.

What I prefer for every day meal finishers is a little simpler.  I want whole foods with no added sweetener.  And I want foods that required minimal preparation, other than perhaps a bit of chopping and/or reheating.

Here are 12 post-meal finishers that I like – nine that I would call strict-paleo and three that include dairy.  I’d love to hear about your favorites as well.  If I missed a must-try, be sure to leave it in comments below so I can add it to the rotation.

  1. Kiwi with nuts and raisins and coconut milk:  This is perhaps my biggest go-to meal finisher.  I’ve been into kiwi lately, but this also works with most fruits.  Berries are other favorites of mine.  I like the raisins for sweetness and the nuts for crunch, but you can leave them out if you prefer.
  2. Sweet potato and cinnamon:  This is a winner.  Every paleo friend I talked to had a variation on this theme.  I microwave a sweet potato and add cinnamon and perhaps a dash of coconut milk.  My friend Petra recommended thinly sliced butternut squash, baked and sprinkled with cinnamon.  The key here is the cinnamon, which makes this a satisfying end of meal treat.
  3. Herbal tea:  This is a winter-only treat. In the summer, I want nothing to do with hot tea.  But for 6 months a year, a big mug of a fruity, herbal tea is the perfect way to close down the meal.  By the time I take my last sip, I’m satisfied and not at all interested in more food.
  4. Orange:   Simple and fantastic!  There’s something about the citrus that kind of wraps up the meal well.  There aren’t a whole lot of flavors I want when my mouth is citrus-fresh.  Plus, it takes a few moments to peel and remove the pith, so you have time to feel full and satiated if you just scarfed down your meal quickly.
  5. Almond butter and apple:  I’m actually a little over almond butter at the moment.  It might have something to do with the jar-a-week habit I used to have.  But this is a favorite for many folks.  Just take care not to eat a jar each week or you too may need to back off for a while.
  6. Prunes:  Have you had prunes lately?   You should.  They are super yum.  I’ve tried dried apples and dried mango, but found they are so sweet I just keep eating.   Prunes, on the other hand, seem to do the job well.  Nobody wants to overeat on prunes
  7. Winter breakfast bowl:  This was a wonderful discovery from my no-sugar challenge.  To see the recipe, click HERE. I ate this every night for a week straight.  Delicious and highly recommended.
  8. Dates stuffed with macadamia nuts:  Love, love this! Because macadamias are so pricy and I tend to consume every nut I buy in one sitting, I consider this one more of a treat.  Maybe like for an “I’ve had a rough week and need something indulgent but want to stay paleo” kind of occasion.  Those nuts tuck into the dates so perfectly, it’s like it was meant to be.
  9. Frozen bananas:  Here’s how this works.  Peel a banana and freeze it.  Then, after your meal, mash up the banana for a cold, sweet treat.  If you crave a little texture, like I do, add a few sprinkles of nuts and enjoy.

Here are three bonus options if you are eating dairy.  Because I don’t each much dairy, it always feels sort of indulgent and satiating.  Of course, if dairy isn’t for you, stick to the options above.

  1. Whole fat Greek yogurt with chopped granny smith apple and cocoa nibs:  Whoa – love this!  Of course, you can skip the toppings or add different ones but I think this is absolutely perfect.  I had forgotten about raw cocao nibs, until a reader (Thanks Jennifer!) was awesome enough to remind me what a treat these unsweetened cocoa nibs are.  I’m going to buy more next week.
  2. Cheese:  If you don’t go eating a cow’s worth, an ounce or two of sharp, quality cheese can be a great post-meal finisher.  Plus, you can feel sort of fancy and European.  “Yes, I’ll have the cheese plate, please.”
  3. Latte:  This is for sure my go-to dessert option at a restaurant, if I decide not to just order dessert.)   I usually go with whole milk because it ups the satiation factor for me.  It’s also a good one because most of the time your non-paleo friends won’t give you a hard time about skipping dessert.

On a related note, I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has taken the time to comment or e-mail or like something on my Facebook page or retweet one of my tweets or let me know in person that you liked a recipe or a post.  If you have a blog, you know how much it means.  If you don’t have a blog, let me tell you – it means a tremendous amount.  Seriously, I so appreciate your feedback.  It’s incredibly meaningful to know that you are enjoying the blog.  Thank you!