Look at that. It's a cherry ice cream with a chunky cherry sauce drizzled over the top, still warm. And it's healthy. Or is it?
There's a huge debate in paleo circles about whether paleo desserts are actually considered healthy. They contain fruits - which are often high in sugar - as well as natural sugars like honey and maple syrup. Many contain dates, which are really packed with sugar. So at what point does a 'healthy' paleo dessert differ from a tub of ice cream you'd pick up from your local corner shop?
Firstly, it's true that home-made, paleo desserts are free from artificial colours, preservatives and all sorts of refined sugars and syrups. It's often as simple and natural as swirling some berries and honey into a carton of coconut cream. They contain good fats too and there's evidence that natural sugars are easier for our bodies to cope with.
But just because something is 'healthy' it doesn't mean you should eat it to excess. As you may know, I've suffered for most of my life with psoriasis, which is an autoimmune condition. When I eat well, manage stress and get plenty of sleep and daylight it generally behaves itself. If I eat a scoop (and I mean ONE SCOOP) of the ice cream pictured above, it will stay under control. But if I eat it again the next day, I'll have raised red patches of skin that itch and burn and won't calm down for a few days - maybe longer.
My psoriasis - and my digestive system - respond very badly to sugar. Fruit, too many carbs, honey, maple syrup - you name it - I have to watch it all carefully. I've made some paleo puddings from other blogs and I've been absolutely shocked at the amount of maple syrup that goes into some treat bars and paleo brownies that are labelled as 'paleo' and 'healthy'. As I said, just because it's healthy (or healthier) we don't have to go mad with it.
Many people think it's best just to stay away from paleo puddings altogether. You're eating quite a large amount of sugar in one go (compared to the day's meals, which are generally sugar-free) which can kick off major sugar cravings. I can go without sugar for weeks, and I'm fine. But give me a Mars Bar or one of those maple syrup-drenched paleo coconut bars and I'll turn into one of those bad minions from Despicable Me - fidgeting and irritable until I get my next sugar 'fix'.
But, in spite of all this, I do think there is a place for puddings on the paleo and AIP diets. You can take some coconut milk ice cream to a party, which means you're much less likely to want to tuck into that triple chocolate fudge cake perched proudly on its stand. Nibble on a small square from a coconut bar made from blended dates, coconut and orange zest if it means you won't pop to the shop and buy a 200g bar of chocolate-covered caramel. I've managed to introduce a little dark chocolate (80% cocoa solids or more) successfully after a year on AIP. But I don't allow myself to eat it more than once every few months because I find that my body seems to recognise it as chocolate and then expects sugar to follow. And it gives me a hard time about it, and a few days of sugar cravings.
A little paleo/AIP ice cream or cheesecake is fine, for most people. But if you find that after you eat it you're craving more and more sugar, then it might be best to lay off the desserts - even those 'healthy' ones - for a while longer. We're all different, and don't all tolerate sugars the same. All AIP treats are designed to be eaten in moderation, and most of us will be fine with that. Just don't overdo it.