Satisfy your cravings in a healthy way.
A sweet tooth is meant to be satisfied — yes, even if you’re watching your weight. Dessert, after all, is one of life’s pleasures, and deprivation typically backfires.
It doesn’t have to be a high-calorie, high-fat disaster, either: The trick is making smart choices and substitutions.
“Take advantage of foods that are naturally sweet and simply delicious,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietitian based in New York and author of “The Small Change Diet.” Steer clear of fatty ingredients like creamy whipped topping or butter, and stick with fresh fruit and low-fat choices.
Here are 13 desserts that are as healthy as they are tasty:
1. Grilled fruit
You can’t go wrong with fruit.
“Fruit is naturally sweet and can take the edge off sugar cravings. But the real benefit of fruit is that it’s relatively low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” says Kailey Proctor, a board-certified oncology dietitian at Leonard Cancer Institute with Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California.
Try throwing pineapple, banana, apple or pear slices on the grill. “There’s nothing healthier than sticking with fresh fruit, and on the grill, it becomes even sweeter,” Gans says.
Grilling concentrates flavor by reducing water content, while also caramelizing the fruit’s natural sugars. One serving of grilled pineapple usually provides around 80 calories.
2. Dark chocolate ‘bark’
Melt dark chocolate and spread it on parchment paper. Sprinkle in healthy ingredients like tart cherries or sunflower seeds, suggests Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of “The Superfood Swap.”
Refrigerate it for five minutes before breaking it into small pieces. “It’s a healthy option because dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate, and it contains more cocoa, which may make it heart-smart.”
One piece of “bark” should clock in at less than 100 calories.
3. Peanut butter chocolate chip yogurt
Proctor recommends adding 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of mini chocolate chips and between 2 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon of honey to one small container of plain Greek yogurt. Give it a good stir and enjoy.
“Depending on how much honey you use,” she says, you’ll be looking at between 310 and 330 calories and “25 grams of muscle-building protein in this recipe.”
4. Yogurt parfait
Emily Rice, a registered dietitian with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, says she likes a yogurt parfait for a delicious and healthy dessert.
She uses low-fat Greek yogurt as the base because of its protein content and adds, “mixed berries for some sweetness, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. She tops it off with homemade granola, “made with oats, peanut butter, nuts, seeds and honey, which adds some fat and fiber to keep me full longer.”
Calorie count depends on which toppings you use and how liberally you sprinkle them. “For 3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup berries and 1/4 cup granola, the dessert would be around 250 calories,” she says.
5. Ricotta and berries
Blend 1 cup of mixed berries with 1/4 cup of low-fat ricotta. “If you’re in the mood for ice cream, this can do the trick,” Gans says. “It’s creamy, sweet and low in calories.”
One serving provides between 150 and 200 calories.
6. Healthy apple ‘pie’
Cut an apple in half and bake it until it’s soft. Top it with 2 tablespoons of low-fat Greek yogurt, a dash of cinnamon and crumbs from one crushed graham cracker. Expect to spend about 150 calories.
“If you can stick with one, it’s a great low-calorie cookie,” Gans says. Smaller biscotti cookies should only set you back about 70 calories. Liven things up with an almond-apricot or honey pistachio version.
8. Greek yogurt berry brulee
Spread plain, nonfat Greek yogurt over fresh berries in a small serving bowl. Sprinkle on a teaspoon of sugar, and use a culinary torch to burn the sugar for a minute or two, until it’s golden.
Not only is this treat tasty, but the yogurt is packed with protein, and there’s lots of vitamin C and calcium too, all for about 175 calories.
9. Banana ‘ice cream’ with toppings
Puree frozen banana chunks with a splash of almond milk, creating a treat with a creamy, ice cream-like texture.
Sprinkle chopped walnuts and cinnamon on top. Cinnamon is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects and may help diabetics manage their blood sugar levels.
This dessert is a “perfect sub” for ice cream, says Blatner. “It has fewer calories, no fat, no added sugar and potassium and fiber from the banana.” Calories should add up to around 200 to 230.
Proctor’s version of banana ice cream calls for blending a frozen banana in a food processor with a tablespoon of peanut butter. Top with a few mini chocolate chips for a delicious 270-calorie dessert that’s more than just tasty.
“By adding peanut butter, you get heart-healthy fats and a little bit of protein for satiety,” she says.
10. Chocolate chia and almond bites
Use a food processor to puree pitted dates and water until a sticky paste forms. Add in cocoa powder, almonds and chia seeds to create a solid dough. Shape the mixture into tablespoon-balls and then refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
The dates make the dessert sweet, and the almonds and chia seeds provide healthy fats, along with texture and crunch, for about 160 calories.
11. Mini ice cream sandwiches
Put a small scoop of light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt between two vanilla wafers. Roll the sandwich in finely chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate so that it sticks to the ice cream.
Each sandwich should cost about 200 calories.
12. Dark chocolate-dipped fruit
Microwave a dark chocolate bar until it’s almost melted, and then dip in the fruit of your choice. Strawberries, mango, papaya, apricot or banana are all great choices.
“It’s a nourishing and filling option, since fruit is loaded with fiber and water,” Blatner says. And the antioxidants in cocoa are thought to boost the flexibility of blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Because dark chocolate has a higher concentration of cocoa than milk chocolate, it contains more of these helpful compounds.
A single chocolate-covered strawberry has about 80 calories.
13. Peanut butter stuffed dates
Another go-to healthy dessert Proctor recommends is the easy-to-prepare peanut butter stuffed date. Stuff four dates with equal amounts of 1 tablespoon peanut butter and sprinkle 1 tablespoon chocolate chips on top for a 280-calorie dessert that satisfies.
“Dates are nature’s candy so they give the same sweet taste most expect from dessert but are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, such as potassium,” Proctor says.
Focus on portion size.
Lastly, Rice says, “desserts can be sweet or savory. Instead of focusing on exactly how many calories are in the dessert, focus more on portion sizes and adding in a source of fiber and/or protein to give you a sense of satiety for that craving.”
Proctor notes that just because it’s dessert, doesn’t mean it can’t do some nutritional lifting too.
“Healthy desserts are a great way to get nutrients that you may have missed during the day. They might not always taste like the real thing, but they don’t put a huge dent in your caloric intake and often provide you with additional nutrients.”
13 healthy desserts:
1. Grilled fruit.
2. Dark chocolate “bark.”
3. Peanut butter chocolate chip yogurt.
4. Yogurt parfait.
5. Ricotta and berries.
6. Healthy apple “pie.”
8. Greek yogurt berry brulee.
9. Banana “ice cream” with toppings.
10. Chocolate chia and almond bites.
11. Mini ice cream sandwiches.
12. Dark chocolate dipped fruit.
13. Peanut butter stuffed dates.
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