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Make healthful desserts a habit

June 06, 2011|Melissa Tewes and Joe Fleischman | Your Health Matters
  • A strawberry and rhubarb trifle combines the tastes of sweet with tart and is a refreshing, healthful dessert for the summertime. See Joe Fleischman's column, right, for the recipe.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

Special to The Herald-Mail

Many of us are creatures of habit and often feel the need to eat dessert — without even stopping to think if the craving is real, or if we are still hungry, or if we are simply eating dessert because that is what we are used to doing.  

Is there a way to include dessert into a healthful meal plan? Absolutely.

You can still eat dessert and you can still enjoy it if you choose wisely and make healthful substitutions, if preparing your own.  

Having healthful dessert options available is the first step to incorporating dessert as a healthy addition to your meal. If you do not plan ahead, it will be very difficult to make wise choices if more healthful items are not easily accessible. On the same note, try to avoid having high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie dessert items available. If the food isn't there, you can't indulge.

If you choose to include pre-made desserts into your diet, look for items that do not contain a lot of butter, margarine, nuts, and high-fat, high-sugar frostings.

There are many low-fat and fat-free products available on the market, but just because something is low fat or fat free does not mean it's a healthful addition to your meal plan.  

Usually when fat is removed, something else (usually sugar) is added in its place to maintain the pleasant flavor.

Whether your nutritional focus is weight loss, weight maintenance, or just eating healthier, calorie content is one of the most important considerations. Calories, whether they come from sugar or fat, will cause weight gain if consumed in excess. For some easy pre-made dessert ideas, try to keep some of the following on hand:

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  • Low-fat cookies such as vanilla wafers
  • Fresh fruit, in season (try frozen berries, bananas or grapes for a summertime treat)
  • Low-fat dairy and frozen soy desserts
  • Frozen fruit bars
  • Sorbet
  • Low-fat or fat-free pudding or custard
  •  Angel food cake
  • Try eating three or four Hershey Kisses or 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Fun-sized candy bar
  • Sugar-free gelatin
  •  Low-fat granola bars

If you choose to prepare your own desserts, a few simple substitutions can help turn a high-fat, high-calorie dessert into a healthful treat.

Try some of the following substitutions in your basic dessert recipes:

  • Use two egg whites in place of one whole egg or try egg substitutes
  • Do not add extra fat to dessert mixes (they already contain enough fat). Try adding a different type of liquid in its place such as apple sauce, prune puree, fat-free sour cream, fat-free yogurt, or diet soda.
  • Cut the sugar by 25 percent or try using a sugar substitute such as sucralose.
  • Cut the fat in half or substitute lower fat alternatives such as light margarine or fat-free half and half.


Just remember to think before you give into that craving.

Melissa Tewes is the clinical nutrition manager at Meritus Medical Center. She has 16 years of experience as a registered dietitian and is also a certified personal trainer.

By Joe Fleischman

Special to The Herald-Mail

Here in Western Maryland, nothing says spring like the emergence of sweet strawberries and tart, vibrant rhubarb.  
While these two local favorites are completely different in flavor, they have been used in pies, jams, jellies and other local staples for as long as anyone can remember.  
In this adaptation of an English classic, the two meet again in a quick, fun dessert that will leave your family and friends wanting more.  

Joe Fleischman is executive chef at Meritus Medical Center. He has 20 years of experience as a professional chef, culinary instructor and speaker.

Strawberry and rhubarb trifle

8 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
8 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 cups strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup Splenda
1 large angel food cake, cubed
4 cups vanilla yogurt
4 cups fat-free whipped topping
1 cup chocolate chips


In a medium sauce pan, combine water, vanilla, sugar and rhubarb, bring to a boil.  
When rhubarb is tender, remove from heat and drain liquid. Place rhubarb in refrigerator and chill completely.    
In large mixing bowl, combine strawberries and Splenda. Allow berries to marinate for at least 3 to 4 hours. In a large glass trifle dish or large glass bowl, layer angel food cake, strawberries, rhubarb, yogurt, whipped topping and chocolate chips.  
Repeat until bowl is full ending with layer of whipped topping. Reserve enough strawberries and chocolate chips to garnish the top.
Makes 8 to 10
Cook’s note:  If there is any liquid in the strawberry bowl, spoon it over the angel food cake after it is layered for additional flavor. 

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