I am both a dessert junkie and a health nut. To me, there are few joys in life more precious than a decadent dessert following a delicious meal, but I’m still very careful about the amount of sugar, fat, and net calories I put into my body. While we may think of desserts as the fattiest, sweetest foods in the world, healthy desserts can actually be surprisingly delicious and satisfying without containing enough calories to feed a small country.
For people like me who loathe the taste of artificial sweeteners and flavors, low-calorie desserts can be hard to find. I’d rather skip dessert entirely than chow down on a Splenda cheesecake or an artificial cherry pie. Yuck! Here are a few of my favorite low-calorie, natural desserts.
1. Yogurt Parfaits
Yogurt parfaits are easy to make and every bit as satisfying as the over-sweetened, high-cal ice cream treats you’ll find in most restaurants. Serve a few layers of low-fat vanilla yogurt, berries, granola, and candied nuts for a delightful treat that won’t add pounds to your waistline or cause a sugar overload. These low-calorie natural desserts are also great for your digestive system because they’re loaded with fiber and probiotics.
2. Baked Fruit
Baked apples, pears, figs, and peaches are, to me, among the most outstanding natural desserts available. A little brown sugar or maple syrup can make these desserts far more satisfying without adding too many calories. Spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and clove — or, if you’re brave enough, cayenne — add richness without adding sugar or fat. Only a little bit of butter or margarine is necessary to make baked fruit as smooth and satisfying as less healthy desserts.
Fruit-based sorbets are a fat-free, dairy-free, natural alternative to ice creams and milk shakes. If you’ve got a sweet tooth and crave ice cream-like textures, sorbet is an excellent option as a post-meal treat. Sorbet is also great for people on vegan diets and those who are lactose-intolerant. Overall, its calorie content is only about one-fifth the total number of calories found in rich ice creams.
4. Cracker Snacks
Make DIY, no-bake, natural desserts using graham crackers, whole-wheat crackers or Triscuits. Top the crackers with Neufchatel cheese, dried fruit, and nuts for a cheesecake-like concoction with few calories. For a “turtle cheesecake” dessert, shave a little dark chocolate onto crackers topped with Neufchatel cheese and pecan pieces. These desserts add natural nutrition to your diet with only a fraction of the calories of their more conventional counterparts.
5. Homemade Popsicles
These desserts are especially enjoyable when you’re trying to beat the summer heat. Make natural, fruity popsicles with pureed fruit and a splash of juice. Combine bananas, dark chocolate and low-fat yogurt in a blender, then freeze the mixture to make a satisfyingly creamy icebar. Mix it up to make orange creamsicles, peanut butter-jelly pops and pink lemonade bars. You’ll get all the satisfaction of ice cream and other frozen desserts without all the calories, sugar and fat.