It's the age-old dilemma when it comes to dessert. Kids want yummy-tasting sweet treats after dinner, and parents want nutritious choices to fill their children's bellies.
The good news is that having your kids enjoy dessert doesn't have to mean watching them load up on empty calories and sugar-ridden finales to their meal. With a little know-how, you can provide your child with a better-for-you dessert that won't result in an eye roll or even an ounce of complaining.
The key to finding healthy desserts is to, first and foremost, make sure that it tastes good. Because after all, what good is a dish if it isn't enjoyable to eat? Once the taste of the dessert is deemed acceptable, ensuring that the option actually contains nutrients like fiber, protein, or micronutrients (like calcium) is an important next step. Finally, the dessert shouldn't be loaded with added sugars, artificial ingredients, or questionable stabilizers.
To find out some of the best healthy dessert ideas, we turned to some registered dietitians who shared their top picks for good-for-you desserts that are easy to prep and delicious to enjoy. Read on to learn what the experts recommend, especially if your kiddo has a fierce sweet tooth.
Frozen Chocolate-Covered Banana Slices
A banana on its own may 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. In a few hours, your kids will have a sweet icy treat that is loaded with nutrients like potassium and magnesium.
If you don't want to go through the effort of slicing and freezing your fruit, you can lean on Diana's Bananas Banana Bites for a dessert that is ready for enjoying.
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To make yogurt "cupcakes," Kacie Barnes, MCN, RDN, Dallas-based dietitian and creator of Mama Knows Nutrition, uses reusable silicone muffin liners, fills them with a lower-sugar yogurt, and then tops them off with sprinkles. "This is a nice protein-rich snack, but is instantly elevated to treat status in their eyes because of the colorful sprinkles and the fun of pretending it's a cupcake," says Barnes.
If your family is avoiding artificial colors in your food, make sure to use sprinkles that are colored with natural ingredients, like Supernatural Kitchen Unicorn Track Sprinkles.
Warm Cinnamon Apples
"Cinnamon adds a sweetness without any extra sugar, and heating cubed apples until nice and soft makes them taste like apple pie filling," Barnes explains. She advises to "leave the skin on to get the full nutrition benefits, or peel it 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 some extra decadence.
Stuffed Medjool Dates
"Medjool dates are rich, chewy and naturally sweet without any added sugar, which makes them an ideal base for a healthy sweet dessert." Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook, explains.
To make this dessert, she says to "slice a pitted date in half and stuff it with a smear of peanut, almond, or sunflower butter and a few chocolate chips. The flavor resembles a candy bar with the bonus of fiber, protein, and healthy fats."
"Nice" Cream Sundaes
"Banana 'nice' cream is super easy to make and it's a way to enjoy a cold creamy dessert made from pure fruit," Pincus shares. To make this dessert, she explains to slice and freeze a few bananas and blend them until smooth. For a fun addition to this dish, she suggests to offer "toppings like chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, or sprinkles for a make-your-own sundae bar."
Black Bean Brownies
"Black beans are a great way to pump up the fiber and nutrition in chocolate baked goods without anyone being able to detect their flavor or color," Pincus says. "All you need is a can of black beans, a box of brownie mix, water, and chocolate chips for deliciously fudgy brownies that pack plant-based protein, fiber, and antioxidants."
Frozen Wild Blueberries with Whipped Cream
"These tiny blue dynamos are like little bursts of sorbet made even yummier topped with whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping," says Pincus. "For a perfectly portioned grab-and-go option, try Wyman's Just Fruit&Greek Yogurt Bites with simple ingredients and live and active cultures. They come in single-serving cups so all you need is a spoon."
Frozen Fruit Pops
One of the easiest DIY kid-friendly desserts is frozen fruit pops. Pouring 100% juice into a pop mold and freezing until solid results in a classic treat that is inexpensive to produce and lasts a long time. Using 100% orange juice will not only provide a naturally sweet taste to this treat with no added sugars, but it will also provide kiddos with key nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.