Desserts are generally considered unhealthy, but they don't need to be. Instead of reaching for sugary cookies or cake, create guilt-free desserts from foods that your body needs or that provide specific health benefits. This doesn't mean you can eat a huge dessert every day, but you can indulge once in a while without feeling guilty.
Fruits and Vegetables
Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is one of the 10 top risk factors for mortality, warns the World Health Organization. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies lowers your risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Have a fruit salad for dessert or use pureed bananas, prunes, beans, pumpkin or sweet potatoes to replace half of the fat in your favorite baked goods. Grated carrots, zucchini and beets also make nutritious additions to desserts.
Getting the recommended three servings a day of low-fat dairy products or fortified non-dairy alternatives helps lower your risks for osteoporosis, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Guilt-free desserts based on these foods include fruit and yogurt smoothies without added sweeteners and fruit and low-fat yogurt parfaits topped with low-fat granola.
At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. These whole grains contain more fiber and essential nutrients than refined grains and can lower your risks for constipation, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer, according to an article published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in May 2011. Mix air-popped popcorn with cinnamon and a touch of chili powder; fill a cored apple with oatmeal, raisins and a teaspoon of brown sugar and bake it; or make a brown rice pudding with low-fat milk and raisins.
Don't feel guilty if you add a small amount of dark chocolate or nuts to a dessert. Dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder contain significant amounts of flavonols, which could lower your risk for heart disease. Adding nuts to your diet could help lower your risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer, according to an article published in "Nutrients" in July 2010. Puree frozen bananas with unsweetened cocoa powder and nut butter for a delicious, ice-cream-like treat, or blend avocado, cocoa powder, low-fat yogurt, banana, peanut butter and a touch of maple syrup for a nutritious pudding.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005: Desserts
- MayoClinic.com: Healthy Chocolate -- Dream or Reality?
- Nutrients: Health Benefits of Nut Consumption
- The Journal of Nutrition: Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together -- Health Benefits Associated With Whole Grains
- World Health Organization: Fruit and Vegetable Promotion Initiative
- North Dakota State University Extension: Benefits of Choosing Dairy
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.