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11 Reasons To Eat Dessert First

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Why can’t I eat dessert first? 

This is probably one of your first pressing questions as a child. It’s a very valid question. 

Who made up the food rules around what gets eaten when anyways? 

Eating dessert first can have many positive benefits including: 

Through this blog article, I hope that you’ll learn to break the rules about assigned meal structures. 

Lets dig into the reasons why we might believe we can’t eat dessert first, How to challenge traditional meal structures, and why this is important for healing our relationship with food. 

Why Do We Eat Dessert After A Meal?

Within western culture, dessert after a meal is the norm.  Dessert after a meal may be justified as:  

  • Dessert is defined as “bad food” or “Junk food” 
  • The belief is that dessert has less nutritional value that dinner entrees 
  • Ritualistic practices around food order 
  • A form of food restriction (if we’re wanting to eat less dessert)

Dessert after a meal is not unique to western societies, but it it is not universal. 

In many cultures: 

  • Sweet treats may be part of a meal 
  • What we would consider dessert may be a meal or snack 
  • Grazing or snacking versus structured meals is common 
  • Appetizers, meals, snacks, and desserts are not distinctly defined. It is all just food

Does It Matter If You Eat Dessert First? 

From a nutrient absorption perspective, it does not matter whether you eat your dessert before or after your meal. 

Your body will absorb a similar amount of nutrients whether you eat dessert pre or post-meal.  The exception would be if eating dessert first allows you to have a little more of it which could help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins. 

The most important thing to consider whether we are eating dinner or dessert first is if your meal has: 

  • Protein 
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrates 

Dessert can even be incorporated as part of the dinner as a source of carbohydrates and fat.  

Reasons To Eating Dessert First

When we have disordered eating, we can often develop food or meal fixation.  Dessert is one of the most common food items restricted. This can lead to binge restrict cycles and disruption of hunger cues.  

Here are 11 reasons to eat dessert first: 

  1. The dessert item sounds the most appealing 
  2. Dessert is available while you’re waiting for the meal and you’re hungry now 
  3. Dessert is the easiest accessible food 
  4. You’re hungry but nothing sounds good
  5. Desserts cause you anxiety and you want to challenge this
  6. Dessert helps to stimulate your appetite with an eating disorder 
  7. You need to challenge  rules and rituals about how and when food should be eaten
  8. Your craving the temperature of the dessert over the meal (hot or cold for different seasons)
  9. You have positive memories associated with a dessert that you can bring to the meal 
  10. Eating dessert first is a way to respect your body and its biological needs and desires
  11. We’re able to better navigate hunger and fullness rather than basing food decisions on expectations
infographic showing 11 reasons to eat dessert first

Just Eat Dessert

It’s important to remember that there are no clearly defined rules for what constitutes as a dessert.  

A dessert can be: 

  • Pastries
  • Fruit
  • Crackers
  • Pies
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cakes
  • Grains
  • Sweetened veggies 

As you can see, many of the items that are considered desserts are also considered meal items in western societies.  

Consider eating all food from a food neutrality perspective.  When we think of no food as being right or wrong, good or bad then dessert is really just food.  And any food can be eaten at any time for any reason.  

When we start to consider all foods as being equal and dismiss the rules of diet culture it’s easy to see why it may sometimes be logical to eat dessert first. 

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and need additional resources to support you in your recovery journey check out these eating disorder recovery books.

© 2022 Peace and Nutrition

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Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!