Guilt-Free Family Desserts

Sometimes it seems like the world is divided into two categories when it comes to eating. The first are like the obviously obese man in the hotel breakfast buffet line the other day, who loaded his plate with 3 sausages, 7 slices of bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and was still going when I moved past him to find the fruit!  The other extreme are those whose lips never touch french fries, who never feel the tug of chocolate peanut butter fudge, and who eschew all 31 flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream.

In reality, many of us really fall somewhere in the middle, and that’s ok. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean depriving one’s family of desserts, and it doesn’t have to mean feeling guilty whenever you break down and serve dessert.  If your family loves dessert, here’s how you can serve it guilt-free, followed by a simple dessert recipe that was a favorite in my husband’s family. What are your family’s favorite desserts?

  • Make dessert at home! – I know, I know, it’s my soapbox. But no matter what you are serving, if it is made at home it is almost always healthier. Making something yourself gives you control over ingredients, is a great way to teach kids how to cook, and doesn’t have to take a long time. Plus, everyone is anxious to help make dessert!
  • Make desserts with redeeming qualities – use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all purpose flour in cookies and cakes to boost whole grain intake. Or make it 100% whole grain by using white whole wheat flour. This works especially well in cookie recipes.  No-bake cookies are simple to make and full of whole grains (oats) and healthy peanut butter. Molasses is an excellent source of iron, so serve molasses cookies or gingerbread.  Homemade puddings are full of protein and calcium (eggs and milk). Serve fresh fruit over ice cream or make a fruit crisp (cobblers and buckles take longer to prepare and are higher in fat than a crisp). Take advantage of summer’s fruit bounty and make tart sorbets in your ice cream maker!
  • If you must use a mix – make sure it is an all-natural mix that doesn’t include additives, preservatives, high sodium content, or any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.
  • Moderation is the key – Dessert is a treat. So while you can remain guilt-free serving your family desserts with redeeming qualities, if you allow your children to eat a pint of ice cream in a sitting, or 5 cookies at a time,  or any other excess you should feel guilty! Unless you are eating lettuce (almost no calories, no fat, no sugars, and not usually considered dessert) it’s best to limit yourself to 1 serving.
  • Become a label watcher – Start reading labels on everything.  Limit saturated fat, excess sugars, and sodium. Avoid trans-fats, chemical additives and preservatives. You’ll quickly find that purchased baked goods in particular are full of all the above.  Dessert made at home will be better for you and have a lot more flavor.

See, it’s easy to feed your family dessert with no guilt. Try this chewy recipe that my husband’s grandmother used to make. The puffed brown rice is a whole grain, and peanut butter is a great unsaturated fat form of protein. It can also be found in my cookbook, The Happy Lunchbox, 4 Weeks of Menus and Recipes.


Puffed Rice Squares

In a saucepan combine 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup light corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue cooking until mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees). Remove from heat and quickly stir in 3/4 cup of peanut butter, then pour over 4 cups of puffed brown rice. Stir to mix well and press into a greased 8 inch pan. Cool and cut into squares. Add miniature chocolate chips, dried cranberries or dried blueberries to the rice mixture if desired.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and
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