Anyone who’s trying to live a healthy lifestyle knows that eating clean can be challenging at first, especially when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth. Sure, a piece of juicy, ripe fruit can be quite satisfying. But let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before the craving for a bowl of creamy ice cream, or a warm chocolate chip cookie, gets so strong you’re practically salivating every time you pass a bakery on the street corner.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to indulge in dessert without completely sabotaging your healthy eating habits. The most effective: opting for homemade sweets. “Make it yourself instead of store-bought,” Sadie Barr, director of Health and Sustainability for Hampton Creek Foods, told me in an interview. “This allows you to control the ingredients you put in your sweet treats and control the portion size.”
In fact, with a little kitchen creativity, you can whip up a plethora of sweet treats that are, dare I say, both healthy and delicious. What’s more, some of them can be made with as little as three ingredients! Here are 12 easy, three-ingredient dessert recipes that are approved by the experts.
Mini pretzel treats
Courtesy of Hampton Creek
When it comes to dessert, I absolutely love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Add in the crunch of a pretzel and I’m pretty much in foodie heaven. That’s why I was so excited when Barr told me that these mini pretzel treats won’t break the calorie bank. “Mini pretzel treats are perfect sweet treats for portion control,” she told me.
To make, start with the following ingredients: one 14-ounce jar of Just Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (this stuff is seriously addicting, plus it’s egg and dairy free, which means you could eat it raw), 2 cups of mini pretzels (square-shaped or classic twists), and 1 green apple, diced (optional: toss with a little lemon juice to prevent browning).
Arrange the pretzels on a serving plate. Scoop out small teaspoons of cookie dough and roll into balls. Place each one on top of a pretzel, pressing down so the dough sticks to the pretzel. Top each pretzel treat with a cube of fresh green apple and serve, or store in the fridge.
Courtesy of Hampton Creek
If you’d rather bake your cookie dough, Barr also approves of these thumbprint cookies.
To make, you’ll need one 14-ounce jar of Just Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (at room temperature), 2/3 cup almond meal (store-bought or made in a food processor), and 8 ounces of jam or preserves (your favorite flavor).
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, with a rack in the middle position, and line a baking sheet with parchment. Then, spoon the cookie dough into a medium mixing bowl. Add the almond meal, and —using clean hands — work it completely into the dough. With a 1-ounce cookie scoop or a tablespoon, portion out the dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Then place them on baking sheet, at least two inches apart. Press a small well into the center of each cookie with your index finger and place a dollop of jam in the middle of each cookie. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool and enjoy!
“The almond flour in these cookies provides additional fiber and healthful fats, making a more filling and satisfying dessert,” said Barr.
Chocolate grape drizzle
Fruit and chocolate are another one of those heavenly dessert combinations. If you’ve never tried grapes and chocolate, well, you are missing out, friends.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, author of the cookbook The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, is also a fan of this ingredient combo, giving it her own spin with a recipe she calls Chocolate Grape Drizzle. It starts with 1/2 cup of nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of seedless grapes (sliced lengthwise), and one tablespoon of chocolate syrup.
To make, place the yogurt in a freezer-safe bowl. Top with the grapes and drizzle with the chocolate syrup. Place in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours, or until frozen. Enjoy!
Besides being delicious, this sweet treat has a whopping 12 grams of protein, Amidor told me. And at just 164 calories per serving, you can enjoy this dessert guilt-free.
Chocolate covered bananas
C it Nutritionally
Chelsey Amer, a NYC-based registered dietitian and the creator of C It Nutritionally, also enjoys chocolate covered fruit. “What’s better than nature’s candy dipped in silky smooth dark chocolate,” she wrote on her blog.
Start with chopped bananas (or another fruit of your choice), 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, and 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. Then melt the coconut oil with chocolate using whatever method you like (Amer prefers a double boiler). Dip banana chunks into chocolate. Place on wax paper and sprinkle with your favorite topping (If, of course, you want to add an extra ingredient!) while the chocolate mixture is still wet. Refrigerate for for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate has hardened. Eat!
Check out Amer’s full Chocolate Covered Fruit recipe on her blog.
Banana tahini ice cream
Have a soft spot for ice cream? Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, and author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian, enjoys this sweet stuff without the added guilt. Her Banana-Tahini Ice Cream, is as yummy as it is easy to make.
All you need is 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon tahini, and some almond milk (enough to get the blender or food processor going). Blend until you reach soft-serve consistency, serve, and enjoy! “If you’re willing to go to four ingredients,” says Meltzer, “Top with dark chocolate chips!”
Cherry basil paleta
Popsicles are the perfect dessert for those hot summer months. Registered dietitian, Hannah Spencer, MBA, loves these Cherry Basil Paletas from natural and organic brand R.W. Knudsen. “The recipe has only three ingredients and only five grams of sugar,” she told me via email.
To make, you’ll need the following ingredients: 1 1/4 cups R.W. Knudsen Family Organic Just Tart Cherry Juice, 1/2 cup orange juice (with pulp), and 2 to 3 medium fresh basil leaves.
Add cherry juice, orange juice and basil to blender. Cover and pulse until smooth. Evenly divide mixture into eight 3-ounce popsicle molds. Insert plastic covers or food-safe wooden craft sticks into the center of each. Freeze for four hours, or until firm. Remove from freezer, serve, and enjoy!
Dark chocolate covered kiwi pops
Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness and U.S. spokesperson for Zespri, a brand of kiwifruit based in New Zealand, is also a big fan of popsicles made from fresh fruit. Her favorite: these Dark Chocolate Covered Kiwi Pops.
“Move over bananas. Kiwifruit has as much potassium as a medium banana,” she told me in an interview. Opt for SunGold kiwifruit (the ones that are yellow inside) for a sweeter flavor that Scritchfield says,” Goes perfect with dark chocolate.”
Start with two SunGold kiwifruit, peeled and sliced, 6 ounces of dark chocolate, and your choice of topping. Scritchfield suggests coconut flakes, walnuts, or sprinkles for added flavor. Insert popsicle sticks into the kiwi slices far enough to hold the fruit without piercing through the other end. Freeze until firm. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Dip kiwi slices into chocolate and rest on wax paper to cool. Add desired toppings. After chocolate has hardened, dessert is served!
I love watermelon. In fact, if I had to choose a fruit soulmate, watermelon would be it — hands down. That’s why when Rebecca Lewis, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh, shared a recipe for Watermelon Granita with me, I knew I had to try it. The result: an absolutely refreshing treat that’s perfect to enjoy poolside.
Here’s how to make it: blend 3 to 4 cups of chopped watermelon with 2 to 3 tablespoons honey, and a handful of mint leaves. Pulse in a blender until smooth. Pour into a glass dish, cover tightly, and freeze (for approximately 6 hours). When ready to eat, scrape the frozen mixture into bowls, using a fork. Easy, healthy, and delicious!
“Watermelons are a great source of vitamins A and C — both of which keep your skin glowing,” she told me in an interview. “Watermelons are also more than 90 percent water so they keep you hydrated and refreshed. Combining the watermelon with the mint adds a pop of flavor and the honey adds just a touch of sweetness without too much added sugar.”
If a watermelon granita wasn’t simple enough, Lewis’ Stuffed Dates recipe is equally as simple to make and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind.
To make, use a paring knife to split dates open (keeping the two sides connected). Grind pistachios to desired texture (crunchy or completely smooth) and spoon the mixture into the dates. Sprinkle the tops with shredded coconut. Another option, Lewis suggests, “Stuff with mascarpone and top with pomegranates.” Yes, please!
“Dates are naturally sweet but also contain soluble fiber which prevents a spike in blood sugar levels,” Lewis told me. “Combined with healthy plant-based protein and fats in the pistachios, [this satisfies] the cravings without needing to overindulge. Shredded coconut gives an extra boost of flavor.”
The right combination
When it comes to enjoying healthy desserts, it’s all about two things: the right ingredients, and the right portion size. Fruits, nuts, and dark chocolate are all wholesome ingredients that add flavor and nutritional value. Plus, by making homemade desserts, you can control the portion size, lowering your risk of overindulging. You can, instead, enjoy one or two treats after dinner without overdoing it.
“Plus, it’s a great activity to do with kids to get them engaged in the kitchen,” said Barr. “Start with sweets, and then move on to veggie snacks.”