13 Healthy Desserts – A Dietitian Answers…
hide this This evidence based content is written by a registered dietitian nutritionist. Scientific references are from trusted sources.
Dessert and other sweets can make or break a healthy eating plan. Many desserts are rich in sugar, fat, and calories – making them excellent diet saboteurs. Read more below to learn more about the healthiest desserts.
In fact, excessive sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain, and may put you at an increased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
Luckily, this doesn’t mean that you have to give up dessert forever. Even the richest, most high-calorie, sugar-loaded desserts can be included in your diet on rare occasions without significantly negatively impacting your health. However, there are several healthier dessert options that you can include to make dessert a healthy part of your diet.
This article reviews 13 healthy dessert choices, 10 which are low in sugar and calories and 3 which are low in calories. These desserts can be included in keto, low-carb, and low-calorie diets, and there are many vegetarian and vegan options listed as well. They run the gamut from fruity, to chocolatey, to rich and decadent.
Note: calorie counts and nutrient content will vary significantly in these desserts depending on what recipe and/or ingredients you use, so be sure to enter your recipe in a nutrition calculator or tracking app so you can know the nutrient content of your dessert.
10 Healthiest Desserts Low in Sugar & Calories
The following 10 options are low in sugar and calories, making them appropriate for low-calorie diets as well as low-carb or keto diets.
Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, which can help improve your digestive health. These tiny, hard seeds take on a gel-like consistency in liquid, which—surprisingly—makes chia seeds an excellent choice for pudding (3).
Chia seed pudding made with a scoop of chia seeds, half a cup of almond milk, and your favorite sugar-free sweetener—like stevia or monk fruit—makes a creamy and rich dessert. Simply mix the ingredients up and let them chill in the fridge overnight. You can add fruit, chocolate, or nut butter for endless variety.
Low-Sugar Hot Chocolate
Cocoa is surprisingly healthy and antioxidant-rich. You can make creamy, low-sugar hot cocoa to experience the many health benefits of chocolate without all the sugar.
Use different ratios of cocoa powder or sugar-free chocolate chips, unsweetened almond milk, and natural, zero-calorie sweeteners to make the perfect hot chocolate for you. You can also add a small bit of homemade whipped cream made with heavy cream, which is naturally sugar-free.
Banana Ice Cream
Although it may not be ideal for people on low-carb diets, this banana ice cream is low in sugar and calories compared to regular ice cream and makes a healthy treat.
All you have to do to make this ice cream is slice a banana and freeze it. Combine the frozen banana slices with cocoa powder and blend them until the consistency is even. It makes a creamy, sweet, and healthier version of ice cream.
Fruit smoothies can be made a variety of ways, but here are some combinations that are low in sugar and calories while still being a delicious dessert:
- Strawberries, spinach, ice, and almond milk
- Blueberries, coconut cream, ice, and almond milk
- Avocado, cocoa powder, ice, and almond milk
You can also add nut butters for some extra protein and healthy fat, or use whatever kind of milk or plant-based milk that you prefer.
It sounds crazy, but zucchini can make an excellent dessert! When shredded zucchini is baked into brownies, you can’t even tell it’s there, but it makes the end result extra moist and loaded with nutrients.
Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chickpeas are another surprising cookie dough ingredient, but they actually make a smooth, mild-tasting addition to cookie recipes. They’re especially great for making a healthier version of chocolate chip cookies, as chickpeas are rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fat—making them an ideal alternative to white flour.
Here’s a recipe for healthy, vegan chocolate chip cookies made with chickpeas
Black Bean Brownies
Another surprising ingredient you wouldn’t expect to see in a dessert is black beans. However, black beans are a great addition to brownies as they are packed with fiber and nutrients, and have a smaller impact on your blood sugar levels than white flour.
Here is a recipe for rich and fudgy black bean brownies.
Fruit salad is an easy and healthy dessert that can be dressed up with lemon or lime juice and a sprinkle of natural, zero-calorie sweetener to wake up the flavors. Here are some fruits that are excellent in fruit salad:
- Mandarin oranges
- Honeydew melon
Dessert shells can be picked up at most grocery stores. At only 60 calories, they make an excellent base for easy strawberry shortcakes. Simply add a handful of chopped strawberries and some fresh whipped cream on top for a low-calorie and relatively low-sugar dessert.
To decrease the sugar content even more, leave off the dessert shell completely and opt instead for fresh strawberries and cream.
Sugar-free gelatin contains zero calories and zero carbs, making it an easy and convenient choice for low-calorie or low-carb diets. It comes in a variety of flavors too, and you can make it at home in large batches from a box mix or buy premade, single-serving cups.
3 Healthy Desserts Under 100 calories
The next three desserts may be a bit higher in sugar, but they are less than 100 calories per serving, making them a great option for people who are on low-calorie diets.
Sorbet is a dairy-free frozen treat that makes a great alternative to ice cream. Typically, they are made simply from fruit and sugar. You can purchase many sorbets that contain less than 100 calories per a half-cup serving.
Fruit-flavored, low-fat yogurts typically contain less than 100 calories per serving, and come conveniently pre-packaged in single-serving cups. They also come in a variety of flavors to keep you from getting bored.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols and other antioxidants that may help boost your health. Across most brands, a few squares of dark chocolate is an excellent dessert for 100 calories or less (4).
Summary Healthiest Desserts
As you can see, there are several great options for healthier desserts that are lower in sugar and calories than standard options.
You’re not just stuck with fruit for dessert, either, although fruit is an excellent choice. These desserts offer a variety of options including chocolate, baked goods, ice cream, and fruit-based treats.
To be prepared to make healthy desserts at any time, it’s always a good idea to keep your pantry stocked with a natural, zero-calorie sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
You can also use legumes like chickpeas or black beans to make decadent baked desserts like cookies and brownies. Consider keeping frozen berries or other fruits on hand in your freezer so you’re always able to whip up a healthy, fruity dessert like a smoothie.
Thankfully, trying to eat healthier does not mean you have to give up dessert completely. You may need to tweak your desserts a little bit, but they can still be every bit as delicious as regular desserts, with the added benefit of being lower in sugar, fat, and calories and richer in nutrients.