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Whether you’re trying to lose weight, avoid heartburn, or simply eat healthfully, you needn’t give up sweets. Just watch how much you eat.

Let’s face it: Almost all of us have a weak spot for some sweet indulgence. Whether it’s chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cake, or doughnuts, life would be pretty darn blah without a treat from time to time. And we’re not talking about trying to fool yourself into thinking a baby carrot is actually a Snickers bar. We’re talking about the real stuff.

The first piece of advice you should follow, says Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman’s Diet, is “Dump the fat-free desserts.”

“Ounce for ounce, most fat-free desserts are just as calorie-rich as the higher-fat version,” says Somer. “And even if they are low-cal, you aren’t giving yourself a leg up by eating a whole box.”

Chocolate

For many of us, temptation means chocolate, despite its calories and tendency to trigger heartburn. The solution for both your diet and your heartburn? Think small but luscious.

If it’s chocolate you’re craving, then nothing but chocolate will do, says Somer. She suggests cutting up any kind of fruit you like -- strawberries, bananas, pineapples, and melons are good choices -- and then dipping the pieces in chocolate syrup (dipping in, rather than pouring on, will help you keep a handle on the calories). This gives you the chocolate taste you want with the nutritional value of the fruit.

You can also indulge your chocolate fantasies, Somer says, with a mug of hot chocolate (made from high-quality cocoa or chocolate bars, not the powdered instant variety), or a couple of Mallomars (those chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies that are only available from September through March -- buy ahead and put in the refrigerator or freezer so you can ride out the hot summer months when the cookies aren’t produced).

Or try a square or two of a creamy dark (as opposed to milk) chocolate, such as Dove, which is not only satisfying but rich in antioxidants too, says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy for The Cleveland Clinic. A few (and that means just a few -- read the label for serving size) Hershey’s kisses or miniature Hershey's bars can also feed your chocolate fix without derailing your diet.

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