Everyone loves a delicious, indulgent dessert. Unfortunately, the calories that come with it can add up very quickly. But you don't have to blow your health goals when it comes to desserts. There are ways to make luscious treats you can enjoy, without the bloated tummy afterward.
What Makes a Dessert Healthy?
How can you classify something as a healthy dessert? There are a few key things to look for when searching for a healthier option.
Fruit & Vegetable Content – Dessert is a great way to get an extra serve of produce into your day! Fruit and vegetables can be used in a variety of ways when cooking. They can add flavor and sweetness, change the color or even change the texture.
Fiber – If you're going to enjoy something sweet, it's a good idea to look for fiber. Fiber naturally slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This leaves you with steadier energy and a greater sense of satiety. Fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are some of your best fiber options for dessert.
Healthy Fats – Fats are essential for our health, but some fats used in cooking are less than ideal. By choosing healthier fat options, you are providing both flavor and a filling sensation.
Natural Sweeteners – Dessert is a classically sweet dish, but loading up on processed sugar is never good for your body. That's why natural sweeteners are the healthier choice. You can use natural extracts, such as stevia and xylitol. If you prefer to use sugar, you can try honey or molasses for a lower GI option.
Top Healthy Dessert Ingredients
Whether you want to create your own, or you're looking at a menu, you need to know the champion ingredients. These are all incredibly versatile options for delicious desserts.
Coconut Milk & Coconut Cream – If your diet is free of dairy, you might think you have to miss out on creamy desserts. But coconut milk and cream are here to save the day. You can cook them, pour them, whip them or anything you do with dairy usually. As a bonus, they lend a light “coconutty” flavor to the dish. Even just coconut cream whipped with vanilla and served over fruit can seem indulgent, but is, in fact, easy and nutritious.
Berries – Berries are full of flavor, and are also naturally low in sugar. If you're trying to tame your sweet tooth, berries will hit the spot. They can be used in a variety of desserts, and served hot or cold. Keeping a bag of frozen berries in the freezer will mean you're always prepared to whip up a fruity dessert.
Cacao/Cocoa – Chocolate is delicious, but full of sugar and unhealthy fats. Instead, why not add your own chocolate flavor with cacao powder? It offers all of the benefits of chocolate, including antioxidants and magnesium, without the downsides. Using a small amount with a naturally sweet ingredient can create something special; check out the ice-cream recipe below to see it in action.
Nut Butter – Nut butters are good fats in a jar! They offer mono-unsaturated fat, essential fatty acids, fiber, protein and fat-soluble vitamins, all in one spoonful. So, if you're looking to add a richness to your dessert, these are the natural choice. Remember to get the highest quality nut butter you can; higher quality means better fats and a better taste.
Spices – Spices pack a flavorful punch with just a tiny amount. They each come with their own health benefits: cinnamon balances blood sugar, turmeric is naturally anti-inflammatory and ginger can relieve pain. By adding one, or more, to your desserts, you can transform the dish into something truly special.
Avocado – Is there anything that the humble avocado can't do? When it comes to making desserts creamy and nutritious, avocado is king. It offers a serve of produce, an array of nutrients including fat soluble vitamins and fiber, and a mild taste. When you have an avocado-based dessert, there is zero guilt involved. To see avocado's skills in action, see the mousse recipe below.
Recipes to Try Today
Convinced that healthy desserts are the thing to try? We agree. That's why we've pulled together a few favorite recipes to get you on board.
Snickers Nice Cream
If it's a hot evening, and you're craving ice-cream, we've got you covered. This super simple recipe is guaranteed to hit the spot and cool you down.
Makes 2 servings
4 bananas, frozen and sliced
2 tbsp nut butter of choice
2 tsp cacao/cocoa powder
A pinch of salt
Blend ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.
Healthy Baked Apple
If you feel like something comforting on a cold night, or just love a hot dessert, this healthy baked apple is for you. The natural sweetness of apple and vanilla is more than enough to satisfy.
Makes 4 servings
3 tbsp natural raisins
½ cup walnuts, chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Core the apples, making a pocket in the center of the apple.
Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, and stir. Add walnuts and raisins and mix.
Divide mixture into the apples. Sprinkle leftover mix over the apples. Cover dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the apples are soft.
Choc Cherry Ripe Mousse
This is a dessert that is more produce than junk food, but tastes even better. The avocado gives a creamy texture without the need for dairy. Perfect for serving at a dinner party, because it's Paleo, vegetarian and vegan friendly, so everyone is happy.
Makes 2 servings
1 ripe avocado, pitted
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cherries
2 tbsp cacao/cocoa powder
3 tbsp water
¼ tsp vanilla
Pinch of sea salt
6 drops stevia (optional)
1 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes, to serve
Blend ingredients in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate until cold, then serve topped with coconut. For extra indulgence, sprinkle with a teaspoon of chocolate chips.
Feeling inspired yet? Make sure you share pictures of all of your creations with us!