On “Healthifying” Desserts

“Healthy dessert makeovers”…

I read Avery’s post on the subject, and wanted to put in my two cents.

It’s a big “thing” among bloggers, where the idea is to take generic desserts recipe (like ones with butter and sugar) and make them “guilt-free”.  Some people love it, and others people think it’s a waste of time.

Dessert is dessert, they’ll say, it’s not supposed to be healthy, it’s supposed to be delicious!

My Pudding, recipe coming soon, could be considered “health-freaky”. I just think it’s freaky delicious.

Though not all black-and-white, there is a bit of side taking that happens. There’s the “no-way-in-hell-am-I-putting-beans-in-my-dessert” camp and the group whose gun ho for the unsweetened chocolate, and garbanzo bean dips that are cropping up like wild-fire on the internet.

Though I am one of those completely gun ho folks who are eager to try the “healthy” version of everything (I’ll explain why I put “healthy” in quotes below), I take a slightly different point of view.

First, if you look up “dessert” in the online dictionary, you’ll find something like this:

Definition of DESSERT

: a usually sweet course or dish (as of pastry or ice cream) usually served at the end of a meal
British : a fresh fruit served after a sweet course

Examples of DESSERT

  1. She doesn’t care for rich desserts.
  2. Coffee and tea will be served with dessert.
  3. We had ice cream and apple pie for dessert.

Origin of DESSERT

Middle French, from desservir to clear the table, from des- de- + servir to serve, from Latin servire

First Known Use: 1600

I don’t see anything specific in there about butter, sugar, eggs, etc. being unique to only desserts. Though those ingredients do create a rather delicious, and addictive, result. Just because that is the way dessert is traditionally made does not mean it’s the only way to have dessert!

My apple pie is stevia-sweetened. And low-fat. And whole-grain. And delicious.

Beans, stevia, and whole grains can be a delicious part or whole of a yummy dessert. I mean, why not? You says that doesn’t constitute a dessert? Besides, there are plenty of people who don’t ordinarily care for traditional, rich desserts, or those who physically cannot eat them without being sick, in the case of allergies.

Desserts are made different all over the world– using differing ingredients and recipes, that reflect the culture. Who can’t add to these repertoires? People get really excited when pastry chefs try a new flavor combination and put spins on old classics… yet for some reason, the toils of us “health-nuts” (as we are so off-hand-idly, and in my opinion rudely, dubbed) are to be brushed aside. “Beans in desserts? Silly health nuts!”.

I think that a whole new repertoire of recipes have yet to be discovered– and they involve all sorts of ingredients that haven’t been used in that way before. But the reason they are unfamiliar to certain recipes is not because they are “wrong” or not meant for that pastry, dip, brownie, cookie, etc.. It’s simply that no one has just figured it out yet! There is a whole world of ingredient combinations and applications that have never been used before. And people are starting to figure them out.

They aren’t “healthy”. They aren’t “weird”. They aren’t “stand-ins” for the “real thing”.

They’re just a new dessert.

If you think I’m being a bit whimsical, you could be right. But I think I’m on to something. In a way, being of these “healthy” people (with allergies, conditions, or just plain old interest) who want to recreate their old favorites, are the ones making so much headway on this new dessert revolution! We all grew up on the “traditional” stuff (butter, sugar, gluten, meat, dairy– whatever your case may be) and whether we like it or not, those are foods we have a taste for! But with out new-found knowledge of our health, we want to have our favorites and eat them, too.

Although, sometimes you just need a big-ole slab of oily, sugary, decadent cake– slathered in frosting! Courtesy of my fave Babycakes cookbook.

Unfortunately, ‘healthy’, as a label for people or food, has become a highly charged word. I prefer to put it in quotes, because for me, “healthy” does not have to be silly, obsessive, or feared. It should mean that one has found their balance and that they know how to take care of themselves.

But wait! I need to clarify something! Just because there is a whole new class of “healthy” desserts does not mean that the traditional rich ones have to be discarded. If that’s your thing, go for it. I know that in my case, I can practice ‘moderation’ for only so long before I lose it with the sugar and my digestion pays big time (like crampy, painful, big time). For me, stevia is a godsend, and I enjoy the flavor and sweetness. However, sugar is sugar and delicious, and I use it for special occasions (and I sometimes make up an occasion to be special. Like Tuesdays.)

If sugar is your thing, enjoy it. Don’t like unsweetened chocolate? Fine.

On the other hand, give the new dessert revolution a try. Beans in cookie dip? Whole grains as flour?

Sometimes they taste like the original they’re modeled after. Sometimes they carve out a new category of their own.

But give it a try.

You may be pleasantly surprised.


What are your thoughts on “healthy” desserts? I’m open to all views.

This entry was posted in baking, beans, Blog related, thoughts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to On “Healthifying” Desserts

  1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “healthy” desserts in general, because a lot of them are definitely tasty in their own right, but I DO think there’s something wrong with only eating healthy desserts because you’re afraid to eat the real thing, when that’s what you really want. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I healthified all of my desserts by omitting the fat and sugar with healthier substitutions, and while the results were “okay”, they definitely didn’t satisfy as much as I’d like them to. I ate healthy desserts and tried to convince myself that I really liked them, when in reality I just wanted a decadent brownie or a melt-in-your-mouth cookie. These days, I’ve found a balance. I still enjoy healthier desserts, but I need that occasional indulgence to really satisfy me.

  2. Stephanie says:

    In a way, being of these “healthy” people (with allergies, conditions, or just plain old interest) who want to recreate their old favorites, are the ones making so much headway on this new dessert revolution!

    Totally agree. Dear people who feel great when they come up with a variation of a traditional recipe: good for you, you know that mixing a whole ton of fat and sugar tastes good!
    I know some people are big on everything in moderation, but I don’t think it’s worth it for me to eat the unhealthier desserts if I know I’ll feel like crap after. Can you say sugar hangover? Brutal.

  3. Karine says:

    You’re so right!
    We should definitely make “healthy” desserts because we want them, not because we “shouldn’t” eat the “traditional” one… And we should make the “traditional” one when we want it.
    I think it’s not a good idea to pretend making a certain dessert, but “healthier”. Like Amanda, you and Averie said, it’s a sort of lie… We might end disappointed. The taste is different. Why not rename it, and consider it like a new dessert? (For instance, I love raw vegan cheesecake, but for me it doesn’t taste like a cheesecake…)
    But it’s also true that we shouldn’t consider “healthy” desserts as weird, tasteless, uninteresting, etc. Who said that not using sugar and butter couldn’t taste great? (Japanese sweet treats don’t have butter, for instance, and they’re “accepted” as treats.) I love the creativity people have when they have “constraints” and a larger knowledge. It’s fascinating!
    And last thing… I totally agree with you when you write the word ‘healthy’ in quotes. A “traditional” dessert with sugar, butter, etc., can be healthy. And who said that bananas, flour, and agave syrup are healthy? Isn’t it a matter of proportion, and of craving?
    Anyway. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Your blog is great. 😀
    And sorry… I realize that I’m only repeating what you’ve already said. :S Booh.

    • VEGirl says:

      I totally don’t mind hearing what I wrote put into your words– it’s fun to read a different writers words! 😀 I wonder what we could rename raw cheesecake….. ?

  4. ericascime says:

    I couldn’t agree more! No, “black bean brownies” are not going to taste like regular brownies. Expecting them to is not only setting yourself up for disappointment but you’re closing your mind (and your tastebuds!) to a whole new culinary experience! It is better just to go into something like that with an open mind and enjoy it for what it is. Ugh, and people who can’t live without their butter and sugar test my patience. Anyhow, great post! 🙂

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  6. I’m with you 100% on this. I am one of those “healthy” people who loves to healthify recipes and sneak in weird ingredients like avocado or beans not because I’m trying to prove something necessarily (although I have convinced a lot of people to join me on the dark side…mwahahaha!) but because I ENJOY them! Annnnnnd I kind of have a problem with moderation. I don’t experience food guilt a LOT, but I know myself and I know that sometimes…ok, MOST of the time, I can’t control myself when it comes to “desserts.” So if I end up downing a pan of bean brownies by myself in a weekend, at least I can feel good about my fiber consumption! 😉

    I also think that it’s a culture thing. I mean, have you ever tried any German desserts? Typically they are not overly sweet in any way, yet to people accustomed with that variety of treats they are considered “dessert.” Sometimes, I think the obsession that some people have with butter and sugar and the narrowminded-ness that they have regarding heathified varieties just attests to America’s problem with obesity. Our nation is sugar obsessed whether we care to admit it or not, but one day, I hope people will come around and see that butter and sugar isn’t all there is in the world!

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