Wedges of triple-layer chocolate cake and bowls of Ben & Jerry's "Chubby Hubby"? No, you won't find such indulgences in any diet program. But that doesn't mean that oh-so-pleasureable exclamation point at the end of a meal is forever gone. Plenty of plans and approaches allow for treats, albeit in moderation. Here's a look at 7 diets for dessert lovers, ordered by their ranking in U.S. News's Best Weight-Loss Diets. (One plan, the Cookie Diet, has not been ranked.)
Jenny Craig. The prepackaged meals at the heart of the plan are small, but dinner always includes dessert. Some of the packaged options: a chocolate walnut brownie, a lemon mousse bar, and toffee cookies. A built-in "splurge strategy" allows up to 250 extra calories a couple of times a week for special occasions.
Raw Food Diet. Eat as much dessert as you want—so long as you don't mind making it from scratch. Three-quarters or more of what raw foodists eat each day consists of plant-based foods never heated above 115 degrees F., so prep can be time-consuming. To make chocolate chip cookies, for example, you grind steamed cashews and uncooked oats in a food processor or blender to make dough; mix coconut oil, powdered carob and cocoa, maple syrup, and vanilla to make quasi-chocolate chips, and then combine, shape into cookies, and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes. Other choices: almond cherry macaroons, apple cranberry cheesecake, and walnut fudge made with cacao beans, used in certain types of chocolate.
Volumetrics. Nothing is off limits, and that includes dessert. The trick is treats with relatively low energy density, or fewer calories per gram. The best options are gelatin desserts, baked fruit, Italian ice, sorbet, sherbet, pudding, frozen fruit bars, and fat-free fudge bars. The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan provides lots of options, including baked pumpkin custard, brownie sundae soufflés, carrot spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and oat bran crepes.
Vegan Diet. With all animal products off the plate, even dairy and eggs, dessert requires creativity and prep time, but how often you indulge is your call. Try a tart apple stuffed with cinnamon and brown sugar, or almond cookies that contain only oat flour, ground almonds, and maple syrup. There's a recipe somewhere that's likely to suit your taste buds.
Flat Belly Diet. Dieters get about 1,600 calories a day, with plenty of room for dessert on the menu. The Flat Belly Diet! Family Cookbook and Flat Belly Diet! Cookbook are packed with recipes for sweet treats. Try chocolate pudding with bananas and graham crackers, citrus ricotta cannoli, and pumpkin-maple cheesecake.
Abs Diet. One "cheat meal" a week is required on this plan. You have permission to forget your diet and dive into those wings or pizza you've been craving. Finish off with a brownie or milkshake? Sure, why not? If you've always enjoyed something sweet after dinner, says diet author David Zinczenko, don't deny yourself. Just be smart about it. Replace one of your daily snacks with dessert, and keep your portions relatively small. The New! Abs Diet outlines ample recipes that keep calories and fat in check. Among the options: Muscle Muffins and a Whip-It-Good Banana Split.
Cookie Diet. The whole diet revolves around cookies. You won't confuse the low-calorie varieties sold for the diet, made with a secret "hunger-controlling" formula, with the real thing, but hey, they're cookies. Flavors include cinnamon oatmeal, chocolate brownie, and maple granola.
Next list: Diets That Let You Drink Alcohol