Naturally sweetened treats
Mariane Héroux, MSc, RHN
While we all have our favourite treats, we're aware that most don't support overall health. But there are some healthier dessert options!
Who doesn’t love the sweet taste and satisfaction of a smooth and creamy piece of fudge or a moist, rich muffin? While we all have our favourite treats and desserts, we are also aware that most of these do not support our overall health and well-being.
What if I told you that there are healthier dessert options available? Options just as delectable as your beloved fudge and as satisfying as that tasty muffin?
Before I tell you about these wondrous desserts, let me quickly remind you about the importance of food for our health.
Food’s important functions
Food is what fuels us. It contains nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats as well as numerous other important functional components, such as phytonutrients and flavanoids. The nutrients and functional components found in food provide us with everything we need to complete daily tasks, fight off illnesses, prevent disease, heal, and much more.
Unfortunately, in today’s Western society, many available foods lack adequate amounts of both nutrients and functional components as a result of being refined, processed, and packaged. Several studies have demonstrated that refined foods are addictive and that their consumption is related to obesity, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
It is not surprising then, that the more foods we eat that are refined and laden with added chemicals, the less efficiently our bodies function.
Keep it close to nature
When foods are in their natural state, they contain high amounts of naturally occurring nutrients and functional components required by our body for optimal health. As foods are processed and refined, the amount of naturally occurring nutrients and functional components decreases.
For example, a medium-sized, freshly picked apple contains a higher amount of readily available nutrients and functional components than apple chips do. Furthermore, apple chips often contain added ingredients such as refined sugars and oils, additives, and preservatives, all of which should be avoided.
So what does all of this have to do with dessert, you ask? Well, most desserts purchased in stores today contain minimal amounts of naturally occurring nutrients and functional components, because they are made with refined sugars and flours and contain a long list of additives and preservatives.
These desserts also tend to have a very high caloric content. This is a problem, as it is important to get nourishment from the calories you eat and to stay away from unnatural food additives.
Healthy homemade indulgences
What about homemade baked goods? While homemade baked goods allow you to stay away from the unwanted additives and preservatives, most are made with refined ingredients such as refined flour, sugar, and oil. So again, you end up with a high-calorie, low-nutrient dessert that does not support your body’s optimal functioning.
However, with homemade baked goods you have complete control over what you put into the mixing bowl. So it is your choice whether you want to use refined white sugar or fresh nutrient-rich dates and bananas to sweeten those scrumptious muffins you are making.
I have always had a bit of a sweet tooth, but have also always been very health conscious, so I set out on a mission to create desserts that would be tasty and nourish the body at the same time.
Using only natural ingredients such as raw nuts, fruit, unrefined flours, and natural sugars (for example, honey, natural maple syrup, and fruit), I soon discovered that making delectable, nutritious treats was quite easy!
After much trial and error, I have put together a few dozen recipes that are mouth-watering, and more importantly, nutritious. I have included a few below for you to make and enjoy with family and friends.
It is also important to remember that moderation and variety are very important. While the desserts I provide are a healthier alternative to traditional desserts, make sure to enjoy them in moderation.
A healthier cooking spray
Check your local health food store for natural cooking sprays—new alcohol- and silicone-free sprays do exist. There are even organic formulas that won’t emit environmentally damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
If you have trouble finding a natural cooking spray, put some olive oil or canola oil in a small misting bottle and spritz lightly on bakeware to prevent sticking.