Deprivation leads to overindulgence, so don’t shut the door on desserts if you’re looking to cut calories and fat. Lifestyle expert Danny Seo, whose new cookbook Naturally, Delicious: 100 Recipes for Healthy Eats That Make You Happy launches on Sept. 1, says: “Simply swap out ingredients that are filled with sugar and have zero nutritional value for ones that are healthier and naturally delicious so you can indulge without the guilt.”
1. Check out chickpeas. When making cookies or my chocolate chip cookie cake (recipe below), swap out flour for pureed chickpeas instead (save time by using canned chickpeas). The garbanzo bean is loaded with protein and dietary fiber, which means each oooey, gooey slice of my chocolate chip cookie cake helps fill you up faster so you won’t overindulge.
2. Aquafaba is fab. What is Aquafaba, you say? It’s the residual water you get when you soak dry chickpeas or drain a can of the beans, and it’s a fantastic plant-based egg replacer for baking. Just 3 tablespoons of aquafaba equals 1 egg. And for each egg you replace out of a recipe, you save about 5 grams of fat.
3. Cauliflower power. Yes, cauliflower can, and should be, used for desserts. I call it Mother Nature’s tofu because cauliflower really has no taste but is packed with nutrients and can be used in so many ways. It’s great to mix into brownies to add not only a nutritional boost, but to also keep them moist and tender. You can also make cauliflower “ice cream” which is both really creamy and delicious. The trick is to use steamed cauliflower that’s very tender (but not boiled, which removes all the nutrition) and a powerful blender. Mix in coconut milk, brown rice syrup and a little vanilla extract with the cauliflower and you have an amazing (and healthy) dessert base. Just mix in the nuts, fruit, etc of your choice to make custom, dairy-free cauli-ice cream.
4. Iceberg ahead. Iceberg lettuce doesn’t have the best reputation, but it has virtually no calories, is low in carbohydrates, is fat-free, and is also a good source of H2o. I like to buy pre-rinsed bags of iceberg lettuce and freeze it, then toss the frozen pieces into a blender with some fruit, a little natural sweetener and lime juice to make a deliciously icy granita.
5. Veggie good. Greek-style yogurt is low in calories and high in protein, B vitamins and calcium, plus it has that same silky mouthfeel of a pudding, which makes it a smart dessert choice. But the health benefits can be negated when you mix in the sugary fruit compotes they often come with. Instead, I buy large tubs of plain Greek yogurt and make a parfait by swirling in pureed roasted beets or carrots, which taste as sweet as candy. It’s a fantastic sweet and savory combination.
6. Go coconuts. If you’re going to use sugar, opt away from refined white sugar altogether—it has no nutritional value and is just empty calories. I like to use coconut sugar, which is real sugar only it’s made from coconuts. And unlike refined sugar, it actually has some nutrition: iron, zinc, calcium and potassium while still satisfying your sweet tooth.
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7. Freeze it. One of the tricks for healthy desserts is to create a treat that simply mimics the mouth feel of your favorite sweets. Take ice pops for instance. Instead of eating an ice pop, which is often filled with added sugars, just freeze your favorite fresh green or pressed juice into popsicle molds. It’s refreshing and satisfying, plus it helps extend the life of perishable green juices without taking away any of their nutritional value.
8. Cha-cha-chia. Yes, those seeds you used to grow on Chia Pets are actually a great source of omega3s, are low in fat, full of fiber, and they make a delicious, and very filling, custard-like pudding when soaked in almond milk. A little will go a long way while you’ll still feel like you’re eating a super decadent treat.
Danny Seo’s Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
From Naturally, Delicious: 100 Recipes for Healthy Eats That Make You Happy
Cooking spray or melted coconut oil
2 (14-oz.) cans low-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups coconut sugar or turbinado sugar
1 cup fair-trade semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 10-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray or coconut oil.
2. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, oats, applesauce, coconut oil, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Puree until smooth. Using a spoon or scraper, stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the reserved sugar. Bake until the cake is browned around the edges but still soft in the center, about 40 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes; it will firm up a bit as it cools.
4. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Place a large plate on top and flip to invert the cake onto the plate. Place a serving plate on top of the inverted cake and flip again so the cake is right side up. Serve warm (if you can’t wait) or slice it into wedges when it has cooled.
Active Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes