Thursday, January 19, 2012

Things to Know About Healthy Desserts

Sometimes a meal just isn’t complete without dessert. The problem is that most desserts are calorie bombs ready to blow up your waistline. Regardless of whether you‘re trying to lose weight or not, it's a smart idea to avoid empty calories. Among the calorie-dense culprits are those sweet indulgences you might eat for dessert. At the conclusion of a meal, choose a last course with nutritional value and without too many high-calorie ingredients. Desserts can be part of your healthy lifestyle, but they should be savored as occasional foods and eaten in small servings after a nourishing meal. While establishing healthy eating habits, you can make desserts healthier by reducing added sugar and using natural ingredients such as wholegrain flour, fruits and nuts.

Cakes and Cupcakes

Like most other baked goods, cakes and cupcakes usually contain butter, margarine, shortening or oil. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you substitute prune puree or applesauce for half of the butter or other fat in cake recipes. For the other half, use a butter-flavored spread or shortening that doesn’t contain trans-fats. If a cake recipe calls for whole eggs, replace each egg with two egg whites or one-quarter cup of egg substitute. Whole-wheat flour can replace half of the all-purpose flour in cake recipes. Try to use a whole-wheat pastry flour, which makes the texture of cakes and cupcakes smooth, soft and light.

Cookies and Bars

When baking cookies and bars from a recipe, you can reduce the fat content by using nonstick pans or light cooking spray on regular baking sheets. In most recipes, lowering the amount of sugar by half doesn't sacrifice much sweetness. Bake cookies and bars that call for rolled oats, dried fruit or nut butters -- all of these ingredients will add extra fiber and nutrients. If you prefer to buy cookies, look for fat-free or reduced-fat products, such as graham crackers, fig bars and ginger snaps, as the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests.

Pies and Tarts

Fruit pies and tarts can be good dessert choices when made without processed pie fillings or fruit canned in heavy syrup. When you bake fruit pies and pastries, opt for fresh fruit whenever possible, or fruit canned in its own juices. Fruit provides plenty of fiber and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. For a healthier approach to pies and tarts, make the crust with wholegrain flour. Try cobblers and crisps with rolled oats, granola or chopped nuts as a topping. Want a cheesecake? The Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas advises using low-fat cream cheese and a container of nonfat dairy whipped topping in its cheesecake recipe. Suggestions like these can significantly reduce the fat content in cheesecake, cream pies and other rich desserts.

Puddings, Custards and Frozen Desserts

If you enjoy pudding, buy fat-free varieties or try making it at home with skim milk or reduced-fat milk. For custard recipes, consider using silken or soft tofu, which provides a creamy texture without saturated fat. If you like frozen dairy desserts, look for reduced-fat options, such as light ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt. Add chopped nuts and fresh fruit to frozen desserts for a nutritional boost. You can also blend fruits with fruit juices and then freeze the mixture to make your own healthy popsicles.

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