Fruit for Dessert? Oh Yeah!

You know fruit is good for you. The high-quality carb is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, all of which help protect against a laundry list of diseases and prevent weight gain. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate fruit into your snacks and meals (think: fruit smoothies, orange slices on your lunch salad, and so on).

But what about dessert? Think having fruit for dessert feels like a bit of a gyp?

After all, dessert is supposed to be decadent, indulgent and splurge-worthy—good-for-you isn’t really part of the equation.

Believe it or not, fruit makes the perfect base for desserts because it’s naturally sweet. The sugar in fruit, called fructose, is naturally occurring—and unlike added sugar found in desserts like cakes, cookies and candies, fruit sugar comes packaged with so many other good-for-you compounds, like vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

So, how can you enjoy fruit for dessert? Try any one of these delicious ideas. Sweet!

Bake Your Fruit for Dessert

Baking helps bring out the flavors and natural sweetness of fruit. Add in some other ingredients (oats, chocolate) and you have a treat that tastes just too good to be healthy. Here are some yummy baked fruit desserts you should try.

  • Baked Apples With Oatmeal Filling: It’s like a tasty apple pie, served in an apple, with significantly fewer calories and more fiber.

    To make, preheat the oven to 350˚. Rinse, core, and slightly hollow 1 large apple, leaving the bottom of the apple intact to create a well for the filling and place the apple in a pie pan.

    In a medium bowl, combine ¼ cup rolled oats, 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce, about 1 teaspoon honey, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, pinch ground cinnamon, pinch pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (optional). If desired, add about 1 teaspoon raisins and/or chopped walnuts. Fill and top apple with the oat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the sides of the apple is soft and easily pierced with a knife.
  • Soft Baked Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies: It’s hard to believe that a cookie but could good for you, but this one features a healthy dose of antioxidants (courtesy of the fruit and chocolate) and fiber (thanks to the whole wheat flour and rolled oats). You can enjoy two of them for less than 150 calories!

    Freeze Your Fruit for Dessert

    Sometimes, popping some fruit in the freezer is all you need to do to transform a healthy snack to an indulgent dessert. Just think of frozen grapes, which have a smooth, ice cream-like consistency once chilled. But if you want to put in a little extra effort (as with the two desserts below), you will be rewarded! Try one of these recipes.

    • PB Banana Freeze Pop: This dessert is a cinch to make—it takes just 5 minutes to prep (not including freezing time) and features only three ingredients: bananas, chocolate and peanut butter. Need I say more? It was one of my tastiest creations of the summer!

      To make, split a banana lengthwise and spread one half with peanut or almond butter. Sandwich the two banana halves together and wrap the entire banana. You can also cut bananas into 1-inch wheels and carefully store in a plastic bag or container (that’s what I like to do because it’s easier to eat). Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.
    • Banana Ice Cream: Sweet and creamy, this non-dairy ice cream calls for just one ingredient—bananas! Simply freeze banana slices, puree and enjoy. You can experiment with different add-ins, like strawberries (a double dosage of fruit!), peanut butter or dark chocolate chips.

      Dip Your Fruit for Dessert

      Fruit dipped into chocolate is a no-brainer dessert! Simply melt a few tablespoons of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave or double boiler and dunk in whole strawberries, cherries or pineapple chunks.

      Grill Your Fruit for Dessert

      The barbecue isn’t just for burgers! Fire up the grill for dessert, toss some fruit over the flames and enjoy.

      • Grilled Pineapple Skewers: Pineapple is the ideal fruit to grill. In just a few minutes, you’ll end up with gorgeous grill marks and sweet, caramelized sugar. I love to dip it in some reduced balsamic vinegar—yum!

      Top Your Fruit for Dessert

      Fruit is so good that it needs little help to enhance its deliciousness.

      A spoonful of Greek yogurt or a squirt of aerated whipped cream is often enough to give the healthy pick an indulgent feel.

      Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, is the health and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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