Have dessert as part of a healthy diet

October 26, 2005|By LYNN F. LITTLE

Most people look forward to dessert - sweet, creamy, delicious, comforting food. Most of us do not look forward to the high calories, high fat and low nutrient levels of most desserts. So how do we enjoy dessert and maintain a healthy diet? Try saving the rich desserts for special occasions and learn to make other desserts a part of the healthy diet.

Fruit can be a sweet ending to a meal. This time of year, fresh apples and pears make a terrific dessert. For a simple, tasty dessert, peel and chop apples or pears, sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar per cup of fruit, then microwave until tender. Stir in a few raisins or berries if you like, but don't add water - the fruit makes its own syrup as it cooks. Enjoy the fruit warm by itself, or sprinkle with a crunchy low-fat granola cereal to make a fruit crisp.


Cakes and cookies usually are made with white flour, but you can add fiber and nutrients by substituting whole-wheat flour. Try replacing half the white flour with whole wheat. Whole-wheat pastry flour, if available, works even better in baked products.

Most desserts are high in sugar. You can reduce the sugar by about 25 percent in most homemade baked goods. You can reduce the fat by using skim or low-fat dairy products. Part of the butter or oil in a recipe (up to half) can be replaced by prune puree (use a jar of prune baby food) or fat-free plain yogurt.

Fat-free desserts are not necessarily healthful or low in calories. Sometimes the fat is replaced by extra sugar and might actually have even more calories and carbohydrates. Foods like carrot cake and zucchini bread sound like they should be good for you, but they might be higher in calories and lower in vegetables than you think. A slice of zucchini bread has about 230 calories and only 4 teaspoons of zucchini.

Enjoy your healthy dessert, but remember you can have too much of a good thing. You still need to be careful about the portion size and plan dessert with your total meal in mind.

Bread Pudding with Apple-Raisin Sauce

10 slices whole-wheat bread

1 egg

3 egg whites

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and cloves

2 teaspoons sugar

Spray a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the slices of bread in the baking dish in two rows, overlapping. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the egg, egg whites, milk, 1/4 cup sugar, the brown sugar and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the bread.

In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and 2 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle over the bread pudding. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until it has browned on top and is firm to the touch. Serve warm or at room temperature, with warm Apple-Raisin Sauce (recipe follows).

Serves 8.

Nutrition information per serving: 233 calories, 3 g fat, 7.7 g protein, 252 mg sodium, 24 mg cholesterol.

Apple-Raisin Sauce

1 1/4 cups apple juice

1/2 cup apple butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

Stir all the ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 2 cups.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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