Nutrition Articles

Healthier Ways to Eat Dessert

Smart Substitution: Dessert

Sticking with a healthy eating plan is hard work. There is no way around that, but for many it means giving up the foods that they love the most. But, you don’t have to do that! If you are limiting yourself so much that healthy eating becomes more of a hindrance than a help, then your good habits won't last long. So what does this mean? You can still eat dessert-- and enjoy it! Learn some smart substitutions to make your dessert a healthy part of your day.

The key to including dessert is to enjoy that sweet treat without overloading on calories, fat, and sugar. Desserts can often make it hard to maintain a healthy weight. But who wants to give up their favorite foods? Willpower is hard to fight against. As with many things in life, moderation is key, so you’ll need to stop yourself before you overindulge. Try sensible portions; you can eat 1 slice of pie and still be in your calorie range for the day.

Not every chocolate cake or banana nut muffin is created equal. Look for things without a lot of butter, nuts, or creamy frosting. Since feeling guilty can ruin a good meal, why not try some of our ideas instead of your “regular” desserts?

  • Low fat cookie
  • Frozen 100% juice bar
  • Fresh berries with low fat creamer
  • A few pieces of chocolate
  • Frozen grapes
  • Angel food cake
  • Pudding made with skim milk
  • Non-dairy frozen dessert
  • Low fat ice cream or sorbet
  • Pieces of fruit
  • A fresh fruit smoothie
If you are the one doing the cooking, there are lots of ways to make your favorite recipes healthier. 

  • Egg substitutes or egg whites instead of whole eggs.
  • Apple sauce or prune puree instead of oil when baking to naturally trap moisture into your cakes and breads.
  • Less sugar. A lot of recipes call for much more sugar than is needed. You might even like it better for a little less of the sweet stuff!
  • Fruit-based desserts. Although you still have to be careful, these desserts often have less calories and fat than a chocolate or cream based one.
  • One of our recipes. is full of healthy dessert recipes just waiting for you to try.

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Member Comments

  • As a general rule, I keep it out of the house and my kids treats are off limits. One of my favorite ways to enjoy a special dessert if we go out for dinner is to share with someone at the table. Then I can enjoy every bite of my half! Works like a charm.
  • Great info. Love fruit bars.
  • Great info. Love fruit bars.
  • I run a child care so sweets are always coming into my house I have learned to make all kinds of cakes with pumpkin and protein powder its low calorie and devils food is my fav. I bake a batch of muffins then freeze the rest. spice cake mix 1 can of pumpkin shredded carrots and raisons is super yummy also plus kids love these in all flavors (without frosting as well)
    Love fruit bars! Yum, lots of good suggestions!
    Dessert is not part of a normal meal for me, its a something for a special occasion. I'm lucky that I grew up in a family where sweets weren't emphasized. That doesn't mean that I don't love sweet treats, especially chocolate anything. I've maintained my weight loss by a combination of having low-calorie "indulgences" convenient--fresh berries with yogurt or Skinny Cow bars. They are satisfying enough when I want a bit of a treat.

    But when it comes to real dessert--the kind that gets served at a dinner party or a restaurant I use moderation as control. First, its not an everyday part of my eating so I can indulge a little. I take a few bits and I stop (usually). Someone once told me that the second bite tastes just like the first bite so before I begin I decide if I am "tasting" or eating this dessert. I almost always pick the tasting option. Then I decide how many tastes I will enjoy--usually 2 or 3. I taste slowly and then I put down my fork. It almost always works.
  • One of my absolute weaknesses is ice cream. I can't bring home a pint without eating all of it. I recently discovered a super healthy alternative, though: freeze a banana for a few hours and then throw it in the blender with a teaspoon or so of cocoa powder. I have chocolate-banana ice cream in a matter of minutes and very few calories [plus a fruit serving]! It's definitely been calming that sweet tooth.
  • I'm in the same boat as NUSMACY - lots of great ideas, thank you, I need them, but if I bring home a 2-serving pkg of Weight Watchers dessert, there's nowhere safe to hide that 2nd latest 'find' is Sugar-Free Jello powder mixed into lowest-calorie-I-
    can-find off-brand Cool Whip - yummy!! Trouble is, I ate the whole bowl of cherry-flavored Cool Whip....
  • My approach is moderation, and yes, it can be difficult. So over a period of time, I reduce the amount of my favorites. It will take me longer to get to my desired size/weight, but I cannot deal with deprivation. I utilize suggestions I found on SP: using smaller dishes and spoons. There is no way I am going to substitute fruit for chocolate. I like the idea of setting out specific amounts of a treat, instead of eating from the bag or container. This is not a competition for me; I am not going to make myself miserable to drop some weight. I want to be healthier, not a fanatic about food. Thank you, SP members and staff, for ideas to use regarding moderation and a permanent lifestyle change instead of a strict diet.
  • When losing weight, I just have to tell myself that sweets are not allowed and no bread unless it's whole grain. There's no middle ground for me. It's easier to just decide you are not going to eat sweets than to constantly have to make decisions about it.

    When just maintaining my weight, I do like the Nature Valley Honey and Oat granola bars. If you dip them in skim milk, they tast like a really yummy oatmeal cookie (which basically is what they are!). The nice thing about those is they are prepackaged into 2 bars for only 190 calories total so if you don't use much milk, you can have a dessert-like snack for around 200 calories!
  • My favorite is Activia yogurt, which comes in 4-oz containers in vanilla and fruit flavors. I get it at Costco for a reasonable price. It has healthy live cultures and enough sweetness to satisfy me.

    Also Nature Valley honey 'n' oats granola bars. I eat one after having a large salad with protein, so they are in place of any other carbs in the meal as well as dessert. Eat slowly and enjoy the crunch!

    Banana chips - you have to be very careful with these; it's easy to overindulge. A small amount in a tiny bowl works for me. They take a lot of chewing so it's fairly easy to limit quantities and still feel satisfied, if they are eaten mindfully.
  • My sweet tooth is why I'm overweight,I love dessert,but I'm on day 3 of detoxing from sweets,eating jello instead,and I was diagnosed 2 weeks ago with hypothyroidism,wh
    ich males it harder to lose weight.
  • My favorite "dessert" is Cheerios with skim milk and half a packet of Swiss Miss sugar free hot chocoa mixed into the milk. It's only 30 cals. and half a gram of fat. This helps me with my chocolate cravings especially this time of year when candy,cookies,pie
    s and cakes are EVERYWHERE!!!!
  • I have a huge sweet tooth, but I try to find healthy ways to indulge it. For example, I love fresh fruit stirred into yogurt. For a "candy bar" sometimes I'll buy a chocolate protein bar at the gym. Occasionally I'll have Weight Watchers frozen desserts....they are really yummy, but of course the key is to limit yourself to just one which isn't always easy to do. I think human beings are programmed to like things that are sweet. For me if I eat a lot of fruit I don't get too many sweet cravings. Lately grapes have been awesome. Keep cookies and packages sweets out of the house.

About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

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