Tag Archives: dessert

Added Sugars and Nutrition Labels

How much sugar should we eat? Is high fructose corn syrup bad for me? What sweeteners should I use in my home? These are questions I frequently get asked. A dietitian friend of mine, Melanie Betz (@the.kidney.dietitian) did a great post on instagram recently about sugar.

First off. Sugar is sugar is sugar. I don’t care if it is white sugar, honey, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, or whatever other sugar you have seen. These are all sugar. They all are broken down into sugars that are used by our bodies. Having too much of ANY of these isn’t a good thing. There is no evidence in human studies to date that shows a strong difference between caloric sweeteners.

What about non-calorie sweeteners? People are often concerned about these. In moderate amounts, these are generally considered safe. However, it likely isn’t good to rely on these as a stop gap to solve your eating pattern issues. If you are eating too many sweet treats or drinks, just switching to a sugar free version will not fix the overriding problem. The overriding problem is you are consuming these foods that do not provide necessary nutrients. Switching from regular Coca-Cola to Diet Coke saves you 140 calories per can, yes. But did you gain any nutrition? No. Plus you’ve consumed lots of other additives that can have health effects – phosphorus on your bones and kidneys for example.

So how much sugar should you eat in a day. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to 10% or less of calories per day. For the generic 1800-2000 calorie diet, that translates to 45-50 grams of added sugar per day. For reference, one 12 oz can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association is even more strict. They recommend 100 calories per day of added sugar for women and 150 for men. That translates to 25 and 38 grams respectively.

But how do I look at added sugars? The Dietary Guidelines points out that what we are looking at is an overall eating pattern. MOST people consume too many added sugars in sweet beverages and desserts. However, not all sugar is evil. Sometimes it is added to make healthy things more palatable.

I think the classic example to look at is cereal. Here are pictures of 3 cereal labels I found in my cupboard. Let’s take a look and compare.

Cereal Comparison

So let’s look at the carbohydrate section.  Both Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini Wheats have more total carbs than Honey Nut Cheerios.  For total sugars, Raisin Bran has the most at 17 grams.  Until a few years ago, this is all a label would say, total sugar.  Why is Raisin Bran, which you think is healthy, so high in sugar you say?  Two reasons.  First, it has raisins (and bananas in this box), which NATURALLY has sugar in it.  Second, you do need some sugar to make the bran palatable for most people.

Now let’s look at the added sugars.  Raisin Bran is actually the lowest at 11 grams, compared to 12 grams in both of the others.  This is a classic example of why I’m so incredibly glad “added sugars” has been added to nutrition labels.

But wait?  Mini Wheats and Cheerios are the same in added sugars?  Let’s delve one step further then.  In this case I would go look at the fiber.  Mini Wheats’ 8 grams of fiber definitely beats out the 3 grams in Honey Nut Cheerios.  (Another place you could look would be protein, but that is a discussion for a different day).

I hope you found this helpful as you look at added sugars and nutrition labels!

Disclaimer:  I have no vested interest for or against any products mentioned in this post.  Similar comparisons could be made between any regular vs diet soft drink.  These three cereals happened to be in my cupboard that I purchased at the most recent sale at the grocery store.

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Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie

Who has eaten dessert for breakfast? Cake, cookies, pie? I certainly have. Apple crisp is my personal favorite, because it is the easiest to “justify” – it’s just fruit with “granola” on top, right. We’ve all been there (I think). It reminds me of this Bill Cosby skit about chocolate cake.

Well, this smoothie is as close to a healthy dessert as I’ve found for breakfast. It is my new go-to. With the end of summer heat sticking around, I find myself wanting something cold after my morning workouts. This is good for you and SUPER delicious. I really feel like I’m drinking a milkshake. Enjoy!

(Sorry for my continued lack of pictures. Life and my desire to eat seem to be getting the better of me lately.)

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie (Serves 2)

3 pitted dates
1 cup skim milk
½ cup raspberries, chilled/frzoen
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup vanilla fat free greek yogurt
1 banana, sliced, chilled/frozen
1 cup ice (preferably crushed)

1. Place fruit in freezer for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Can use fresh raspberries that you chill/freeze or storebought frozen raspberries.

2. Soak dates in hot water (enough to cover the dates) for 5-10 minutes. Drain water.

3. Blend dates and milk until dates are broken up. Add in remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 312
Protein: 17 gm
Fat: 2 gm
Saturated Fat: 1 gm
Cholesterol: 6 mg
Carbohydrates: 67 gm
Fiber: 10 gm
Sodium: 90 mg

Recipe notes: I have had success making this without the soaked dates as well. I sub in a a teaspoon or two of honey for sweetener. That brings down the fiber quite a bit. Just for mornings when I forget to soak some dates.

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Apple Cake

Today, my daughter and I enjoyed going to the zoo with family. We had a delightful time in the cool fall weather. At lunch, my sister-in-law and I had a discussion about different varieties of apples and how delicious apples are in the fall. Fall is my favorite season, partly for the flavors, partly for the weather, and partly because it is my birthday.

For all of those reasons, you should make some apple cake. This was really delicious, even though it is made with whole grains. The streusel is lighter than most cakes, but still enough that you know it is there. While it is sweet enough to be a regular dessert, it is also tame enough to serve as a breakfast or brunch item. And get your kids involved. My daughter loved helping me make this treat, and even snacked on the leftover apple pieces. Multiple wins right there!

Also, if you are looking for some other apple recipes or information about the health benefits of apples, check out http://www.well-beingsecrets.com/apples-health-benefits/

Apple Cake (Serves 8-10)

Apple Cake

⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
⅔ cup nonfat buttermilk
⅓ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups finely chopped apple (about 2 apples)
3 tablespoons oats
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons frozen unsalted butter, grated
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

2. Mix ⅔ cup brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and eggs on medium speed of a mixer until well combined. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ½ teaspoon salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to bowl. Mix on low speed until just combined. Scrape bowl. Stir in apple by hand. Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly throughout pan.

3. In a small ziplock bag, combine oats, walnuts, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, butter, and pinch of salt. Lightly knead with fingers to combine. Sprinkle evenly over batter.

4. Bake cake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs clinging. Cool in pan about 10 minutes on wire rack. Remove sides of pan. Serve warm or let cool completely.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving);

Calories: 260
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 11 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Carbohydrates: 39 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 280 mg

Recipe Notes: I have been using dark brown sugar lately, and I love the extra intense flavor it provides. Light brown sugar would also work. I never buy buttermilk. I just left out about 1 tablespoon of milk and added lemon juice (vinegar works too). I have been struggling to find the white whole wheat flour I usually use since my move, so I used stone ground whole wheat flour (red wheat). If using white whole wheat flour, you could use all whole wheat rather than adding some all-purpose flour. The recipe suggested gala or honey crisp apples. While those are delicious this time of year, I don’t usually bake with them. I used granny smith, which was good but did have a bit of a sour aftertaste on a few bites. Next time, I’ll do one granny smith and one golden delicious. Use your favorite variety. The recipe also said to shred the apple. I tried and ended up with a mess of juice and a little bit of pulp on my counter. Chopped small worked really well, and I liked the texture.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints (Gingersnaps)

I’ve said before I’m not a big fan of making a dessert more healthy, since you usually lose in the taste category. Not so with these cookies. They taste delicious, are easy to make, and feel like everything you love about fall. Add the candy on top, and you’ve knocked one out of the park.

I will warn you that the cookies have a strong molasses flavor and are not overly sweet. I like them that way. Even my 18 month old liked them. I think you should try them before immediately increasing the sugar. These cookies are great without the candy, but the toppings make them even more fun for the fall holidays.


Gingersnaps or Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints (Makes about 2 dozen cookies)


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Granulated sugar for rolling
Pumpkin spice Hershey kisses, optional
Fall mix candy, optional

1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in egg and molasses. Add remaining ingredients, and mix until combined.

2. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. If decorating with candy, place candy in freezer.

3. Roll dough into balls about the size of walnuts. Lightly roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 ½” apart.

4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies have melted and puffed. For crisp cookies, bake until flattened.

5. If decorating, lightly push candy into center of cookie immediately after it comes out of the oven. Let cool until candy is solid.

Nutritional Information (Amount per cookie, plain):

Calories: 110
Protein: 1.5 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 15 mg
Carbohydrates: 19 g
Fiber: .8 g
Sodium: 82 mg

Recipe Notes: If you are decorating with the candy, you want a soft cookie, so bake closer to the 8 minutes. You want the cookie to stay together coming off the cookie sheet, but not much crisper. It is important to freeze the candies, so they don’t melt on the hot cookie. Don’t push too hard, or the cookie might break or have a lumpy bottom. The cookies will need to set up for a couple hours to let the candy re-harden. If not decorating, I usually bake mine a little closer to 10 minutes.

Source: adapted from my sister-in-law’s recipe

Low-iodine adjustment: Use shortening in place of butter. Use 2 egg whites in place of whole egg. Don’t use blackstrap molasses. Use non iodized salt.

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Peach and Plum Cobbler

October means fall, and yet the weather at my house still feels like summer.  Along with crazy weather, my week constantly hovers on meltdown point.  I need a treat.

This dessert is the perfect bridge between summer and fall.  Peaches and plums epitomize the end of summer, and cobblers are my favorite fall dessert.  This is sweet without being cloying, which lets the fruit be the star.  So here’s to hump day and wishing for fall-esque weather!

Peach and Plum Cobbler (Serves 10-12)


5 peaches, peeled and sliced
5-6 plums, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt

1½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
pinch of salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 ounces cold fat free cream cheese, cut into cubes
½ cup nonfat buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat baking dish(es) with cooking spray. You can use 1 – 9×13 pan or individual ramekins.

2. Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until fruit is well coated. Pour into prepared pan(s).

3. Combine first four crust ingredients (flour through baking powder) in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and cream cheese. Pulse until crumbly with chunks no larger than peas. Add in buttermilk. Pulse until combined.

4. Drop spoonfuls of crust over the fruit, spreading gently to evenly cover. Bake for 55 minutes, or until golden brown. If using individual ramekins, start checking for doneness at about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving, to allow juices to thicken.

Nutritional Information: (Amount per serving)

Calories: 222
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 4.5 g
Saturated Fat: 2.6 g
Cholesterol: 12 mg
Carbohydrates: 42 g
Fiber: 1.9 g
Sodium: 177 mg

Recipe Notes: I cut down on the sugar a bit in the filling from the original recipe. If you have very ripe fruit, you could probably cut this down to ¼ cup. My fruit wasn’t all ripe, so it needed the help. Warm cobbler is delicious, but it needs to cool a bit to let the juices set up in the cornstarch.

Source: only slightly adapted from Jamie Deen and Cooking Light

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“Healthier” Chocolate Chip Cookies

When it comes to making a dessert healthy, I have mixed emotions.  I am totally on board with making small changes to improve a dish’s nutrition.  However, you shouldn’t mess with dessert too much.  I have found that “healthy” desserts often don’t satisfy my cravings.  Unsatisfied, I either eat more or eat something else in addition to the original dessert, completely negating my “good” choice.

These cookies hit a good balance.  A few ingredient tweaks make them a little healthier, but they still satisfy my cookie craving.  Remember, though:  these are still cookies.  Compared to my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe, I saved 15 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, and 42 mg of sodium.  Not life altering savings, but enough that it adds up after several cookies.  And let’s be honest, you eat more than one cookie.

“Healthier” Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies)

IMG_5317 - Version 2label

1/2 cup unsalted butter or coconut oil, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg whites
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash cinnamon (optional)
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Cream butter/coconut oil and sugars together on medium speed of mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and egg whites.

3. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon (optional), mixing until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Scoop rounded tablespoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool briefly on sheet before cooling completely on wire rack.

Nutritional Information (Amount per cookie)

Calories: 90
Protein: 1 g
Fat: 3.3 g
Saturated Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 6 mg
Carbohydrates: 15 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sodium: 49 mg

Recipe Notes: The nutritional analysis uses butter rather than coconut oil. I have tried using coconut oil in this recipe. As I mentioned in my previous post about coconut oil, my cookies were darker, flatter, and crisper. I also found I needed to add a little bit of water to the coconut oil cookies to get the dough to come together. I have not tried this recipe with traditional whole wheat flour, but I’m guessing the results would be tolerable but less similar to a regular cookie. I like to add cinnamon to my chocolate chip cookies, because it gives them an extra flavor that reminds me of Mexican hot chocolate. That is entirely optional. I use milk chocolate chips, but you can easily use whatever flavor you prefer.

Coconut oil cookie (left) compared to butter cookie (right)


Source: slightly adapted from Cooking Light

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