Why You Shouldn’t Try to Make Dessert Healthy (And a Recipe Just in Case)

It’s already been decided. I’m making a fruit pizza for the 4th of July dessert this year! Never heard of one? Neither had I, until recently.  If you’re easily tempted, don’t click that link. No really, I’m warning you. You won’t be able to resist!

Here’s the thing. That fruit pizza? It has only a few redeeming qualities, despite it’s deceivingly healthy sounding name. If I wanted to justify it’s “healthfullness” I could tell you that it has fruit so there’s some good nutrition, and cream cheese in the frosting so there’s some calcium, oh and butter is good for you too these days, right? There’s got to be plenty in the cookie dough!  But you want to know the truth?  I don’t care about justifying my choice to make or eat a less than nutritional dessert, because it’s f*ing dessert.

Healthy Dessert: What does that even mean?

I know you’ve seen them. And maybe you’ve even made them. The dessert recipes littering the internet with their promises of health and taste. They’re made with whole grains, and dates, and fruit, and sometimes even beans (I’m looking at you cookie dough hummus) but you know what? I wholeheartedly believe that they’re missing the point.

Dessert, as defined in the dictionary, is a “sweet course eaten at the end of a meal”. And I’ve seen beautiful examples around the world of healthy options to fulfill this. My host family in Spain often served oranges after dinner. I’ve had more than a few fruit-packed sorbets that knocked my socks off. I think you can’t beat a great, tiny serving of dessert wine to top off a delicious meal.

But I’ve also indulged in more than a few sinfully, rich desserts whose only redeeming quality was they they were deliciously terrible for me. Bread pudding will always hold a place in my heart. Cheesecake (specifically the kind from the Cheesecake Factory) takes me back to childhood birthdays. And being married to a man who’s bound a determined to try chocolate ice cream at every opportunity, those sneak in every once in a while too.

Where was a I going with all of this? Oh yes, the fruit pizza.  I’m making something not at all healthy for this upcoming holiday because it’s dessert and I don’t think that every single food you put in your mouth needs to (or should be) purely about health and nutrition.

See this very scientific and official chart for proof:

NutritionDiagram (1)

 

So what should I eat for dessert then?

I know, they’re coming to take away my crunchy-mama, natural foods chef badge. That’s fine. Because as much as I thought I’d be one of those moms scouring the internet for a naturally sweetened, gluten-free, dairy-free cake for my sweet baby boy’s first birthday, the truth is that he got a store-bought cake mix baked into a giant cupcake shape with artificially colored sprinkles. Photographic evidence below because I’m surely already going to some GMO filled, sugar whipped hell based on admitting all of this, might as well go all in.

1stBdayCake

So if dessert doesn’t need to be healthy and virtuous and nutrition-packed, what does it need to be?  Well for starters it should be delicious. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. It should be satisfying. It should be something you love (or something you want to try). And most of all, it should be a treat.

At the end of the day, the thing that will make the biggest impact in your health is not those occasional naturally-sweetened treats that you made in a desperate attempt to make a dessert that was also so wholesome you could justify eating it. The thing that will make the biggest impact on your health is the choices you make about what to eat every single day. What you put in your mouth for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Not the occasional treat that you use as a celebration, reward, adventure, or whatever-the-hell you want.

And now in case you aren’t convinced, a healthy dessert recipe to try

So why create healthy dessert recipes at all? I guess I’m not fully against them, because I can think of a few reasons. Mostly I think the best part of healthy “dessert” is that you can eat it more often and more specifically you can enjoy it for breakfast as easily as you can for dessert.

That said, for this reason I’m really careful about the desserts (healthy or not) that I make or bring into my house. I have no control around them – whether it be bread pudding or a paleo scone – they’re both going to be gone in a flash so they better be really freaking good to be worth it!

So if I haven’t talked you out of the value of making healthy desserts, I’m going to share one of my favorites here today for a few reasons:

  1. It’s the perfect colors for the 4th of July and people on Pinterest seem to really care about that
  2. It’s packed full of antioxidants from fruit
  3. It’s naturally sweetened using dates and a touch of coconut nectar or honey (if you make the yogurt to go with)
  4. It’s incredibly easy to make – like you barely have to measure anything, you don’t have to heat up the oven and there’s no baking involved (Another confession since I’m on a roll here: I’m a terrible baker)
  5. It’s vegan, gluten-free, Paleo – basically ticks off all the boxes and would be great if you’re hosting a crowd with a variety of dietary preferences
  6. It’s basically breakfast, so you can make this, eat it for breakfast with your family on the 4th and still have space for that pizza cookie after dinner

Don’t say I didn’t ever give you anything!

The raw fruit crisp is super healthy, easy to make, and flexible. Make it with berries in the summer or apples in the fall! This one is naturally sweetened, vegan, and paleo friendly. Click through for the recipe and my musings on healthy dessert.

Fourth of July “Crisp”

(Raw, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Naturally-Sweetened)

Raw Fruit Crisp

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nuts (I like a mix of walnuts and pecans)
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates, about 6
  • 1 tsp sea salt (preferably Jacobsen's Vanilla Bean Sea Salt - add a touch of vanilla extract if you don't have this)
  • 1 cup each: blueberries and sliced bananas and strawberries

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse together the nuts, dates, and salt until well-combined but still a little bit chunky.
  2. Place fruit mixture in the bottom of a baking dish and sprinkle crumble over the top.
http://cookingwithafullplate.com/healthy-dessert/

 

Some highlights and notes on ingredients:

  • This crisp topping is great with pretty much any fruit – just berries, sliced apples, apricots, peaches, cherries.
  • Vanilla bean powder is one of my new favorite things. Haven’t tried it? It has a much cleaner flavor than most of the artificial vanilla extracts and it leaves the happy look of vanilla beans without all of the work and expense of using whole pods.
  • Jacobsen Sea Salt with Vanilla Bean in it is the best thing that’s ever happened to my occasional baking. A sprinkle on top of a cookie or brownie or in a raw date treat or this crips takes everything to the next level.

Vanilla Bean Yogurt (optional but oh so delicious)

I made this in answer to my son’s recent obsession with Trader Joe’s vanilla bean yogurt, which is basically ice cream (and he has said as much). This one is much less sweet and only uses natural sugars.

1 large container (24-32 oz) plain yogurt or plain coconut yogurt (for the vegan and Paleo option)
1 Tbsp vanilla bean powder
1 Tbsp coconut nectar or honey

Stir all ingredients into the yogurt container. Mix well. Serve on top of crisp or eat with berries mixed in for breakfast.

berrycrisp

What are you making or having for dessert on the 4th of July?

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