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4 Ideas to Make Healthier Desserts
When you think of dessert, you probably imagine birthday cakes, ice cream sundaes, homemade brownies, and gooey chocolate chip cookies.
According to a survey by Datassential, 93% of consumers said that they had eaten a dessert in the past week.1 That means people enjoy dessert as part of their weekly routine.
It is estimated by Statista that 10% of diners order dessert all the time while 40% will often or only sometimes have it.2
Americans all over the country love dessert, but unfortunately desserts provide poor nutritional value while being high in calories. However, making a few simple changes to your sweet treats can help improve the healthiness of them.
Here are 4 ideas that you can use to make your family’s desserts a little healthier.
Fruits are a great way you can enjoy some natural sweetness while getting some important vitamins and minerals at dessert time.
One benefit of using fruit in your desserts is they contain natural sugars, which can be used to sweeten a recipe. The artificial and refined sugars that manufacturers use in different products – such as corn syrup, fructose, maltose, and high fructose corn syrup – undergo processes that make them more harmful than natural sugars.
For example, processed sugars such as fructose have been found to increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Our bodies tend to metabolize processed sugars quicker, and many brands overuse these processed sugars as additives.3
However, utilizing fruit as a sweetener can help them feel more like a treat when paired alongside other ingredients in a dessert recipe. You can also use fruit to reduce the amount of harmful sugars you add into your homemade creations.
Fruits also make a great addition to ice creams, pies, and brownies because they can add flavor and enhance the taste of a dessert. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges, and apples are popular to use in dessert recipes because they complement the taste of many baked goods.
Some healthy ways that you can eat fruit with or as your dessert include:
- Add fruit into your ice cream and yogurt. You can even replace the amount of ice cream or yogurt you eat with some fruit.
- Make a smoothie with a variety of different fruits for a sweet evening drink.
- Make a fruit kebob and grill it until it’s golden.
- Make a fruit bowl and top it with whip cream for a healthy dessert.
- Bake your pies and other treats using fresh fruits from the farmer’s market.
Use Whole Wheat Flour or Almond Flour
Another way you can make the desserts your family enjoy healthier is by swapping out a few ingredients for alternatives.
One ingredient you can change is the type of flour you use for your cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. By exchanging white flower for whole wheat flour or almond flour, you can reap more health benefits from what you’re baking.
Whole Wheat Flour
The main difference between whole wheat and white flour is wheat flour contains the bran (which has fiber), the endosperm (which is starch), and the germ (which contains nutrients). White flour only contains the endosperm, which excludes the health benefits from the bran and germ.4
Another difference between white flour and wheat flour is white flour typically contains less fiber. A half cup of white flour will contain 1.3 grams of fiber while whole wheat flour will have 6.4 grams. Fiber is important for helping food pass through your digestion system as well as helping your body maintain healthy blood sugar levels.5
Luckily, you can swap out some or all of the white flour for wheat flour depending on the recipe. Even substituting 25% of white flour for wheat won’t make much of a difference in the taste and texture of a recipe. Yet it’s important when substituting to do it by volume and not by weight because wheat flour weighs less than white flour.6
Some other rules when it comes to substituting white flour for whole wheat include:7
- For every cup of white flour you exchange with wheat, add five teaspoons of water.
- If you are making bread with just wheat flour, add two teaspoons of vial wheat gluten to improve its rise.
- If you are using just wheat flour, allow the dough to rise by one and a half times instead of two times.
Switching some or all of your white flour for wheat flour can make a difference in the healthiness of the recipes that you bake. Many people also won’t notice the difference unless you told them that you substituted white for wheat flour, and you can experiment with different recipes to find the best ratios.
Almond flour is a type of flour that is made from grounded almond skins. This type of flour can be used in recipes for cookies, pie crusts, cakes, breads, muffins, and macarons.
However, you can’t simply replace your regular flour for almond flour in a 1:1 ratio. King Arthur Baking offers the rule of thumb that for any type of yeast dough (such as bread or rolls) to use 1/3 of almond flour per every cup of wheat flour. They also advise for non-yeast treats such as muffins, scones, biscuits, and cookies to substitute 1/4 of the flour in the recipe.8
One benefit of using almond flour is that it is rich in vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble compound that functions similarly to antioxidants. Vitamin E can protect against free radicals, which are harmful atoms that can cause illnesses and aging. Vitamin E is linked to lower rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.9
Another benefit of eating desserts with almond flour is it has a positive impact on your heart. Almond flour contains soluble fiber that can help fight bad cholesterol, which can reduce your chance of heart disease. High fibered foods have also been proven to reduce blood pressure levels and inflammation, which can protect you from heart attacks and strokes.10
Almond flour is also soy-free and gluten free, which makes it a good option for those who need to follow certain diet restrictions.
Swap Butter for Coconut Oil
When a recipe calls for using butter, you can consider swapping it out with coconut oil instead. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and melts like butter when heated, with the main difference is that it provides a coconut taste.
While coconut oil is made of mostly saturated fats, research has found that most of it is lauric acid. Lauric acid has been found to decrease your risk of heart disease and increase your levels of good cholesterol. One study found that eating foods with lauric acid resulted in better cholesterol profiles than those who ate trans fats.11
Butter is known to contain high cholesterol, and 215 mg of butter is estimated to contain 71% of the daily recommended amount. Coconut oil is plant based, and contains negligible amounts of cholesterol.12 Foods with high cholesterol are known to increase your risk of narrowed arteries, heart attacks, and strokes.
One benefit of switching butter for coconut oil is you can replace it on a 1:1 basis. However, it’s important to pay attention to any minor switches you might need to make when baking; for example, a pie crust made with coconut oil will need it made with oil at room temperature for a flakier texture.13
The consistency of coconut oil is also important when it comes to substituting. For example, if a recipe needs solid butter, then coconut oil should be stored in the fridge before using it in place of it. You should always check if what you’re substituting is solid or liquid to ensure that you’re using the same.14
Use Dark Chocolate in Place of Milk Chocolate
When it comes to desserts, chocolate usually comes to mind. Many cakes, brownies, cookies, and other treats use chocolate in them for flavor and sweetness.
Dark chocolate and milk chocolate taste different, and that’s mainly due to the amount of cacao found in them. Cacao is the cocoa in chocolate, and it contains antioxidants that are linked to health benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Milk chocolate contains less cacao than dark chocolate, with the rest of the cacao being replaced by sugar and milk. Some milk chocolates can contain as little as 10% cacao.15
However, the type of chocolate you use can make a difference in the nutrients of your desserts. The cocoa in dark chocolate contains flavanols that have been linked to heart health, and dark chocolate contains 2-3 times the flavanols to milk chocolate. Flavanols support the body’s production of nitric oxide, which can lower blood pressure by relaxing the blood pressure and improve blood flow.16
Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants that can help your body fight free radicals, which are unstable atoms that can cause cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, the damage from free radicals, which can protect your body from aging, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and eye disease.17
As a rule of thumb, you should use dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cacao in order to reap the health benefits. When you purchase chocolate at the store, the amount of cacao in it is an indicator of how healthy, or unhealthy, the chocolate is.18
Try Experimenting With Healthier Desserts Today!
Everyone loves dessert, and making a few simple switches to your family’s treats can help reduce the calories you eat after dinner. Try making a few healthy switches on the next dessert that you make!
Here at Saber Healthcare, our dietary teams work to provide our residents with all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need. Our teams also work to provide special treats each week for holidays and special occasions to help our residents enjoy dessert time. To learn more about our company and how Saber Healthcare provides care to our residents, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- Brandau, Mark. “Sweet, Savory Desserts on Restaurant Menus.” BNP Media, Prepared Foods. 6 May 2019. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.preparedfoods.com/articles/122414-sweet-savory-desserts-on-restaurant-menus
- “How often do you order desserts?” Statista. November 2016. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.statista.com/statistics/659198/share-of-consumers-by-how-often-they-order-desserts-us/
- Villines, Zawn. Butler, Natalie. “What to know about sugar in fruit.” Healthline Media, MedicalNewsToday. 25 June 2019. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325550
- Thayer, Kaitlyn. “There’s a Reason Why Some People Bake With Whole Wheat Flour Instead of White.” Spoon University. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/this-is-why-you-dont-have-visible-abs
- Tremblay, Sylvie. “Healthy Facts About Whole-Wheat Flour Vs. White.” SFGate, HealthyEating. 19 November 2018. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/healthy-wholewheat-flour-vs-white-3305.html
- Hamel, PJ. “How to substitute whole wheat for white flour in baking.” King Arthur Baking. 22 June 2020. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2020/06/22/how-to-substitute-whole-wheat-for-white-flour-in-baking
- O’Shaughnessy, Caitlin M. “Are Whole-Wheat and All-Purpose Flour Interchangeable?” Red Ventures, ChowHound. 25 May 2016. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/55118/are-whole-wheat-and-all-purpose-flour-interchangeable/
- Hamel, PJ. “Baking with almond flour.” King Arthur Baking. 20 March 2017. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2017/03/20/baking-with-almond-flour
- Raman, Ryan. “Why Almond Flour Is Better Than Most Other Flours.” Red Ventures, Healthline Media. 25 April 2017. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/almond-flour
- Rissetto, Vanessa. “Is Almond Flour Healthy? Here’s What a Nutritionist Says.” TheHealthy. 9 December 2020. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.thehealthy.com/nutrition/is-almond-flour-healthy/
- McDermott, Annette. Butler, Natalie, ed. “Coconut Oil vs. Coconut Butter: What’s the Difference?” Red Ventures, Healthline Media. 12 October 2017. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/coconut-oil-vs-coconut-butter#Are-coconut-oil-and-coconut-butter-good-for-you?-
- Yacoubian, Jack. “Butter vs Coconut oil - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison.” Foodstruct. 29 November 2020. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://foodstruct.com/compare/butter-vs-coconut-oil
- “What Is a Good Substitute for Butter?” Bob’s Red Mill. 10 February 2018. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.bobsredmill.com/blog/special-diets/what-is-a-good-substitute-for-butter/
- “REPLACING BUTTER WITH COCONUT OIL IN BAKING RECIPES.” Kale Pro, PaleoPantry. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: http://www.paleopantry.org/article-replacing-butter-with-coconut-oil-in-baking-recipes/
- “Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate: Which Is Healthier?” Nutritious Life. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://nutritiouslife.com/eat-empowered/dark-chocolate-vs-milk-chocolate-which-is-healthier/
- “Dark Chocolate.” The President and Fellows of Harvard College, The Nutrition Source. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/dark-chocolate/
- Eske, Jamie. Marengo, Katherine. “What are the health benefits of dark chocolate?” Healthline Media, MedicalNewsToday. 19 March 2019. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dark-chocolate
- “What percentage of dark chocolate is healthy?” Proflowers. 25 June 2021. Accessed 13 October 2021. Link: https://www.proflowers.com/blog/what-percentage-of-dark-chocolate-is-healthy/