How to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth (without all the butter, sugar, and flour)
In recent years, whole, plant-based foods have taken center stage on our plates. We know that eating minimally processed foods is better for us, and those types of foods are easier to shop for as well—you don’t need to read any long ingredient lists or nutrition panels when you’re buying broccoli or apples.
The same philosophy can apply to dessert! Moving fruit to the center of the plate, in place of sugary baked goods, puts the focus not only on health, but also on the pure, unadulterated flavor of whole foods.
Here are five unique ways to dress up seasonal fruit for decadent and still feel-good desserts. So whatever your style, from hipster to high-end, you’re sure to find something sweet to match your manor and mood.
#1 The Yogi
It’s prime citrus season. This is the best time of year to enjoy citrus, from blood oranges to ruby grapefruits. For a striking and delicious dessert, arrange several varieties of citrus segments in bowls with dairy free yogurt, top with toasted coconut or hemp seeds for texture, then drizzle with pure maple syrup.
To your health: This dessert has a lot going for it nutritionally, from an abundance of Vitamin C in the citrus to good fats from the nuts or hemp seeds. But don’t forget that citrus is feel good food at its finest. Aromatherapy studies show that smelling citrus can help reduce stress and boost your mood, so enjoy the process of preparing the citrus as well as eating it.
Pro tip: Learn how to supreme citrus fruits. This classic French technique takes a little more time than just cutting up an orange, but it makes for a beautiful presentation and will take your knife skills to the next level.
#2 The Kid at Heart
Missing summery fruits? You can still enjoy those too. It may seem counterintuitive, but frozen fruits can be more nutritious than their fresh counterparts thanks to flash freezing technology. With frozen fruit on hand, you can make almost-instant sorbet. Simply puree frozen fruit like raspberries or mango (or a combination) in a food processor until smooth. You can add a frozen banana for a creamier sorbet or add lime zest for a little citrus kick. Serve as-is or top with toasted coconut.
To your health: Raspberries are high in antioxidants and have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. In fact, their amount and diversity of phytonutrients beats out almost any other fruit!
Pro tip: For almost-instant froyo, freeze some dairy-free yogurt in an ice cube tray and add a few cubes to the food processor along with the frozen fruit. Process until smooth.
#3 The Purist
Sometimes taking a minimalist approach is the best option. Go out of your way to find beautiful seasonal fruit such as sweet-tart tangerines or kishu mandarins, chill them in the fridge, and serve with a high quality bar of dark chocolate and steaming cups of herbal tea. Sometimes the best way to end a meal is with a bountiful bowl of fruit on the table.
To your health: When you eat whole fruit, you’re getting some sugar for sure, but you’re also getting a serious dose of fiber, which helps your body absorb more nutrients from what you’re eating. All that fiber also helps regulate your blood sugar, preventing spikes and crashes.
Pro tip: Call around to natural foods stores in your area to find specialty citrus like kumquats and mandarinquats—the skin of both of these fruits is edible, and they are an intensely flavorful addition to any fruit bowl.
#4 The Dreamer
For a tropical treat, peel and core a pineapple and cut into long spears (or look for prepared pineapple at your grocery store). Drizzle with honey, and broil until caramelized. Serve with dairy-free yogurt or ice cream and gluten-free oats toasted in a pan with a little virgin coconut oil.
To your health: Pineapples are a good source of Vitamin C and manganese, which helps the body form connective tissue and bones; it also plays a role in metabolism and calcium absorption.
Pro tip: Toasting oats in a little coconut oil brings out their nutty flavor, adding richness and texture.
#5 The DIYer
When we think about dessert, chocolate is almost always top of mind. But we rarely think of crafting our own, even though homemade chocolate bark is a cinch, not to mention quite beautiful. Simply melt high quality dark chocolate, spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with dried fruit—chopped apricots, goji berries, and golden raisins are excellent choices. Or for a little crunch, try freeze dried strawberries or raspberries. Finish by sprinkling with dry-toasted millet or quinoa for a fun presentation. Refrigerate for an hour, and then break into pieces and share!
To your health: High-quality dark chocolate contains many antioxidants, iron, and magnesium. It can also help improve your mood by increasing serotonin levels in the body.
Pro tip: Quality matters. Choose dark chocolate that contains 70% or more cocoa solids (this is easy to determine by reading the label). High quality chocolate should list cocoa solids and cocoa butter as the main ingredients with just a little sugar and perhaps pure vanilla extract.
The only question that remains: What are you in the mood to try first?
By Megan Scott, Culinary Director and Health Writer at HEART: Creative Culinary Agency