For those with a seemingly unquenchable sweet tooth, dessert can be the downfall of an otherwise healthy diet. The good news, though, is that once you find the right ingredients, the options for creating a snack that is both nutritious and tasty are endless.
Often deemed nature's candy, fruit reigns as the go-to healthy dessert. The natural sugars in fruit allow for a permissible sweet treat without sabotaging a healthy diet. Low in calories and rich in flavor, most fruit also contains a substantial amount of vitamins and antioxidants. Fruit ice pops make for a simple, succulent treat during warmer months. Combine pieces of fruit of your choosing with a splash of fruit juice and freeze in Dixie cups for simple popsicles.
Another option is banana "ice cream." Blend frozen pieces of banana in a food processor and serve as is for a healthy frozen treat! Liven it up by adding cocoa nibs, nuts or cinnamon. While often associated with sweets, cinnamon is actually a spice that has a variety of positive effects on the body. Cinnamon's nutrition profile can be found on the "World's Healthiest Food" index, which lists the spice as medicinal for its impact on blood sugar, anti-microbial properties, cognitive function and more. The health benefits of cinnamon are so significant, in fact, that it is also sold as a supplement in capsule form. Save the 10 dollars that it retails for, and sprinkle this natural flavor on almost any dessert!
For fall and winter months, when frozen treats simply don't sound appealing, try baking apples. Place sliced apples in a baking pan, top with lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring the ingredients every 15 minutes.
While there are countless varieties of fruit-based desserts, rest assured that fruit is not the only option for a guilt-free treat.
For a step off the beaten path, try using eggs. Merengues -- which some refer to as "kiss cakes" -- call for egg whites as the primary ingredient. According to Jessie Szalay, egg whites pack a mean 6 grams of protein and significant amounts of other nutrients, including riboflavin, selenium and potassium. While classic meringues do call for sugar, organic maple syrup can be used as a natural substitute. Vanilla, lemon, orange or peppermint extracts can be added for additional flavor. To make these fluffy treats, beat 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar until they begin to form stiff peaks. Slowly pour in the sugar or syrup as the mixer continues beating the eggs. Continue mixing and add in any extracts. Once the mixture is stiff and glossy, fill a one-quart plastic bag with the meringue. Snip a corner of the bag to create a 3/4-inch-wide opening and seal tightly. Push the mixture gently through the opening and onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, creating 1-inch-diameter cookies. Bake at 200 degrees for about 90 minutes, or until the cookies are dry. Let the meringues cool to room temperature for about 20 minutes and enjoy!
Coconut macaroons are another fun option, using only 4 wholesome ingredients. Whisk two large egg whites with 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt. When the whites form stiff peaks, stir in 2 1/2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes. After letting the batter chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, scoop by two tablespoons and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the macaroons are golden brown in color. (Recipe courtesy of https://elanaspantry.com/paleo-coconut-macaroons.)
For something a bit more rich, try raw vegan "cookie dough." Blend 1 cup of natural peanut butter, 2/3 cups raisins, a heaping pinch of the esteemed cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder in a food processor. Let the mixture chill in the fridge for one hour. Form the batter into 1-inch balls. An optional step here is to roll the balls into unsweetened shredded coconut. Refrigerate or freeze to cool and enjoy! These decadent cookie dough bites are high in protein and contain zero grams of added sugar. Experiment with different types of nut butter, such as almond, cashew or sunflower!
Another option is a simplified version of the classic oatmeal cookie -- with only two ingredients. Beat 2 cups of oats in a blender or food processor until the mixture becomes coarse. Mix together with 2 mashed ripe bananas. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa powder, chopped nuts, raisins or dried cranberries! Drop large tablespoons on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes.
There are plenty of healthy, hearty ways to enjoy dessert without spoiling your diet. Try variations of the above recipes, or create your own using basic, natural ingredients!