Dessert can be a healthful end to a meal

February 15, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Most people look forward to dessert - sweet, creamy, delicious and 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 healthful diet? Try saving the rich desserts for very special occasions and learn to make other desserts a part of the healthful diet.

Fruit can be a sweet ending to a meal. 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, and 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 are usually 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 fat, up to one-half, can be replaced by prune pure (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 such as 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 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.

Easy Apple or Pear Burritos

2 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

1 apple (or pear) peeled, cored and sliced thin

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Fat-free vanilla yogurt, optional

Mix the fruit slices with the cinnamon and sugar. Spread the fruit on the tortillas and roll each one burrito style. Place seam side down on a glass plate. Heat both in a microwave oven until very warm, about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve warm. Optional garnish: A spoonful of fat-free vanilla yogurt.

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 nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Additional 2 teaspoons sugar

2 cups Apple-Raisin Sauce (recipe below)

Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch-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, 1/2 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. Spoon or pour warm Apple-Raisin Sauce over pudding. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8.

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

Apple-Raisin Sauce

1/4 cup apple juice

1/2 cup apple butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 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 5 minutes.

Makes 2 cups.

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

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