source: Tiffany Marie Tran
source: Tiffany Marie Tran
source: Tiffany Marie Tran
source: Tiffany Marie Tran
source: Tiffany Marie Tran

I Tried 4 Healthy Desserts To See If They Could Satisfy My Sweet Tooth Cravings

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"Healthy" and "desserts" are two words that do not belong together. Don’t get me wrong, I love healthy breakfast swaps — banana pancakes instead of buttermilk pancakes, avocado wheat toast instead of buttered white toast, etc. I enjoy health-conscious lunches and dinners too. But I could never get around to the healthy dessert swaps. When I plan to indulge in a sweet treat, I think: why not just go ALL in? If I am going to treat myself to sugars and delicious calories, why not just eat the classic dessert?
 
But I wanted to get behind the healthy-dessert trend, to see what I was missing. My only apprehension has been that the desserts might be too healthified to the point that it doesn’t actually satisfy my  sweet tooth cravings. I tackled the other side of this dilemma: finding healthy desserts that bring that same satisfaction but with reduced sugars and fats. I wanted my thought-process to shift: "If I can get the same satisfaction as the classic desserts, why not go healthy?"
 
Here are my verdicts on these healthier chocolate desserts. Note: All these recipes are wonderful. I only wanted to test if these recipes could pass off as normal desserts.

1. Chocolate Chip Cookies 

 
Ingredients

  • ¾ cup spelt flour (I used oat flour.)
  • ½ cup almond flour 
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ cup honey 
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips of choice 
Directions
  1. Add flours, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Add coconut oil and honey into another bowl and whisk using a handheld machine until creamy, for a minute or two. 
  3. Add in egg and vanilla extract. Mix everything well.
  4. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until everything is well combined.
  5. Add in the chocolate chips and fold them together using a spatula. The dough will be slightly wet, don't worry. Leave for 10 minutes for the almond flour to absorb the liquid.
  6. After 10 minutes, scoop the dough using a 1 ½ tbsp ice cream scoop (don't pack it too much) and place it on top on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Leave around 2 inches (5 cm) distance between them.
  7. Using lightly greased fingers, press and flatten the dough into 4 mm thickness, more or less. Don't make them too thick as they will rise in the oven.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 375ºF (190ºC) with no fan, in the middle rack, using the top and bottom heat. Bake for 10 minutes if you want the cookies to be chewy and soft. Bake for a few minutes longer if you prefer them crunchy.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Enjoy!
How is it healthier?
  • No white flour. Oat flour carries more proteins and fibers. 
  • No refined sugars. Honey is a natural, "less bad" sweetener that's rich in antioxidants.
Sweetness level? 5/5
(0 means not sweet at all. 5 means as sweet as the classic dessert)
 
Would I swap the classic recipe for this healthified version? YES.
 
This is an AMAZING cookie. A real dessert imposter. It breaks like a cookie. The outside is crispy while the inside is soft and chewy. The overall texture is slightly cake-like, but also chewy. 
 
The honey does an excellent job of replacing the refined sugars in a cookie. I don't like the earthy taste of honey, so I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this cookie. I was surprised to find that the earthy honey flavor is undetectable in these cookies! The honey really brought in all the sweetness without that wood-y, earthy flavor. 
 
One flavor to note is the almond essence from the almond flour. The flavor is subtle, but it’s there. It has the same depth of almond flavor as a french macaron. The oat flour gives the cookie this whole wheat taste, so just one to two cookies can make you full quickly.

2. Avocado Brownies 

 
Ingredients
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana or apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (I couldn’t find coconut flour, so I used blended oats to make oat flour)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 baking dish with butter, coconut oil, or cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine avocado, banana, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, add eggs, coconut flour, cocoa powder, sea salt, baking soda, and avocado mixture.
  4. Using a hand mixer, blend all ingredients together until well mixed.
  5. Pour mixture into the greased baking dish and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top (you can also mix some into the batter if you like it extra chocolatey!
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes or until set through.
  7. Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting. Cut into squares and enjoy!
How is it healthier?
  • No saturated fats from butter. Butter is replaced with avocado, which has fewer calories and unsaturated fats.
  • No refined sugar. Sugar is substituted with maple syrup. Pure maple syrup is a natural, "less bad" sweetener that contains antioxidants and minerals.
  • No white flour. White flour is substituted with oat flour. Oat flour carries more proteins and fibers. 
Sweetness level? 2/5
(0 means not sweet at all. 5 means as sweet as the classic dessert)
 
Would I swap the classic recipe for this healthified version? YES, but very close. 
 
You can’t taste the avocado at all in this recipe! There's a touch of the banana flavor, though. However, The cocoa flavor overpowers both those ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about those uncommon brownie ingredients.
 

The texture of this brownie is great. I prefer my brownies more cakey than fudgy, and this brownies recipe is exactly that. It's has a crumbly, cakey texture, but it's close-textured enough to have this creamy, chocolatey consistency. 

 
These brownies are noticeably less sweet compared to a normal brownie. This allows for the unsweetened cocoa powder to come through strongly. The first time I made this recipe, I used 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, and the bitterness of the cocoa powder punched through. The cocoa powder combined with bananas tasted like fish. A strange flavor combination that I did not expect. The second time I made this I cut down the cocoa powder to ⅓ cup, and removed the bitterness and the fishiness. Although there was a baseline level of sweetness, it was not enough for my sweet tooth.  If you just want a thick and chocolatey brownie, then this is the recipe for you. 

3. Four-Ingredient Brownies 

 
Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups of cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil
  • 15 dates
  • 2 eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Melt the coconut oil by pouring boiling water into a large bowl and a placing smaller bowl into the water, then place the coconut oil into the small bowl and wait for it to melt.
  3. Pit the dates and soak them in warm water for 5-10 minutes.
  4. After a few minutes, remove the dates from the water.
  5. Blend the soaked dates, melted coconut oil, eggs, and cacao powder together in a blender until smooth.
  6. Grease a baking dish with extra coconut oil and pour the brownie batter into the dish.
  7. Smooth out the top of the batter with the back of a spoon.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on thickness). You will know that the batch is ready when you can pierce it with a sharp knife and it comes out clean.
  9. Once cooked, remove the brownies from the oven and let them cool.
  10. Sprinkle with toppings of choice. Cut into squares, and enjoy!
How is it healthier?
  • No refined sugars. The sweetness comes from the natural sugars in dates.
  • No white flour. 
Sweetness level? 1/5
(0 means not sweet at all. 5 means as sweet as the classic dessert)

Would I swap the classic recipe for this healthified version? No. 
 
First and foremost: if you don’t like the taste of dates, then healthy dessert swaps made from dates might not be for you. The date flavor does not hide among the other ingredients, such as cocoa. The flavor of these date brownies is similar to that of Sunmaid raisins -- there’s an earthy sweetness that makes it enjoyable to snack on, but that pruney, fruity aroma is prominent. Of course, using fruits instead of honey or agave is much healthier, but it just sacrifices major levels of sweetness. My mother, who likes classic Asian desserts like red beans, enjoyed the natural sweetness from the dates. 
 
Without a strong food processor, dates are difficult to blend. I used a NutriBullet for both this brownie recipe and the avocado brownie recipe. The blending of the avocado brownie ingredients was much easier because the smooth avocados were combined with other liquid ingredients. The NutriBullet had a harder time pulsing the dates. It took about three rounds of scraping and stirring the mixture to ensure the blade blended all the ingredients. 
 
These brownies came out moist and close textured. Due to the lack of flour, these brownies don't have those cakey crumbs that were in the avocado brownies. If you like your brownies fudgy, then this recipe might work for you!

4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups  

 
Ingredients

  • 1/2  cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2  tsp coconut oil
  • ¼ cup of unsweetened nut butter of choice (I used peanut butter!)

Directions

  1. Prepare five silicone muffin cups or paper cupcakes liners. 
  2. Chop the chocolate and place into a heatproof bowl. Add the coconut oil. 
  3. Set the bowl over a pot with simmering water (double boiler). Melt the chocolate completely, turn the heat off, and leave the bowl on the pot to keep the chocolate warm and melted. OR microwave the bowl of chocolate and coconut oil in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.
  4. Fill each muffin cup with 1-2 tablespoons of melted chocolate. Then, pour 1-2 teaspoons of the peanut butter into each cup. Then, pour another portion of melted chocolate on top of the peanut butter layer. Place in the fridge until set.
How is it healthier?
  • Fewer refined sugars from unsweeted nut butter.
Sweetness level? 5/5
(0 means not sweet at all. 5 means as sweet as the classic dessert)
 
Would I swap the classic recipe for this healthified version? YES.
 
You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate. Those ingredients are already delicious and sweet on their own, so putting them together made it even better. If you plan on using normal sweetened nut butter (like Jif or Skippy), try using sugar-free chocolate. As long as one of the ingredients is sweetened, these peanut butter cups are a real dessert.  
 
With only 3 ingredients, there's not much variation that can happen. The experience of eating these peanut butter cups is just like eating Reese's cups, except the nut butter is silky instead of compact and crumbly. If you’re craving peanut butter cups or classic Halloween chocolates, then this recipe might work for you!

Which healthier dessert swap are you going to try first? Let us know in the comments below!
Tiffany Marie Tran is currently a high school senior in San Jose, CA. She loves the challenge of writing: her poetry is in the Articulation is Power anthology, and she writes monthly activism articles as the Editor-In-Chief of Youth Art Magazine. Hoping to become a political journalist, she spends her time preparing for policy debate tournaments, organizing community events as a city council intern, and participating in the Santa Clara Office of Women's Policy Girls Advisory Team. To stay healthy during a busy week, Tiffany Marie enjoys figure skating or gardening.