Chickpeas. Avocados. Spinach. No, we're not making a salad. We're talking desserts! We spent hours in the kitchen concocting seriously delicious desserts out of good-for-you, whole-food ingredients. We slashed the sugar, but not the yumminess. Scout's honor! These nine recipes focus on nutrient richness and "good carbs" like whole grains and fruits, rather than added sugars. Why cut sugars? Basically, they provide "empty" calories -- meaning they provide calories with no nutritional benefits. So when your "sweet tooth" desires dessert, consider making one of these sweet swaps.
1. Sweet-n-Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies With Crispy Chickpeas
whole grains, chickpeas, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, cayenne and more. It's an excellent example of how to easily make a baked dessert healthier: Simply swap whole-wheat pastry flour in place of ("white") all-purpose flour -- cup for cup. But these cookies go way beyond that. The main ingredient is actually roasted chickpeas, which give these cookies amazing crunch and perk up the amount of protein and fiber. The sweet-and-salty taste of these cookies is memorable.
2. Tropical Key Lime Ice Cream
Got an ice-cream maker? Add this recipe to your dessert repertoire. Unlike some ice cream in your supermarket freezer aisle, this isn't laden with bad fats, processed sugars and chemical additives or artificial colors. Rather, it's filled with fresh tropical essence and plenty of velvetiness from avocados. Additional creaminess comes from a combination of organic evaporated milk and fat-free milk, not heavy cream. All of the sweetness is by way of fully ripened bananas. No added sugar is required! For pie-like appeal, the "key" is the juice of key limes. And don't forget the graham cracker -- it completes this dessert!
3. Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cups
When it comes to chocolate, the more bitter it is, the better it is for you. That's one difference between these dark chocolate-covered peanut butter cups and those that you'll find in orange packaging in the candy aisle. Perhaps the most distinct difference is the filling. This creamy filling is preservative-free. Plus, it has extra nutrient richness from the addition of chickpeas and just the right amount of sweetness from apple butter, not added sugar. They're still decadent little treats, for sure. But you can easily fit one (or two!) of these into a healthful eating plan. They're minis, after all!
4. Better-for-You Banana Split
A classic banana split can provide well over 500 calories a pop at a dessert shop. Luckily, you can partake in the iconic dessert with this inspired recipe in calorie-friendlier style. A DIY vanilla yogurt is the creamy topping of choice for potassium-packed banana halves. Fresh, red raspberries add extra sweetness -- naturally. Pistachios kick up protein and fiber while providing colorful crunch. Those greens and red-purples in the nuts are indicators of antioxidants. And, yes, you still get to top off this banana split with chocolate syrup!
5. Vegan Fudgy Chia Brownies
These extra-dark chocolate brownies are far more nutritious than the traditional ooey-gooey treat! They're based on whole grains and seeds. Chia seeds create body in place of eggs, so they'll fit into any vegan diet. Plus, they provide unique texture while punching up plant-based nutrients and omega-3s. They're also made with coconut sugar rather than white granulated sugar (but not too much). Plus, rather than making these brownies small yet thick in an 8-inch square pan, you'll make them thinner in a 9 x 13-inch pan. They'll actually look like bigger brownies! Because they're extra-dark chocolaty (hello, polyphenols) and super fudgy, enjoy these better-for-you brownies by taking small bites and savoring slowly.
6. Light and Luscious Lemony Cheesecake
Cheesecake is surprisingly easy to fix, especially if you begin with a premade whole-grain graham cracker crust. Be sure to select one that contains nothing artificial. As for the filling, use organic Neufchâtel rather than regular cream cheese -- it's lower in calories naturally, yet still provides lusciousness. As for sugar, use only the amount needed for a tart sweetness (do not oversweeten). And try a more natural one, like coconut sugar. This finished cheesecake is scrumptious as is -- or provides an ideal "canvas" for your culinary artistry. Top it with fresh seasonal or thawed frozen fruit like strawberries. For added intrigue, try strawberries with a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh basil.
7. Mint Cacao Nib Shake
The pairing of chocolate and mint can be absolutely mouthwatering, especially when it's in a dessert like a thick and creamy milkshake! Unfortunately, that may mean lots of excess calories, especially from processed sugars. But you can have your minty shake and sip it too! Here you'll whirl together 100 percent plant-based ingredients to make a shake that promises to please. Dates offer sweetness. A coconut milk beverage and avocado create creaminess. Fresh mint and baby spinach give greenness. Pure flavor extracts add dessert-like scrumptiousness. And cacao nibs provide chocolaty goodness. Sip it soon!
Related: Full Recipe: Mint Cacao Nib Shake
8. Peachy Almond Cobbler
When peaches are in season, you'll want to make this dessert. Keep the peel on this fuzzy and fragrant stone fruit -- there are a variety of beneficial nutrients and fiber in the skin. Since peaches become extra sweet during the baking process, less added sugar is required in the recipe as a whole. To further heighten the essence of sweetness (without sugar!), pure almond extract is included. And baking until the cobbler is a rich, golden-brown color will provide caramelized cookie-like crispness on the edges. Contrasting that is the luxurious moistness in the middle with extra texture and fiber from oats. This cobbler is lovely served warm, allowing the frozen dessert on top to ever-so-slightly melt as you enjoy every bite.
Related: Full Recipe: Peachy Almond Cobbler
9. Espresso Mocha Pudding
What is vegan, free of added sugar, packed with potassium and downright fudgy? This pudding! It's based on avocados, which contribute about 20 vitamins and minerals, plus other beneficial plant nutrients. This pudding gets its mocha richness from unsweetened cocoa powder and espresso. Its natural sweetness is from dates, which also boost the fiber in this unique pudding. It'll take several minutes to whirl this in a food processor so that all of the dates get fully pureed. But don't worry if you still have some small flecks of date skins in the pudding -- at least you'll know it's natural!
Related: Full Recipe: Espresso Mocha Pudding
What Do YOU Think?
Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, which of these desserts do you think you'll make first? Do you try to "sneak" healthy ingredients into your desserts? What's your favorite dessert?