It’s the age-old dilemma when it comes to dessert. Kids want great-tasting treats after dinner, and parents want nutritious choices to fill their kids’ bellies.
The good news is that getting your kids to enjoy dessert doesn’t have to mean watching them load up on empty calories and sugary endings to their meal. With a little know-how, you can give your child a better-for-you dessert that won’t result in a roll of eyes or even an ounce of complaint.
The key to finding healthy desserts is first and foremost to make sure they taste good. Because after all, what good is a dish if it is not pleasant to eat? Once the dessert taste is deemed acceptable, ensuring the option actually contains nutrients like fiber, protein, or micronutrients (like calcium) is an important next step. Finally, the dessert should not be loaded with added sugars, artificial ingredients or questionable stabilizers.
For some of the best healthy dessert ideas, we turned to registered dietitians who shared their top dessert picks that are healthy, easy to make, and delicious to eat. Read on to find out what the experts recommend, especially if your child has a fierce sweet tooth.
A banana on its own might not be the most exciting treat for your little ones. But dipping them in chocolate and freezing them takes these nutritious fruits to a whole new level. Simply slice your bananas, dip them in dark chocolate, and place them on parchment paper before freezing them. In a few hours, your kids will have a sweet, frozen treat packed with nutrients like potassium and magnesium.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of slicing and freezing your fruit, you can rely on Diana’s Banana Banana Bites for a ready-to-eat dessert.
To make yogurt cupcakes Kacie Barnes, MCN, RDN, a Dallas-based dietician and creator of Mama Knows Nutrition, uses reusable silicone muffin cups, fills them with a low-sugar yogurt, then tops them with sprinkles. “It’s a nice high-protein snack, but it’s instantly elevated to process status in their eyes because of the colorful sprinkles and the fun of pretending it’s a cupcake,” says Barnes.
If your family avoids artificial colors in your food, be sure to use colored sprinkles with natural ingredients, like Supernatural Kitchen Unicorn Track Sprinkles.
“The cinnamon adds sweetness without any extra sugar, and heating the cubed apples until nice and soft makes them taste like apple pie filling,” says Barnes. She advises to “leave the skin on to get the full nutritional benefits, or peel it off if you know your little one will like it better that way.” This dessert can be topped with a small dollop of whipped cream for extra decadence.
“Medjool dates are rich, chewy and naturally sweet without any added sugar, making them an ideal base for a healthy sweet dessert.” Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDNfounder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Easy Pre-Diabetes CookbookExplain.
To make this dessert, she says to “cut a pitted date in half and stuff it with a smear of peanut, almond or sunflower butter and a few chocolate chips. The flavor is like a candy bar with plus fiber, protein and healthy fats.”
“The ‘good’ banana creme is super easy to make and it’s a way to enjoy a cold creamy dessert made with pure fruit,” Pincus shares. To make this dessert, she explains slicing and freezing a few bananas and blending them until smooth. For a fun addition to this dish, she suggests offering “toppings like chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, or sprinkles for a make-your-own sundae bar.”
“Black beans are a great way to add fiber and nutrition to chocolate baked goods without anyone being able to detect their flavor or color,” says Pincus. “All you need is a can of black beans, a can of brownie mix, water, and chocolate chips for deliciously fudgy brownies that are packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and antioxidants.”
“These tiny blue dynamos are like little bursts of sherbet made even more delicious topped with whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping,” says Pincus. “For a perfectly portioned on-the-go option, try Wyman’s Just Fruit & Greek Yogurt Bites with simple ingredients and live, active cultures. They come in single-serve cups, so you only need a spoon.”
One of the easiest do-it-yourself desserts for kids is fruit popsicles. Pouring 100% juice into a pop mold and freezing until solid yields a classic treat that’s inexpensive to produce and lasts a long time. Using 100% orange juice will not only give this no-sugar-added treat a naturally sweet taste, but it will also provide kids with essential nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.
Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning dietitian, book author and recipe creator who has been practicing for nearly 20 years. Learn more about Lawrence