Desserts to go crazy for
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
Valentine's Day is synonymous with sweets. But you can satisfy your loved one's sweet tooth with our healthy recipes (including some that are gluten free).
During the depths of winter, we often seek out comfort food in the form of cookies, brownies, and other tempting desserts. This is especially true when Valentine’s Day arrives, and there seems to be an endless stream of baked goods and chocolates within arm’s reach.
But indulge too often in store-bought treats laden with sugar, white flour, and unhealthy fats and you could emerge from winter hibernation with a bit too much insulation. That’s why there is no better time than now to break out the mixing bowls and cake pans.
When you craft your own treats that are infused with wholesome ingredients such as whole grain flours, nuts, and natural sweeteners, desserts no longer have to be a guilty pleasure. In fact, they can even provide nutrients needed for good health, meaning you can have your cake and eat it too. Start with these better-for-you delicious desserts that will surely garner brownie points with all the sweethearts in your life.
Desserts with benefits
Thankfully for dessert fans (and, really, who isn’t?), a few simple recipe tweaks will allow you to rouse your taste buds without blowing your diet. While dessert should never be the anchor of a healthy diet, here’s how to convert your homemade goodies from nutritional villains to nutritional saints.
Sack the nutritionally lacklustre white flour for healthier options such as organic whole wheat pastry, spelt, or Kamut flour. From quinoa to teff to almond, specialty gluten-free flours are becoming increasingly easy to locate in stores and can infuse desserts with various flavour nuances. Using a greater assortment of flours also exposes your body to a wider range of nutrients.
Vast amounts of chocolate are consumed around Valentine’s Day. Sadly, much of this chocolate is sourced from areas with poor environmental and labour practices. Use your buying power to make a difference by purchasing fair trade and organic chocolate, which encourage sustainable farming practices and improved revenue at the source. Use dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent for a bigger dose of disease-fighting flavonoids.
Many store-bought desserts add more sugar than necessary, which can send your blood sugar on a Rocky Mountain high and mask other flavours in the item. More often, use just enough sweetener to give your treats the slight sweetness needed and swap out the nutrient-void white sugar for closer-to-nature options such as maple syrup, honey, molasses, and coconut sugar. Puréed dried fruits from dates to prunes can also add all the sweetness required. Even citrus zest such as orange and lemon can provide a zing of low-calorie sweetness.
Crammed with beneficial fats and a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals, crunchy nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and pecans should be worked into more desserts.
Lost in spice
Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice are all wonderful warming spices that can really make a dessert pop in your mouth for almost zero calories. When working with chocolate, try adding a pinch of cayenne or chili powder for a little kick.
Sack the fat
Most baked goods need some fat for structure and moistness, but you can cut back on the amount needed (and save on calories) by using yogurt, puréed dried fruit, or mashed vegetables and fruit such as sweet potato or applesauce. Coconut oil is a good dairy-free replacement for butter, but it needs to be melted first before using. To do so, simply place the jar in a bowl or pan with very hot water and let sit for a few minutes. If mixing with any cold ingredients, be sure to stir the melted coconut oil in quickly so that it doesn’t solidify and make clumps.