Often when people think of healthy dessert recipes, they picture a plate of uninspiring copycat treats. You know exactly what we’re talking about: imitations of your favorite sweets that spend so much time focusing on cutting calories or carbs, they forget to add any flavor. No matter how many times you put sugar-free frosting on an apple slice and call it a donut, it’s never really going to taste like the glazed donut you actually want.?
The most ironic thing about these so-called healthy desserts is that they’re not all that much healthier than their traditional counterparts when you do the math. Plus, recipes that are designed to reduce calories, fat, or sugar often result in final products that look better on camera than they taste or make you feel. The result? A nagging lack of satisfaction. The truth is that a genuinely healthy and fulfilling treat—one that’s totally delicious to eat and full of nutrients—probably looks a lot like what you’re actually craving.?
“There are nutrient-rich ingredients that you can incorporate into baking in a way that doesn’t take away from [the final product], but adds to it and makes it more satisfying,” as Rachael Hartley, R.D., certified intuitive eating counselor and owner of Rachael Hartley Nutrition, has told SELF previously. For instance: Chocolate chip cookies that look and taste\ much like the traditional treat, but have a bit more fiber and protein from whole-wheat flour. Or a moist and fluffy cake that also happens to be filled with vitamin-rich sweet potatoes. And lot of your favorites don’t need tweaking at all. Anything that’s packed with fruit, nuts, oats, or eggs, for instance, offers up wholesome nutrition just as it is (though there are always plenty of easy swaps you can make to suit your tastes and dietary needs).
Not to mention, there is also plenty of room for less nutrition-packed ingredients in a healthy diet—like butter or sugar, elements that can be key to achieving the right chemical reaction or perfect texture in recipes. Abbey Sharp, R.D., of Abbey’s Kitchen, previously told SELF she looks at all baking ingredients as tools in your toolkit: “No need to label them good or bad.”
These 45 healthy dessert recipes run the gamut, from the fancy to the simple and everything in between. Most of them are filled with a variety of nuts, seeds, berries, grains, and veggies (!), and can be adapted to fit gluten-free or vegan diets. We also threw in a few that focus more on decadence than nutrition—because that’s just what you need sometimes. And as Hartley says, “Sometimes the healthiest thing that you can do is really to eat the thing that you want!”
A note about the word healthy here: We know that healthy is a complicated concept. Not only can it mean different things to different people, it’s a word that’s pretty loaded (and sometimes fraught), thanks to the diet industry’s influence on the way we think about food. At SELF, when we talk about food being healthy, we’re primarily talking about foods that are nutritious, filling, and satisfying. But it also depends on your preferences, your culture, what’s accessible to you, and so much more. We selected these recipes with those basic criteria in mind while also trying to appeal to a wide variety of nutritional needs and taste buds.