Good news! Eating healthy doesn't mean dessert is off limits. Remember "MRS" (moderation, replace, substitute) to have your cake and eat it, too!
M = Moderation
Many desserts are high in calories, fat and sugar, so enjoy them in moderation. Eat sensible-size portions such as a thin slice of cake or pie, or one scoop of rich ice cream. To enjoy a decadent dessert at a special dinner, eat a bit less early in the day or split your treat with another diner.
R = Replace
If you're the baker, arm yourself with the following information and tips to lighten up your goodies and keep them tasting great.
First, some simple baking science:
Fat and sugar add texture, structure, flavor and color to baked goods. You can trim the fat in recipes somewhat, but omitting it can make baked goods dry and tough, or they may not rise.
Many recipes call for more sugar than needed to produce a good product, so you can usually reduce the amount or use a different ingredient to lend sweetness, such as fruit. Don't eliminate both fat and sugar in the same dessert recipe or you'll lose flavor.
The following tips work in most recipes, but experiment a bit to find the right methods for your favorite baked goods.
Choose mostly low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products, such as milk, sour cream and cream cheese. Start by stepping down one fat "level" below your usual dairy ingredient. For example, try light cream cheese (often labeled "Neufchatel cheese") in place of regular. Using fat-free cream cheese may cut too much flavor and give poor texture.
Go easy on egg yolks. The yolks contain all the cholesterol in eggs. If cholesterol is a concern, use ¼-cup egg substitute or two egg whites in place of each whole egg.
Replace solid fats. When possible, use liquid vegetable oils in place of solid fats such as butter, lard or shortening. This trick won't work in all recipes — it tends to work best in those that use liquid sugars or syrups along with another solid fat such as ground nuts and an emulsifying ingredient, such as eggs. If a solid fat is required, experiment with using tub margarine or a trans fat-free shortening or margarine instead of butter. But avoid using "light" margarines or butter spreads due to their higher water content.
Use purees instead of oil. Replace some of the oil in muffin, cookie and cake recipes with fruit such as applesauce or prune puree. They help keep baked goods moist, too.
Sweeten baked goods with less sugar. Follow these guidelines to reduce sugar without affecting flavor, structure and texture: For every cup of flour, use only ½-cup of sugar in cakes and cookies, 1 tablespoon in muffins and quick breads, and 1 teaspoon in yeast breads. Or, try a sugar substitute such as sucralose that's suitable for baking.
S = Substitute
A delicious dessert doesn't have to be loaded with calories and fat. These lighter options will satisfy your sweet tooth just as well:
Fresh berries topped with light crème fraiche or fat-free half-and-half.
Grilled peaches, nectarines or pineapple rings.
Light chocolate ice cream sprinkled with nuts and sugar-free caramel syrup.
Angel food cake topped with fruit puree or compote.
Mango sorbet with fresh raspberries.
Sugar-free flavored gelatin capped with light whipped topping.
Fat-fat latte or cappuccino with a shot of sugar-free vanilla coffee syrup.
Root beer float made with a scoop of light vanilla ice cream and diet root beer, served in a frosty mug.