5 ways to make any dessert recipe a little healthier

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR. Once the tree goes up, the Christmas cookies come out and most of us, my pregnant self included, aren’t kidding around when it comes to enjoying the festivities! But if you want to avoid a sugar-induced meltdown (or two, or seven…) for the smaller members of the household here are five easy tricks that work every time.

  1. Just cut the sugar. You can usually get away with using almost half as much sugar as any recipe calls for. Granted the dish will taste less sweet, but most of the time you won’t notice and your kids won’t either. Start slowly and experiment. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, simply omit that last 1/2 cup.
  2. Substitute maple syrup, honey or agave syrup for half the sugar. Don’t take out all the sugar because the recipe will become too moist with only these liquified sweeteners. Try combining the two to reduce sugar while retaining all the sweetness.
  3. Use applesauce instead of half the oil. Sometimes you can get away with removing all the oil but substituting half of the oil with applesauce (preferably organic with no sugar added) will almost always keep a baked dish moist and flavorful. Coffee cakes and muffins in particular do well with this trick; the flavor is fresh instead of greasy.
  4. Replace some flour with wheatgerm or oat bran. Reduce the flour by 1/3 and add either wheat germ or oat bran instead. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, use 1 1/3 cup of flour and 2/3 cup of wheat germ or oat bran. Even better, use this ratio: 1/3 white flour, 1/3 whole wheat flour and 1/3 wheatgerm or oat bran. It actually works for almost all baked goods. (I use it every time.)
  5. Make smaller portions. This is the easiest way for little guys to enjoy holiday cookies, muffins and baked bars without going overboard. Make mini-muffins, cut dessert bars into 1-inch squares or just use smaller cookie cutters. Kids don’t need enormous helpings, especially when it comes to sweets (they might want enormous helpings but…). And instead of skimping on “reduced fat” ingredientsĀ  for frosting, go for the full fat version but just use less. Reduced fat products usually contain fillers and artificial ingredients. If you’re going to indulge somewhere, enjoy it!
  • Bonus: Sneak in some veggies. Add 1/2 cup of pureed beets or spinach to chocolatey desserts and pureed white beans to anything white, cream or yellow. If you’ve got a picky eater who won’t otherwise eat his veggies, give this sneaky technique a try.

Want proof? Here are my favorite ways to enjoy treats for toddlers without the tears:



  1. Mary Alewine says

    I think this is the most fun blog! My hat is off to you and your commitment to you children. I had the same thought process for the first 9 yrs of my 13 yr old sons life…I have relaxed my rules a bit I’m ashamed to say, but I know that he has learned something because when we do the “drive through” routine, he will order the fruit rather than the fries…YAY!!!! He also will grab an apple before the chips as long as I have them in the house, and that is a good thing (as Martha would say). Unfortunately, he has found the pleasures of carbonated sugar filled sodas but for the most part, I don’t keep those in the house.

    Anyway, great job Charity! Good luck with your challenge of keeping your kids healthy in this world of convenience foods and artificial ingredients!!! God bless!!!!


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