11 Sneaky Ways to Add Vegetables to Your Dessert

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Overview

Do you tend to feel guilty after indulging in a dessert? You can kiss that feeling goodbye when you add vegetables to your sweet treats. Certain vegetables, such as pumpkin and potatoes, can even make desserts better-tasting, not just better for you. But turning a salad into cookie batter isn't going to please any palate. So what are the ideal vegetables to add to desserts? Try our tips for adding or swapping 11 different vegetables into desserts. Keep it simple and include one addition or swap at a time in the suggested amount; if it works well in your recipe, consider boosting the vegetable amounts next time.

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2. Carrots

Carrots are one of the top foods sources of beta carotene, a form of vitamin A that is important for maintaining good vision and a healthy immune system. Plus, eating meals rich in beta carotene can improve strength and physical performance in older adults. TRY THIS: Grate raw carrots and simply stir them into whatever batter you like, including cookies, quick breads, muffins, brownies and cakes. You'll want to choose recipes that require at least 30 minutes of baking time to allow the carrots to soften. Start with half a cup of shredded carrots. If that works well in your recipe, use more next time for extra texture and nutritional benefits.

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3. Baby Spinach

An excellent source of folate and iron, spinach also provides key health-promoting plant nutrients, such as alpha lipoic acid, which can improve insulin sensitivity in people with Type 2 diabetes. TRY THIS: If you want to impart a lovely green color to your dessert — or you're making a deep-colored dessert where you won't notice the greenness — add in spinach. Include up to a half-cup of fresh baby spinach and a couple of drops of pure peppermint extract when whipping up a vanilla smoothie. You'll end up with a peppermint shake with a delightful hint of green. Or stir a half-cup of chopped fresh baby spinach into the batter for brownies or chocolate cake for a nutrient-rich boost.

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4. Pumpkin

Canned pumpkin (or pumpkin puree) is an amazing and convenient source of vitamin A. And research points to a vast array of potential benefits contained within this orange-hued gourd, including anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic properties. TRY THIS: To cut calories and "bad" fats in cookies, cakes, brownies or quick breads, use a quarter-cup of pumpkin puree in place of a quarter-cup of butter or shortening. Or to create a veggie-and-fruit smoothie instead of a straightforward fruit smoothie, add in a few spoonfuls of pumpkin puree when blending.

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5. Zucchini

If you're concerned about eye health, zucchinis are one produce pick you'll definitely want to include in your diet. Zucchinis provide notable amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that can play an important role in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration. TRY THIS: Coarsely grate raw zucchini, then squeeze out the excess liquid. Simply stir it into whatever batter you like — especially those like quick breads, muffins and brownies — where moistness is desirable. Start with half a cup. If that works well in your recipe, use more next time for added health benefits.

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6. Corn

Corn has health benefits that may surprise you. For instance, the fiber in corn may act as a prebiotic, which means that eating corn can potentially boost the beneficial bacteria in your gut. TRY THIS: In desserts, corn pairs well with the flavor of berries. So whenever you're making a berry-filled dessert, such as strawberry shortcake, blueberry muffins or raspberry dessert crepes, consider adding a half-cup of (thawed) frozen corn into the batter. And if you've got a rather distinguished palate, pan-char the corn first to caramelize and further sweeten the kernels. Bonus: You can cut out a tablespoon or two of added sugar when you do this.

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7. Sweet Potatoes

"Sweet" is literally in the name of this vegetable, which should clue you in that they provide plenty of natural sweetness. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin A and beta carotene. TRY THIS: Bake or microwave-bake sweet potatoes and puree (with or without the skin) in a food processor to make a thick paste. This sweet potato puree can be used as a fat and sugar replacer in baking: Use half a cup (cooled) in place of a quarter-cup of sugar and a quarter-cup of fat (butter, shortening, lard or oil), and incorporate into the batter of muffins, brownies, cakes, cookies and more. You may need to bake a couple of minutes longer to allow for liquid evaporation.

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8. Beets

A powerhouse of nutrients, beets are high in digestion-promoting fiber and immune-boosting vitamin C. They can also help lower blood pressure and fight inflammation. TRY THIS: Beets can transform a light-toned recipe like New York-style cheesecake into something that's reddish-pink and give a dark-toned recipe like chocolate cake a reddish tint (think red velvet cake). The easiest way to do this is to add the liquid ingredients of your cake or cheesecake recipe to a blender or food processor along with half a cup of cooled, well-cooked diced beets and puree until velvety smooth.

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9. Cauliflower

A cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower contains glucosinolates that can help prevent cancer. It's also an excellent source of vitamin C, which reduces inflammation and boosts immunity. TRY THIS: Steam chopped cauliflower, drain well of excess liquid and then puree in a food processor till it reaches a velvety-smooth texture. To cut "bad" fats, use it in place of both the butter or shortening and the milk or cream in frosting. Blend a spoonful of the puree at a time into the powdered sugar until a thick, desirable consistency is reached. Also, sprinkle in a few extra drops of pure vanilla (or other) extract to heighten flavor. The result is vegan too.

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10. Fresh Mint

Besides being incredibly refreshing, mint also helps promote digestion, which makes it perfect to add to an after-meal treat. Mint also contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. TRY THIS: Mint is versatile. It pairs well with chocolate, vanilla, lemon, cinnamon or berries. For a slight herbal hint, add two tablespoons of chopped fresh mint (preferably peppermint) to any sweet batter, frozen treat or dessert drink during preparation. Mint pairs especially well with chocolate brownies, vanilla frosting, lemon bars, cinnamon-streusel coffeecake or raspberry sorbet. For a distinct minty taste, bump it up to quarter-cup of chopped fresh mint.

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11. Wheatgrass

Grown from whole-wheat berries, wheatgrass can often be found at farmers markets or natural food stores. It's rich in chlorophyll and vitamin K. And although research is currently inconclusive, wheatgrass may possibly play a supportive cancer-protective role. TRY THIS: Using the powdered form of wheatgrass actually works best in dessert preparations. In place of two tablespoons of flour in any dessert recipe, swap in two tablespoons of wheatgrass powder. Or add one to two tablespoons to any shake, pudding or ice-cream recipe.

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