Gina Florio
July 29, 2016 10:25 am
Gina Florio

The first thing I crave when I’m about to get my period is a 10-hour nap. The second thing I crave is something tremendously sweet. Put any dessert in front of me and I’ll eat it. Even a stale pound cake that sits in the back of the cupboard sounds divine and impossibly decadent when I’m PMSing. A lot of other women feel the same way when they come to that time of the month. One small survey even showed that 50 percent of women eat more junk food just before their period, especially packaged and processed foods that contain a lot of refined sugars. If you’re a menstruating woman, you might be nodding your head furiously in solidarity. I feel you, girl.

But here’s the thing, and I’m so very sorry to remind you of this fact: All that sugar and processed junk is especially bad for us when we’re gearing up for menstruation. All the things we already experience when we’re PMSing, like bloating, menstrual cramps, irritability, and fatigue, can be easily exacerbated by the things we put into our bodies. Caffeine can worsen your anxiety, breast tenderness, and fatigue. Salty foods are the quickest way to make your bloating worse. And sugar is far from the best choice pre-period. Processed, unnatural sweets aggravate your mood swings and deplete your immune system. They also make you more tired and mess with your blood sugar fluctuations.

I’ve known this information for a while, but it’s taken me a long time to actually do something about it, mostly because I have a massive sweet tooth that refuses to be ignored. It tends to take over when I’m PMSing, and when I answer the call and dive into every dessert I can seize, I always feel much, much worse afterwards. I’m far too stubborn to give up my sweets, though, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and come up with a few alternatives that taste just as good, but without the nasty side effects. Trust me, they’re worth the time and they’re easy to create!

Here are six desserts to make when you’re PMSing that will actually make you feel better, not worse.

1. Coconut Chocolate Chunk Bars

This is a wildly easy recipe to make and it takes no skill whatsoever. These bars are paleo and gluten-free, so you won’t deal with any big crash afterward. I was shocked to taste how moist they were. The trick is to take them out of the oven exactly when they’re done. You don’t want these suckers to dry out!

You can read the recipe here. I used honey as the natural sweetener, although you can use either maple syrup or agave syrup. I’d bet that maple syrup would be the best choice. The coconut flakes are deemed optional, but I would highly recommend including them.

2. Beetroot Chocolate Cake

Have you ever had a beetroot chocolate dessert? If you haven’t, allow me to show you a whole new world, Aladdin-style. Beetroot adds an extra layer of sweetness and a certain depth to classic desserts. Besides, it’s an additional serving of veggies, and that certainly won’t do you any harm. This particular recipe uses coconut flour, which is one of the best flours you can bake with, as it’s got a lot of good fiber, it’s gluten-free, and it’s packed with healthy fats. Plus, it uses raw cacao powder, giving it that rich chocolatey taste. Irresistible.

Find the recipe here. Make sure you cook the beetroot before you grate them. As you can see, it goes particularly well with some sliced banana on the top, dusted with cinnamon.

3. Paleo Key Lime Pie

My boyfriend made this for me a couple weeks ago and it was so good I nearly proposed to him. When he first told me he was making it, I thought he had gone mad. Paleo key lime pie?! That sounds dumb, I said to myself. I stand corrected. It had a lovely velvety texture, with gentle kicks of lime zest that take you on a wild ride — all without the preservatives and artificial ingredients you’d usually find in a store-bought key lime pie. Recipe here.

Best of all, there’s a lot of room here for experimentation. You can substitute walnuts for almonds for the base, you can use maple syrup as a sweetener instead of honey (which is what my partner did), and you can play around with what you use as toppings. If you can, get your hands on medjool dates. They make for the best crust. Our key lime pie was topped with a berry and honey reduction, shredded coconut, and raw cashews. Feel free to give that a shot, or come up with something brand new.

4. Vegan Mango Cheesecake

I don’t mean to be a drama queen, but I nearly fainted when I had my first bite of this. Again, I can thank my S.O. for this one. In a way, it was a sequel to his key lime pie. I helped him make it, so I can attest to how simple it is. It just requires some planning ahead (something that neither my S.O. nor I are very good at, so it’s miracle we pulled this off), since you need to soak the cashews for 12 hours before using them. And don’t think you can just skip this part! It’s crucial to having an impossibly creamy cheesecake.

I was stoked to find out how decadent and addictive this was. I’ve always loved cheesecake but, honestly, it makes me feel a bit ill afterwards because of the dairy and sugar overload. This variation is vegan, paleo, and raw, making it gentle on the tummy and actually quite healthy.

The recipe is super simple. If you don’t have a springform cheesecake pan, improvise. We used a loaf pan because we didn’t have anything else, and it worked out fine. Our topping was pretty straightforward — halfway thawed frozen mango. But I imagine melted dark chocolate would be pretty scrumptious too. Then I suppose you’d have to call it Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake. Rad.

5. Chocolate Oatmeal Cups

I admit, these cups are designed to be for breakfast with some milk poured in. But when I saw the recipe for the first time I couldn’t help but picture these little guys as a dessert. By the way, they’re vegan and sweetened with natural goodies. Don’t be surprised if you actually get some extra energy after you chow down on these cups.

Here’s the recipe. Where it calls for tahini, I used a combination of almond butter and peanut butter. I’d definitely recommend using maple syrup rather than honey. I put a tiny scoop of coconut ice cream in the cups with some frozen blueberries on top, but feel free to toss in whatever sounds best to you. Perfect thing to munch on when you’re having a movie night at home.

6. Fried Banana With Peanut Butter Maple Topping

I invented this sinful dessert the other day. I initially made it for an afternoon snack, but I’m confident that it would be the best midnight nosh. Look, we can all agree that anything fried is worth our time. Seriously, deep fry anything and I’ll eat it gladly. But it’s precisely this stuff that makes us lethargic and even moodier than before. That’s why I came up with this brilliant alternative.

It’s not even a recipe really. All you do is heat up some ghee or coconut oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Once it gets nice and hot, dump in as many thick slices of banana you’d like. Try not to use bananas that are very ripe, as they might just turn into mush in the pan. They should sizzle as soon as they hit the pan, or else your oil isn’t hot enough. Fry them for about two minutes on each side, or until you see that they’re turning a lovely golden brown. I actually like to fry mine until they’re almost burnt. I love the crunch it gives.

While that’s happening, get out a small saucepan. This is where you just have to use your own taste. I put in a couple scoops of peanut butter, spoonfuls of maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon, and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and let it all simmer gently until it gave me that beautiful nutty smell. And that was my glaze. I dumped it on top of the fried banana slices and chewed my way to heaven.

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