Family Health

Making Healthy Desserts: How to Pick Better Options and Substitutes

Dessert is one of the best parts of eating! Whether we're talking candy, pie, cookies, or any other sweet option, it's easy to both overindulge and accidentally encourage your family and children to do the same. For an easy workaround, though, you can learn to make healthy desserts. Simply figure out which ingredients make these treats a poor diet choice and how to alter your favorite recipes.

Dessert Diet Culprits

There are two main offenders in desserts that make them unhealthy: saturated fat and added sugar. Let's learn more about them:

  • Saturated fat. This type of fat is found mostly in animal foods. While there are individual saturated fatty acids that are essential to the body, saturated fat can still influence the body's total blood and artery-clogging LDL cholesterol. Desserts tend to be high in saturated fat because of all the shortening, egg yolks, butter, high-fat dairy, and chocolate used to make them.
  • Sugar. High amounts of added sugar increase blood sugar levels, and frequent consumption can raise your risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Added sugars in desserts can be found in white sugar, brown sugar, honey, chocolate, and sweetened fruit (such as raisins or dried cranberries).

Here are a few ways to change it up with some healthier options.

Substitute Ingredients

Replace the ingredients that add sugar and saturated fat to your dessert recipes to increase overall healthfulness. Let's run through some substitute options for common unhealthy ingredients in many desserts:

  • Cow's milk. Substitute almond, soy, or coconut milk.
  • Butter/shortening. Swap for vegan butter, Greek yogurt, coconut oil, applesauce, avocado, pureed pumpkin, or a nut butter such as peanut or almond. Unsweetened applesauce is also a good substitute for fatty oils.
  • Egg. There are plentiful options for egg substitutes. Try banana, peanut butter, silken tofu, or applesauce.
  • Sugar. Use applesauce, mashed banana, or another mashed fruit in place of some of the added sugar in a recipe.

Also note: Honey is considered an added sugar, but it has health qualities not found in cane sugar, making it a better choice.

Focus on Fruit

Allow fruit to bring natural sugar to your dessert, reducing the added sugars needed for a recipe. Try a fruit crumble, baked fruit, or a simple fruit salad with whipped cream.

Try a Vegan Dessert

By removing all animal products, vegan recipes also remove most saturated fats. Plus, vegan desserts make the ingredient substitutions for you! From vegan brownies and cookies to vegan pies and cakes, you'll be shocked to find nearly all your favorite desserts in vegan form.

By knowing more about what goes into common desserts that make them a poor dietary choice, you can learn to make better recipe choices -- and feel better about the healthy desserts you serve to your loved ones.

Posted in Family Health

Christina Manian is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally from the Boston area, she attended Boston University where she majored in nutritional sciences with a concentration in dietetics. She recently completed her nutrition education at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on medical nutrition therapy. While her background has mostly been in the clinical setting, Christina embraces wellness nutrition as the backbone of optimum health. She is excited to be able to educate a larger audience about nutrition through the written word.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.