Desserts are a food that we all relish every now and then. Some of us may even indulge in them more frequently as a comfort food. Unfortunately, the nutritional value of many desserts don’t lend themselves to being incorporated into a healthy diet as often as many of us would like; consequently, many people forego their dessert in a bid to make healthier choices. The good news for you today is that in only a matter of minutes, you’ll discover how to make a healthy dessert, so now even the healthiest of you out there can have your cake and eat it.
Eliminate/reduce unnecessary ingredients
The simplest way to make a healthier dessert is to remove ingredients that are not essential to the food. When elimination isn’t possible or ideal, an alternative is to reduce the quantity of ingredient being added. Whether you become less heavy-handed with the toppings, reduce the amount of layers in a cake or the amount of sugar in the ingredients, there’s a multitude of ways to make some cuts that are often unnoticeable.
Many cakes, buns and pies are often loaded with cream on top for decoration. Sadly all that decoration is merely a high-fat ingredient; for instance, fresh cream contains 360 calories, 24g saturated fat and 2.6g sugar per 100g. That typically equates to just over 100 calories per serving.
Let’s not even get started on the nutritional value of double cream. All I’ll say is that it contains 43% extra calories compared to light cream. There should be no reason whatsoever to bring double cream into your kitchen. In fact, you should probably ban it in the interest of your health. Remember, your body is a temple, right?
Various appetising toppings are applied to desserts to enhance their appearance. However, these pieces of eye candy are often mini mouthfuls of sugar and fat that are unnecessary additions and can often be reduced, if not omitted. Examples include:
- Chocolate chips and shavings
- Dried fruit
- Jelly sweets
- Sugar sprinkling
As you now know, cream can be rather high in calories. If you can’t eliminate it from your dessert, then opting for the light cream versions can save you 38% fat compared to the original version. Light cream provides 257 calories, 16g saturated fat and 3.3g sugar per 100ml.
Additionally, you can swap heavy cream for evaporated skimmed milk. It maintains the same consistency as heavy cream, minus the extra calories and fat. Also, did you know that you can substitute equal quantities of cream for low fat greek yoghurt? It also adds an extra source of protein.
Butter is generally excessively high in fat with 744 calories, 53g saturated fat and 0.6g sugar per 100g. Swapping out regular butter for low fat butter achieves a significant drop in fat and calories, as it provides 384 calories, 25g saturated fat and 0.29g sugar per 100g.
A new phenomenon which is taking the healthy baking world by storm is the ingenious hack of swapping butter for apple sauce. This trade not only provides you with added fibre and vitamin C, it also leaves you with merely 106 calories, 0.1g saturated fat and 23g sugar per 100g to account for. Saying that, it does lend itself to an elevated quantity of sugar when compared to butter, but perhaps you can offset this by reducing the sugar added as a compromise.
Milk chocolate is generally higher in sugar and fat than it’s dark chocolate counterpart. Choose dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage (greater than 85% is ideal); additionally, opting for cocoa powder over drinking chocolate will reward you with a nutritionally superior option.
If you’re looking to reduce the calorie or fat content from eggs, or even increase the protein content of your dessert, substitute eggs for egg whites or add in an extra 30ml of egg white to the recipe. This is equivalent to 1 medium egg white. 100g of egg white provides 45 calories, 0g fat, 1g carbohydrate and 10g protein.
It’s almost gone to a stage where it’s overwhelming to look at a flour aisle in the supermarket; there’s just so much variety in terms of flours to choose from. As such, there should be no reason why you can’t swap processed white flour for whole wheat (wholemeal) flour.
For those of you looking to decrease your carbohydrate intake or increase your protein or healthy fat intake, then swapping regular flour for almond flour may be the solution to your quest. Almond flour provides 612 calories, 55.8g fat and 6.9g carbohydrate per 100g serving. In comparison, self-rising flour delivers 366 calories, 1.3g fat and 75.1g carbohydrate per 100g. Almond flour isn’t your friend, however, if you’re looking to reduce calorie content in your dessert.
Tip: Beware of the cost of alternative flours as they can be rather expensive in comparison to regular flours.
For those of you looking to increase protein content or reduce carbohydrates, substitute a portion of flour for protein powder. It will not only add to the flavour, but it will also provide an extra portion of protein and lower calorie when compared to flour. It’s advisable to swap 1 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of protein powder to start with, as the recipe may not lend itself to the texture of protein powder and may need a scoop or 2 of flour. If in doubt, search for recipes with protein powder as these are tried and tested methods.
The latest ice cream trend to hit social media is using frozen fruit, such as bananas to make ice cream. Simply freeze the bananas overnight, blend them in a blender or food processor, and top them with your favourite toppings. It’s also a great alternative for those who are lactose-intolerant.
Frozen yoghurt (fro-yo) is an ice cream alternative that’s so similar, most people would struggle to tell them apart. Opt for low fat greek yoghurt to shave even more fat off. Additionally, low fat ice cream alternatives are now becoming increasingly prevalent and popular.
Naturally sweetened salted caramel ice cream contains 68 calories, 4.2g protein, 2g fat and 6.2g sugar per 100ml. Compare that with regular salted caramel ice cream which provides 282 calories, 4.1g protein, 17.2g fat and 23.5g sugar per 100ml. You could essentially have 3 or 4 portions of the naturally sweetened ice cream for a similar calorie value as the regular ice cream!
As with butter, oil is also densely high in calories and fat. Again, you can substitute oil for apple sauce in the likes of cake, muffins and bread.
With so many varieties of milk available, you can choose the one that suits your lifestyle and nutritional needs best, without feeling restricted. In terms of dairy milk, switching to low fat (47 calories per 100ml) or skimmed milk (36 calories per 100ml) is a guaranteed way to reduce calories and fat when equated to full fat milk. If you opt for alternative milks, such as unsweetened almond milk, you can achieve an even lower quantity of calories (13 calories per 100ml).
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’ll know that sauces and syrups can jeopradise a healthy meal by introducing a mammoth amount of calories, fat and sugar. Ever since discovering the sheer quantity of hidden sugars, fat and calories contained in sauces, I have turned to Skinny Sauce – Virtually Zero® Calorie, sugar free, fat free syrups which are a true game-changer in terms of revolutionising a meal and making it look mouth-watering and taste divine. I’ve recently been using maple syrup sugar free syrup as a substitute for regular maple syrup, which is high in sugar and calories.
Birthday cake, billionaire’s shortbread and blueberry syrup are next on my list of syrups to try, so don’t miss out as they do sell fast! What flavours would you like to try?
As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please note that you, the reader’s interests are my top priority, and I only recommend products that I have either tried and tested or thoroughly reviewed and consider good enough for myself to buy.
The sugar content in many desserts can be astronomical if you compare a serving of your favourite treat with your recommended daily allowance of sugar. In many cases, it’s unlikely that you can eliminate sugar from your ingredients list. Instead, what you can do is exchange it for no-calorie sweeteners. For each tablespoon of sugar that you swap for sweetener, you’ll save 48 calories.
This can be approached in a number of ways. Either swap all the sugar for sweetener or you could swap a ratio of sugar for sweetener, e.g. swap 50% sugar for 50% sweetener. Also, bear in mind that sweeteners are much stronger that sugar in terms of sweetness; if you’re not used to using sweeteners or if you haven’t experimented with sweeteners when baking before, it’s advisable to ease into the process by choosing the latter option.
- Opt for half portions of desserts where possible, or eat half and take half home if you’re in a restaurant
- Share a dessert instead of eating a whole one yourself, often we only need a few mouthfuls to feel satisfied
- Fruit-based desserts tend to be lighter in calories and fat, while also tending to your sweet tooth, e.g. fruit salad
- Fruit also adds volume to a dessert, especially if the dessert is already a small portion
- Meringues are generally low calories bases to desserts
- Look out for the nutritional value on the menu or packaging as it may help you choose the healthier option
- Avoid the creamy toppings where possible, these are often decorating the top of a cake or ice cream and can easily be scraped away
- Jelly and ice cream is an established dessert on many menus and is often a lighter option than cakes and other desserts
- Take caution when choosing liquid beverages as many coffees and hot chocolates are often higher in calories than many desserts
- Eliminating unnecessary toppings can swiftly reduce the calories, fat and sugar of a dessert
- Selecting low fat creams and butter over regular versions can greatly reduce calories
- Replacing butter or oil with apple sauce can significantly reduce calories and fat, although the sugar content is a watchout
- Sauces and syrups can cause a significant rise in calories, fat and sugar
- Simply choosing a liquid dessert over a food dessert doesn’t mean it’s any lower in calories
If you are concerned that you’re sacrificing a tasty dessert for an even unhealthier beverage, then don’t be caught out. Go check out best low calorie beverages – cut 100+ calories per drink to learn how to make some smart and informed decisions so that you don’t derail your health or your weight loss journey.
I hope you found these tips useful and it offers you an opportunity to enjoy more of the foods you love without having to sacrifice them or your health. These are relatively straightforward tips that anyone can implement, and following them is a piece of cake!
One last parting word of wisdom. Most importantly, remember to savour your dessert. Life is too short not to have cake, so eat it slowly, embrace the flavours and appreciate how it is decorated before you jump into it.
What’s your favourite dessert? Are there ones you avoid because of their nutritional value? How many of the above tips do you think you will incorporate in future? Which of the sugar free sauce flavours would you try first? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section.
Magee, E., 2006. 10 Ways To Cut Calories In Baking Recipes. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/10-ways-to-cut-calories-in-baking-recipes#1
Scott, J., 2019. Eating Healthier By Swapping Out Your Recipes For Low-Calorie Options. [online] Verywell Fit. Available at: https://www.verywellfit.com/low-calorie-recipe-substitutions-for-baking-3496161
Tesco.ie. 2020. [online] Available at: https://www.tesco.ie [Accessed 2 July 2020].
Wolff, C., 2015. 7 Easy Tips For Making Healthier Desserts (And Having Less Guilt About A Little Treat). [online] Simplemost. Available at: https://www.simplemost.com/7-easy-hacks-making-healthier-desserts/