Why Normal Desserts Aren’t Healthy for the Heart
Let’s face it - desserts are delicious, but they can destroy just about any type of diet you may be following. The reason desserts taste so good is that they are loaded with sugar, fats (usually in the form of oil or butter), eggs and other yummy ingredients like chocolate, heavy cream and nuts. Unfortunately, these tasty components are loaded with fat, saturated fat, calories and cholesterol and tend to be low in fiber. A heart healthy diet tries to limit the amounts of all of these ingredients while increasing the amount of fiber and whole grains.
It’s easy to make your favorite desserts more heart healthy by tweaking a few small things. Making a couple of substitutions can save you hundreds of calories, lots of fat, and may even add fiber and whole grains to an otherwise nutritionally deficient food.
Fats: Making the Switch
Fat, whether it’s a liquid form (like oil) or a solid form (like butter or shortening), makes desserts rich and moist. They also pack a lot of, well, fat. Whether it’s saturated, trans or an unsaturated variety, you’ll want to cut back on fat in a heart healthy diet. A great way to do this is to use a fruit puree in place of the fat. Purees like applesauce, prune puree and canned pumpkin provide the necessary moisture and substance without loading up on unwanted fat. With such an emphasis on healthy eating, many recipes today already have part of the fat replaced by a fruit puree. If the recipe you are using doesn’t use a substitution, swap out the solid fat for about half of the amount of fruit puree or replace the liquid fat with about 3/4 of a fruit puree. For example, replace one cup of butter with a half cup of applesauce or one cup of oil with 3/4 cup of prune puree. If the batter or dough looks too dry, add a little more puree until the consistency looks right. Also, you can try keeping some of the fat in the recipe and only replace a portion with a fruit puree.
Swapping out the Sugar
Many recipes call for a lot of sugar in order to make the dessert sweet and tempting. If your recipe only calls for a little bit of sugar (a few teaspoons or less), you can use a sugar substitute like Sweet’N Low or Equal. If you want to replace larger quantities of sugar, which is more likely in a dessert recipe, using Splenda will work out a lot better. You can find this sugar substitute in several varieties at your local grocery store, so be sure to read the labels. Some are used in equal substitutions (one cup of sugar is replaced with one cup of Splenda), while others use different substitutions. Cutting back on white sugar will cut out a significant amount of calories because each cup of sugar contains nearly 800 calories.
Who Needs Eggs?
Eggs are an important ingredient in baking because they act as a binding agent. They hold together your cookies and cakes, but they also add saturated fat and cholesterol. A very easy way to swap out eggs is to use an egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters. These products are real eggs, but they are fat free and cholesterol free. Use 1/4 cup to replace one egg and make your recipes healthier.
Another option is to use flaxseed meal, which is becoming more readily available at grocery stores. Mix one tablespoon of flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water and allow it to sit for about ten minutes. This mixture will replace one egg and still bind the baked good. Also, flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 fats, which are considered heart healthy!
There are numerous other substitutions that you can make in your desserts to make them more heart healthy. It’s as simple as cutting back on the amount of chocolate chips or nuts that you add, which will cut out a lot of fat and calories. You can also substitute light, low-fat and fat-free products for the full-fat variety. If you’re using cream cheese, try using neufchatel instead. If your recipe calls for jam or jelly, try using a sugar-free version. Using whole wheat flour in place of white flour will add fiber and whole grains to your recipe without sacrificing taste.
Another option is to look for recipes that are specifically heart healthy, low fat and low cholesterol. Check out www.cookinglight.com or www.diabetic-recipes.com. Vegan recipes aren’t always low fat, but they are cholesterol free since they don’t use dairy or egg products, so be sure to check www.vegetariantimes.com for their vegan and low-fat dessert recipes. Experimenting with different substitutions will ultimately lead to delicious, heart healthy dessert recipes.
“Egg Substitutions.” Taste of Home. https://www.tasteofhome.com/Healthy/Recipe-Makeovers/Baking-Techniques/Egg-Substitutions-in-Baking
Jenkins, Robin Mather. “The Art of Low-fat Baking.” https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/the-art-of-low-fat-baking-00400000001071
Phillips, Sarah. “How Low-Fat Baking Works.” TLC Cooking. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/low-fat-baking.htm