People of all ages enjoy desserts at the very least and many actually love dessert. An ordinary dinner is better when dessert is part of the menu . . . and when the dessert is healthy, tasty and satisfying, that is even better.
Why are desserts so appealing? Parents often use the promise of dessert to get their children to eat vegetables, etc. As the children grow older, desserts become the reward for a job well done, or used as a way to feel better when the blues set in, or even become a delicious habit that is difficult to change (or there is no desire to change). Some desserts – especially sweets and chocolate – can become an addiction that feels impossible to break. As a result, the desire for desserts is often seen in a negative light. In fact, rather than enjoying every bite, many people feel guilty when eating dessert because it has been pounded into their heads that desserts are bad for the body.
The good news is that all sweet foods are not bad for you. In moderation, desserts of all kinds are OK. Of course, that means smart choices must be made. For example, fatty desserts should be eaten in small portions.
How would you like to enjoy dessert more often without worrying about the sugar and fat content or the calories? Contrary to general belief, desserts do not have to be sugary sweet and filled with empty calories. There are many healthy dessert choices that do not fit that description.
Healthy Dessert Ideas
- Fruit and nuts – Fresh fruit is naturally sweet and can be a satisfying finish to any meal. Fruit can be served plain (whole) or peeled and sliced. For an extra flair, top the fruits with various mixtures of nuts and a little brown sugar – OR – try my family’s favorite – fruit lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar and finished with a dollop of sour cream. Sliced pears and peaches are particularly tasty when topped with sour cream and nuts.
Finely chopped walnuts, pecans, and almond slivers are popular choices. But all nuts are filled with nutrients that improve health, including the cognitive function of the brain. (For more information on the subject, check out my book, Power Up Your Brain.)
Baked apples filled with brown sugar, nuts, and raisins mixed with a little butter can be a taste-delight reminiscent of a mini-apple pie (but healthier).
Finally, offer a nice selection of nuts to nibble on as the family sits around the table after dinner with cups of fresh hot coffee.
- Dark chocolate – Current research shows that dark chocolate in moderation has many health benefits. Melt your own dark chocolate into candy molds and create lollipop treats for yourself and the kids. Also try dipping fresh strawberries in dark chocolate for a sweet finish for any meal or a tasty after school snack.
- Fruit ice – Make your own shaved ice with fruit juice or buy low-fat lemon ice pops that can usually be found at the grocery store. They have fewer calories than ice cream pops and are filled with fruit sweetness.
- Strawberry shortcake – Angel food cake and fresh strawberries with a small dollop of fresh, lightly sweetened whipped cream is a treat for anyone. For an even healthier dessert, bake your own cake and top with fresh strawberries sweetened with Stevia*, which creates a sweet syrup from the strawberries.
- Parfaits – These are not only a treat to the palate, but a treat to the eyes. They can be made with diced or sliced fruit and layered with lightly sweetened (with Stevia*) whipped cream or homemade vanilla pudding made with skim milk. For a yummy chocolate treat – layer the parfait with homemade chocolate pudding (made with skim milk), and top with a little whipped cream and a few chocolate cookie crumbs or granola.
- Fruit pizzas – Make sugar cookie dough and roll out like small pizzas. The “sauce” is made with cream cheese lightly sprinkled with sugar. You can also try pure peanut butter, low fat cream cheese (or a mixture of the two) topped with slices of your favorite fruit (sliced bananas, blueberries, strawberries, etc.).
- Gelatin – This is a long-standing family dessert that many of us remember from childhood. Make your favorite gelatin and add complementary fruit pieces (strawberry-flavored gelatin with strawberries and bananas). Serve topped with whipped cream or light sour cream – sprinkled with finely chopped nuts or shredded coconut.
Keep your family healthier by making your own desserts from scratch for better flavor and fewer calories – without all the additives. ENJOY!
*Stevia comes from a plant that contains natural sweeteners that are used in foods and has a negligible effect on blood glucose.
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