Healthy Desserts? There's No Such Thing!


The New York Times ran a story last week about some dessert bars at the White House that were allegedly healthy ... but turned out to be not so good for you if you ate more than 1/24 of the pan.

This begs an interesting question: Can desserts be healthy and still satisfying? I often see a Yoplait commercial in which a woman debates whether to eat a slice of raspberry cheesecake and then sees a friend who has lost weight by eating the yogurt-flavored equivalent. Growing up, I had a friend whose mother taped a sign that said, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels" on the refrigerator. I imagine this is the sentiment the folks at Yoplait are conjuring up. And it's definitely the healthier option -- according to the Yoplait website, "Indulgent Flavor" yogurts have 110 calories and 0 grams of fat per six-ounce serving.

But I think it takes a super-strong person to bypass traditional favorites for yogurt, no matter how "indulgent" they are. Healthy dessert options never quite do it for me, and if I try to be noble and avoid dessert altogether, I often find myself combing through my pantry later, trying to invent something sweet out of whatever I have on hand. (Yes -- it's pathetic.)

So I did some quick research on recipes for healthy desserts ... and discovered that unless you're satiating your sweet tooth with yogurt or a fruit cup, they generally fall in one of several categories: Not Really All That Healthy, Healthy But Bland, and Healthy By Way of Hidden Veggies.

Not Really All That Healthy

It's sort of like that episode of Seinfeld with the nonfat frozen yogurt that turns out to not actually be nonfat ...

Full disclosure: I tried to stay within the cake and pie family as those are the desserts I long for most. And I suppose "healthy" is a relative term. Plus, we're sort of comparing apples to oranges because I don't know the serving sizes of the following desserts. But, just so we have a barometer, let's say that healthy means "low fat." (According to Epicurious' Food Dictionary, "Low fat means the amount of fat per serving [or per 100 grams of food] is 3 grams or less.")

I thought this Grilled Dark Chocolate Sandwich sounded like an interesting option. (It also reminds me of ads for Nutella that have popped up recently, suggesting you treat it as a breakfast food. Which is crazy, no?) But ... with 151 calories and 7 grams of fat, I'm not sure this chocolate sandwich makes cutting back worth it.

These Mudslide Cookies allegedly pack a more intense flavor after they were made more healthy (which reminds me of a vegan baking experiment in which I made gingerbread ... and found the spices in the cookies were much more pronounced without dairy products). And ... they have 142 calories and 4.7 grams of fat. Which isn't terrible, but ... think of it this way: Oreos have 160 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving. Which would *you* prefer?

Some additional not-crazy-healthy healthy desserts:

Raspberry-Rhubarb Pie (248 calories; 7.9g of fat)

Peach, Plum and Apricot Crisp (299 calories; 6g of fat)

Lemon-Cornmeal Poundcake With Berries and Cream (287 calories; 11.2g of fat)

Chocolate Pudding Pies (211 calories in 1/3-cup pie; 7g of fat)

Mini Molten Chocolate Cakes With Mocha Sauce (244 calories; 17g of fat)

Healthy, But Bland

This cheesecake from the Mayo Clinic is really good for you -- only 80 calories and trace fat -- but it's made with cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. Sacrilege! 

I can't even imagine how bland this must be. I feel like Mario Cuomo's mother addressing Sandra Lee's lasagna recipe (which is also made with cottage cheese ... and tomato soup). I think I would rather die rotund than live a life with cheesecakes made from cottage cheese (or lasagna with tomato soup, for that matter).

Hidden Veggies

Remember Jerry Seinfeld's wife? Her book, Deceptively Delicious, has a brownie recipe with spinach and carrots in it and chocolate chip cupcakes with pumpkin and yellow squash puree. (I made the brownies once and the general consensus was that they were okay. Not great ... but would do the trick if there was nothing else in the house.)

These recipes probably won't help you lose weight ... but they may help you up your daily vegetable intake.

The Takeaway

I suppose this is further evidence that the key is moderation. What good does it do to pig out on healthy sweets that don't turn out to be all that different than regular sweets? Or to spend your life eating cream-cheese-less cheesecake?

I guess that's what I'll keep in mind next time I'm feeling weak ...

What do you do when you're craving sweets but trying to eat healthy?

Image via Francisco Antunes/Flickr

baking, desserts, healthy choices, recipes


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CherB... CherBearCM

Like you say moderation is key.  Granted I'm not a big 'sweets' person anyways, I can USUALLY pass it up easily enough.  There are certain things I would never pass up though if served to me at someone's home, like cheesecake or chocolate mousse and I will hope that they offer to let me take some home so I can binge later, lol.

  I find if you really want something it's best to go to a bakery or grocery store that sells them by the slice or order it at a restaurant.  Ordering by the slice is kinda pricey so it's easier to not go crazy on it because it would be too expensive.

hotic... hoticedcoffee

If I really want it, I eat it, and then I make a point to burn it off or accept that it wasn't the best choice and my jeans might be snug. 

RanaA... RanaAurora

There's an "ice cream" you can make by pureeing frozen bananas.

Yeah, that's it.

It was ACTUALLY pretty good.  It wasn't ice cream, but if I found myself craving ice cream, this could definitely work (especially with a tiny amount of chocolate chips or something).

Usually though, it's just going to need to be solved by real dessert -- in moderation.

maine... mainemusicmaker

Me, I actually will have a piece of chocolate when I'm craving sweets but eating healthy.  A small piece of dark chocolate will kill my sugar craving and doesn't completely throw my diet out of whack :)

clean... cleanaturalady

When I eat dessert, I want dessert.  I am not thinking about it being healthy.

Carey... Carey2006

Eat a piece of fruit!

Vivi Ho

what has the world come to when dessert means cakes and pies every night? my family is a bunch of junk-food fans, and we know that, so we try to eat healthy as often as possible. but we dont long for sweets all the time! heres a tip: every wednesday (or whenever you feel terribble really, but make it consistent) have a bowl of fruit for dessert. cut up a peach and a mango or something. you wont miss a thing

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