We’re all for enjoying our favourite soul foods! Although sweet treats traditionally aren’t as nutritious as other foods, they most definitely have a place within a healthy, balanced diet.
But – if you’re feeling experimental or have specific goals or requirements (and a fruit salad won’t quite cut it!), try our healthy tweaks below to put a nutritious spin on your favourite treats.
General tips: Simple swaps
The following simple swaps are a great way to boost nutrient density when cooking at home. They’re also good to keep in mind if you need to cater for specific allergies.
- White flour for wholemeal wheat or spelt flour, and/or ground nuts (like almonds or hazelnuts) to increase fibre and protein.
- Nuts are also a great source of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. The nutritional profile varies between different nut varieties, so diversity is key.
- White sugar for mashed banana, sweet potato or pumpkin, or Medjool dates to increase fibre and antioxidants.
- Butter (melted) for extra-virgin olive oil to reduce saturated fat whilst increasing healthy fats and polyphenols (antioxidants).
- Sour cream for natural yoghurt (or dairy-free alternative), and cream for a combination of milk and natural yoghurt (or dairy-free alternatives), to reduce saturated fat and increase protein (especially if opting for a high-protein yoghurt!).
- Cream cheese for silken tofu or cashew butter to increase protein whilst reducing saturated fat.
- Cashews and tofu will both add healthy fats. Opting for a calcium-set tofu will also boost the calcium content.
- Cocoa powder for raw cacao powder for more antioxidants, and white or milk chocolate for dark chocolate, for less sugar and more polyphenols.
Our take on better-for-you treats
Try our healthy tweaks (tried and tested!) below:
Try this no-flour version by our Founder, Chloe McLeod! Black beans increase both fibre and essential micronutrients, without compromising on flavour or the all-important fudgy texture. Mashed sweet potato is another great addition to try!
Blitzing Medjool dates, almond butter, maple syrup, a dash of milk and a pinch of salt in a food processor creates a quick, easy caramel. Pour it over a simple base of rolled oats, nuts and extra-virgin olive oil (also blitzed in the food processor, and pressed into a baking tin) and chill in the freezer until firm. Drizzle with melted dark chocolate, slice, and enjoy!
Another no-bake option! Blitz cashews (soaked in water overnight), cashew butter, or silken tofu together with some extra-virgin olive oil, a dash of maple syrup or honey to sweeten, and the zest of a lemon. Pour the mixture over your base (recreate the caramel slice base – as above – to keep things simple!), top with berries, and freeze. Drizzle over some melted dark chocolate before serving, if you like!
This one also makes a great breakfast! Simply add some sliced fruit – apples, pears and stone fruits like peaches and plums, work beautifully! – to a saucepan with a splash of water and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and vanilla. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has softened but still holds its shape, and spoon into a baking dish. For an easy crumble option, combine rolled oats, quinoa flakes, buckwheat kernels and/or a variety of nuts and seeds (anything goes, really – just use whatever you have on hand!) with some extra-virgin olive oil and a little maple syrup or honey to sweeten, if you like. Spoon over your crumble topping and bake in a moderate oven until golden and crisp, and serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt.
Try blending frozen fruits – mango and banana is tasty tropical combo! – into a sorbet this Summer! Add little lime juice and honey (optional) to balance the flavours, depending on the natural sweetness of your fruit, and a spoonful of water at a time (not too much, or you’ll end up with a smoothie!) to help the mixture blend. Some natural yoghurt can also be added to create a creamier texture akin to frozen yoghurt. Enjoy as-is (it may need to return to the freezer to firm up for a few minutes) or pour into popsicle moulds to enjoy later (perhaps post-swim!)
Ripe avocados, raw cacao, a little sweetener like maple syrup or honey, and vanilla blend into a decadent chocolate mousse. Chill in the fridge for an hour or so before serving, either with fresh berries or simply on its own!
Mashed banana or (cooked and cooled) pumpkin, a whole egg, a few spoonfuls of wholemeal flour and a sprinkle of cinnamon create a wholesome pancake batter enjoyed by adults and kids alike. Cook your pancakes in extra-virgin olive oil over a gentle heat, and enjoy with a dollop of natural yoghurt and some fresh berries. Mini versions make great lunchbox inclusions!
For expert dietary support on your personal health and wellbeing journey, book your first appointment with one of our wonderful Accredited Practising Dietitians today.
Written by Caitlin Branch, Student Nutritionist, and Amanda Smith, Accredited Practising Dietitian.