Desserts are some of the most enjoyed food by many people, but these dishes are also likely to cause the most health problems, especially when we consume too much. Desserts are typically high in sugar and saturated fat, and many are also highly processed in even fried— all of which are bad for overall health. The good news is that it is possible to make desserts with less of the bad stuff and with more nutritious ingredients. Here are four tips on how you can make your desserts healthier.
#1: Add More Fruit
Every fruit contains fructose (fruit sugar), even if it doesn’t taste sweet. The sugar that naturally occurs in fruit isn’t as bad as your typical table sugar (sucrose), but there are certain fruits higher in sugar than others. These include:
Still, the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water content you get from consuming these fruits outweigh the disadvantage of having a high amount of sugar. So you can simply enjoy fruit for dessert, or you can add fruit to some of your favorite desserts.
You can also enjoy popular desserts that naturally include fruit (or vegetables) in them, such as apple pie, banana splits, carrot cake, key lime pie, lemon meringue pie, peach cobbler, pineapple upside-down cake, or pumpkin pie. Just keep in mind that these desserts are high in sugar— from both the natural fruit sugars and added sugars.
#2: Dark Chocolate Over Milk Chocolate
There are also many desserts that are made of chocolate, and this is usually milk chocolate. Milk chocolate contains cocoa, milk, and sugar, which gives it its sweet taste and creamy texture. However, dark chocolate is a healthier option because it contains more cocoa and less sugar and milk— if any milk at all. Because it contains more cocoa, dark chocolate is rich in various nutrients, such as flavonols, fiber, and magnesium, and it’s also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, can improve brain function, and may protect your skin from the sun.
So these are good reasons to consume dark chocolate over milk chocolate. The easiest way to do so is to buy candy (such as Hershey’s) that has a dark chocolate version, but you can also substitute milk chocolate for dark chocolate when making your own desserts.
As for white chocolate, it contains no cocoa at all, so you don’t get any of its benefits from this type of chocolate. White chocolate is made up of cocoa butter (instead of cocoa powder), milk, and sugar.
#3: Low-Fat Dairy Products
A lot of desserts are also high in fat, especially ice cream, cheesecake, and other dairy-based desserts. The good news is that there are low-fat versions of these dairy-based desserts, and you can even find dairy-free ice cream options that use almond, coconut, cashew, oat, or soy milk instead. To add nutritional value to these desserts, top them with fresh or frozen fruit, or even dark chocolate. You can even make your own low-fat whipped cream and infuse it with fruit juice or zest using a whip cream charger.
Dairy itself is full of nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein— but it’s also full of saturated fat. This is why too much dairy can be bad, and why many people choose low-fat dairy products, especially if they have conditions like high cholesterol.
#4: Whole Grains Instead of Refined
Many desserts are also baked, meaning that a lot of refined flour is used to bake them. Refined flour is very popular in a lot of baked goods, but it’s also not the healthiest product around. If you’re baking your own desserts, you can use whole wheat flour instead, which contains more fiber, complex carbohydrates, and other nutrients, whereas plain/refined flour has been stripped of all these nutrients.
You can also use coconut or almond flour, both of which are gluten-free. However, almond flour has more nutrients than any other type of flour, so this will give you the most health benefits. Just know that when baking, these different types of flour aren’t always interchangeable with regular flour— meaning that you may have to use more/less of other ingredients to ensure your dessert has the same consistency.
Keep in mind that these tips don’t completely eliminate all of the bad from desserts, nor do they automatically make desserts as healthy as consuming fruits and vegetables. They do, however, make desserts healthier by adding more nutritional value and limiting some of the unhealthy aspects. Also, you should always consult with a healthcare professional when it comes to changing your diet and substituting different ingredients.