Dessert is an ever-evolving challenge at Guiding Stars. We all love a little bit of something sweet now and again, and let’s be honest, most of us wish that sweet treats could fit into a well-balanced eating plan a little more often. Chasing the sweet food that’s not only nourishing but actually a delight to the senses is a little bit of a Holy Grail quest for those of us who work on recipe development for Guiding Stars. These are a few of our best tips for getting nutrition and dessert to come together.
Date paste is a reasonably good substitute for sugar. Flavor and moisture-wise, it works best as a substitute for brown sugar, but honestly, you can try it out in place of any sugar. It’s tasty and it works. It’s straight-up natural sugar, let’s be clear. Date paste is sugar. But! It is sugar that provides meaningful quantities of potassium, vitamin B6, pantothenate, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and niacin. For comparison, white sugar provides no micronutrients.
Other Fruit Purees & Juices
Swapping applesauce in for part of your sugar is an old trick and a goody. So is making “ice cream” from frozen bananas. We also really love that you can make vibrant, artificial-color-free popsicles and gelatins with 100% fruit juice. As with dates, juice is still mostly sugar and doesn’t provide the beneficial fiber you get from eating fruit. It does provide some nutrients, however, so it’s a better-for-you choice compared to many commercially prepared products.
Butter and shortening and heavy cream are usually responsible for the creamy mouthfeel of desserts like frosting and mousse. As it happens, avocado does the same thing, and the flavor is mild enough that it will pair with whatever flavors you’re after. While avocado does have some saturated fat, it also provides heart-healthy unsaturated fats along with a good about of dietary fiber and potassium. It doesn’t react the same way to heat that butter does, so baking with it doesn’t work as well, but for cold uses of butter, it’s a great substitution.
I’m not going to lie, here: I’ve got no idea why pumpkin is magical. I discovered this concept from a recipe that literally involved combining a can of pumpkin with a box of spice cake mix. Somehow, the pumpkin does everything you need the eggs and oil to do and leaves you with a moist cake with nice structure. And while eggs and vegetable oil are both nutrient-dense foods, they’re not generally providing nutrients we struggle to eat enough of. Pumpkin brings in dietary fiber, potassium, copper, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E.