It should go without saying that the very cleanest and healthiest dessert choice is always going to be a nice big bowl of fresh fruit. But we fully admit that fruit-only desserts are not always the most fun. So here are our best tips for making delicious and healthy whole food desserts…
Best Tips for Making Whole Food Desserts
- Ditch the cow’s milk and substitute hemp milk, cashew cream, coconut milk, or almond milk.
- Eliminate butter, margarine, and highly refined omega-6 vegetable oils like corn oil and soybean oil. Instead use more healthful oils such as extra-virgin olive oil (which can add a surprisingly welcome savory addition to many baked dessert recipes), macadamia nut oil, or extra-virgin coconut oil (a perfect replacement for butter, especially in high-heat recipes). Or, better yet, try not to use any oil and try to incorporate “whole fats” such as avocado (amazing for making chocolate puddings by the way!), chia seeds, flaxseeds, etc.
- For moisture and substance consider pureed tofu, white soy-beans, applesauce, ground flaxseeds, prune puree, or pureed baby food fruit in place of empty-calorie oils.
- Reduce the sugar in all recipes substantially. Replace it with fruit sugars from fresh or frozen fruits or dried fruits.
- Substitute refined cane sugar with one of the following two unrefined sugars (both are available from natural foods stores or online): Date sugar: Is made from nutritious whole dates. The downside is that it does not dissolve easily, so it is best for toppings or Coconut Palm Sugar: Like date sugar, this natural sweetener is also not refined and thus contains all of its natural vitamins and minerals. As an added bonus, it does not appear to negatively affect blood sugar levels the way refined sugar does.
- Try unpasteurized raw honey. While honey is still very calorie dense, it also contains antioxidants, essential minerals, seven vitamins of the B complex group, amino acids, enzymes, and an array of phytonutrients. Because honey is sweeter than sugar, you need to use less – ½ to ¾ cup for each cup of sugar. (For each cup of sugar replaced, you should also reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup and the cooking temperature by 25 degrees F.)
- If you have a Vitamix, you can use dates, yellow raisins, gogi berries, mulberries, or other dried fruits mixed with water as a replacement for sweeteners in smoothies, pies, cakes, cookies, etc. It takes a little bit of experimenting, but it is entirely possible to make desserts that taste very sweet but have zero added empty calorie sugar and sweetened entirely with dried fruits.
- Use spice for sugar. To enhance the perception of sweetness, many recipes benefit from spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, or cloves. Orange or lemon zest can also boost flavor when sugar is reduced. Pure vanilla, lemon, and almond extracts are also excellent sugar-free flavor boosters that simultaneously add richness and depth to numerous desserts.
- Adding liqueurs or spirits is another great way to add richness to your desserts. Try amaretto, brandy, coffee liqueur, rum, and bourbon. It doesn’t take much so this is a safe indulgence.
- Celebrate the natural sweetness of nutrient and fiber-rich fruits. Instead of sugar, why not try flavorful orange juice concentrate as a natural sweetener?
- Add crunch and satisfaction with nuts and richness with nut creams. Process nuts with water in a high-speed blender to form decadent nut creams that can replace dairy cream.
- Fiber up the flour. Use white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour or add ¼ cup of ground flaxseed in place of ¼ cup of flour. Try tossing in some wheat germ or oatmeal too. Coconut flour, almond flour, and amaranth flour are slightly sweet, nutrient-rich flours ideal for desserts and definitely worth experimenting with.
- Add instant espresso to chocolate recipes to intensify the rich flavor of cocoa.
- Use dried fruit in place of half the chocolate chips in a recipe.
- Use unsweetened raw cacao powder in place of sweetened cocoa powder.
- Use raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips.
- Use chia seeds to thicken puddings.
- Make shot glass desserts! Because the satisfaction of dessert comes mostly from the first few bites, you create a dessert that is perfectly portioned to be just a few bites but presented so beautifully that you don’t feel deprived. You can create an incredible assortment of shot glass desserts (key lime pie, pecan pie, and chocolate velvet cake come to mind). To make them even more decadent try pouring a little liqueur on top before serving.
Recipes for “Clean Cuisine” Whole Food Desserts…
Chocolaty Fruit Booster
Our Chocolaty Fruit Booster is delicious served over fresh fruit with just a little bit of coconut ice cream (such as Coconut Bliss.)
- 1/3 cup dried blueberries (sweetened with fruit juice)
- 1/3 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
- 3 tablespoons dark vegan chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup raw pecans
- 1 tablespoons chia seeds
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until well-blended. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Sprinkle over fresh fruit.
Dessert Recipes from “My Whole Food Life”
You will definitely want to check out our friend Melissa King’s food blog, MyWholeFoodLife.com, for more delicious dessert recipes. My Whole Food Life features healthy vegan recipes made from whole food ingredients. Not all of Melissa’s recipes are desserts, but we think she has a special knack for making healthy sweets so if you love dessert you will definitely want to visit her website. As a side note, when we asked Melissa how she got into healthy eating she said, “I got into eating whole foods after a couple health issues with my husband (high cholesterol) and my girls (severe reflux). All of those issues completely disappeared as soon as we changed our way of eating. It was actually pretty amazing.
Healthy Apple Cobbler
From My Whole Food Life
The secret is slow cooking the apple filling in the crock pot, the natural sugars in the apple will come out more. Another secret: adding a lot of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg will give a dish a sense of being sweeter than it is.
For the filling:
- 8 apples peeled and sliced long ways
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
For the topping:
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons applesauce (or coconut oil for a richer flavor)
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the filling:
- Place everything in the crock pot and turn on high for the first hour and then turn to low for an additional 3 hours. Your house will smell amazing in the process!
- When the apples are done cooking, place them in a glass baking dish and preheat your oven to 350. I used an 8X8 dish.
- There will be some extra liquid left, so remove the apple mixture with a slotted spoon.
For the topping:
- Place everything in the food processor and mix until the oats start to stick together.
- Sprinkle oat mixture over the top of the apples and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.
Almond Joy Energy Bites
From My Whole Food Life
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
10-12 medjool dates
1/4-1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon organic, extra virgin coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips (or carob chips)
In a food processor, mix the almonds and coconut until they are fine. Then add the dates, coconut oil and water and continue to pulse until you see a dough start to form. Roll into balls and place in the fridge to firm up. Recipe yields approximately 12 balls.
Hungry for More “Clean Cuisine” Dessert Recipes?
We have plenty of recipes for tasty whole food desserts on our on our website, in our Clean Cuisine book and in our Clean Cuisine superfood cookbook (see cover below) available on Kindle and Nook for just $2.99.
- K. E. Schroder, “Effects of Fruit Consumption on Body Mass Index and Weight Loss in a Sample of Overweight and Obese Dieters enrolled in a Weight-Loss Intervention Trial,” Nutrition 26, no. 7–8 (2010): 727–34.