It's easy to love dessert. I am one of those people that has a serious sweet tooth. I crave something with a little sugar during my afternoon coffee, especially while I am working at a desk, and relish my nightly cup of tea with a treat as I nestle into my quiet home. I've always liked dessert but during my pregnancies, I made Ben & Jerry's a habit and enjoyed it every evening … sometimes by the pint. And if anyone's read the sugar-count in those babies, you know it's a treacherous slope, especially if you want to do that important thing known as sleeping.
Savoring a great dessert can be an experience and, over the years, I've discovered that dessert doesn't just have to be store-bought ice cream. It can be an easy recipe that's nourishing, made with healthy ingredients and delicious. Yes, it's like magic!
Thanks to so many brilliant chefs and bakers out there, there are so many incredible, rich recipes that pack a lot of punch when it comes to flavor and essential nutrients, antioxidants and proteins. As an ode to all the folks out there like me seeking out better-for-you confections that don't keep you up all night, here is a roundup of our favorite healthy cookies, desserts, bars and more. From rich peanut butter cups and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to creamy milkshakes and cheesecake bars, this list is here to please when you're craving something sweet but not too sweet.
Salted Peanut Butter-Caramel Bars by Samah Dada
In these sweet-and-salty bars, peanut butter is used along with Medjool dates and coconut sugar to create a silky and delicious date caramel that rests on a shortbread crust and is topped with dark chocolate. This bar that will probably visit you in your dreams.
Flourless Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies by Kevin Curry
On a gluten-free diet and craving something sweet? These are the treats you've been waiting for! Fruity banana, creamy peanut butter and rich dark chocolate will satisfy your sweet tooth without any flour.
Cherry-Chardonnay Sorbet by Joy Bauer
Sip, sip, hooray! This cherry-chardonnay sorbet requires just three ingredients — frozen cherries, frozen pineapple and wine — mixed in a blender. Bursting with antioxidants to boost brain and heart health, it's not only delicious, but good for you, too.
Vegan Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies by Samah Dada
There's nothing better than being able to whip up a batch of cookies that uses all real, whole ingredients! These vegan, gluten- and grain-free chocolate chunk cookies are sweetened with un-refined coconut sugar are made with a base of coconut and almond flour, which give them an almost cake-like texture.
2-Ingredient Chocolate Fudge by Joy Bauer
Make fudge with just two ingredients: chocolate and dates. It's a soak, melt and blend situation. You can use semi-sweet chocolate chips for a sweeter, fudgy experience or with a higher percentage of cacao. Choose to be a purist and leave the treat plain or add extra flair by incorporating all sorts of goodies to the batter — from nuts to swirled nut butter to shredded coconut.
Pretzel Tahini Cookies by Samah Dada
The sweetness from the coconut sugar, maple earthiness from the tahini and crunchy, salty pretzels create the most addictive combination that will keep you coming back for more.
Vegan Salted Almond Cheesecake Bars by Samah Dada
A lot of people maintain this belief that when you take certain aspects away from a dish and add labels like "gluten-free" or "vegan," that it somehow strips the taste as well. This is a myth! The combination of cashews and coconut milk create this insane creamy texture, and the raw crust is both chewy and crunchy, with a nice subtle sweetness from the dates.
Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies by Joy Bauer
These delicious homemade oatmeal raisin cookies are only 50 calories each! You can use any flour you prefer, but whole wheat pastry flour and whole wheat-white flour are variations of whole grain that are softer and work well in baked goods.
Double Ginger Banana-Almond Oatmeal Cookies by David Zinczenko
You won’t want to eat just one of these cookies because they’re so delicious, but one will satisfy you because of the belly-filling fiber.
Salted Almond Butter Cups by Samah Dada
These bites are everything that's easy to love about classic peanut butter cups but with a richer, darker, slightly saltier version. Almond butter with a touch of maple syrup is at the center of these easy-to-make treats surrounded by dark chocolate and topped with flaky sea salt. The taste of heaven!
Healthy Fruit-and-Nut Breakfast Cookies by Casey Barber
In addition to the warm, delicious ingredients that make them taste great, like some butter, brown sugar and whole wheat flour, these cookies get their nutritious value from protein-filled nuts, dried berries and rolled oats, which are a great slow-burning carb that can help reduces stress and keep you fuller, longer.
Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Madelyn Fernstrom
These better-for-you chocolate chip cookies are lower in sugar, fat and salt than the typical store-bought chocolate chip cookie. Swapping part of the wheat flour for ground oats boosts flavor and fiber.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles by Samah Dada
These perfect little snacking bites are chewy, sweet but not too sweet, studded with mini chocolate chips and enrobed in a layer of smooth chocolate. Not to mention, they're vegan, gluten-free, grain-free and refined sugar-free!
Before-Bed Banana Bites by Elena Besser
Want to fall asleep but still want something sweet? Say hello to these toasted walnut-crusted banana "nice cream" bites. Frozen bananas are blended with coconut milk, frozen in ice cube trays and tossed in walnuts. Both banana and walnuts contain natural melatonin, making these the perfect treat right before a good night’s sleep.
Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries by Joy Bauer
These bite-sized beauties contain just 23 calories a pop, which means you can enjoy a serving of four and still feel virtuous. It's the perfect portion of rich, creamy filling combine with the sweetness of strawberries — a win-win.
Single-Serving Pear Cobbler by Joy Bauer
Make this luscious cobbler one serving at a time … in the microwave … in a matter of minutes. It's so simple to whip up however many servings you need for guests or for a little evening treat and requires little ingredients, all of which are wholesome and straightforward.
Stuffed Dates with Almond Butter and Sea Salt by Samah Dada
When dates are heated up they get this delicious caramel flavor that’s balanced perfectly by any kind of nut butter. This better-for-you dessert comes together in just 15 minutes and hits the spot when you want something sweet, creamy and salty.
Gluten-Free Skillet Brownie by Giada De Laurentiis
This recipe is just as delicious and decadent as a normal brownie, but a tad better for you because it doesn't use refined sugars or all-purpose flour. Also, the almond flour adds even more delicious flavor and texture — it's a win-win!
Joy Bauer's Watermelon Dessert 'Pizza' by Joy Bauer
This no-bake recipe is juicy and delicious and screams summer fun. Plus, it's packed with antioxidants that can help enhance skin's appearance and boost brain power. Top it with yogurt, dark chocolate chips and your favorite fiber-filled berries.
Coconut and Raspberry Sorbet by Dawn Burrell
This is a delicious treat that is so versatile and so easy to make. The sorbet provides a natural source of sugar alongside healthy fats for the body via the coconut milk. The coconut milk provides a creamy texture without the use of dairy. You can also use this as a base for smoothies, too!
Sneaky Cupcakes by Joy Bauer
Use timesaving boxed cake mix as the base of these delicious cupcakes with two healthy ingredients no one will be able to detect. The mix has pureed beans, which boosts the fiber and protein content, along with eggs and applesauce. "Trust me, if you don’t spill the beans, no one would ever suspect. I tested it out on more than a dozen nieces, nephews and neighbors, and none had any clue," says Joy Bauer.
Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies by Samah Dada
The chickpeas here work toward creating a chewy, fudgy, cookie dough-like texture while adding in some secret plant-based protein. The sweetness from the coconut sugar and maple syrup pulls everything together with the chocolate chips, which Samah Dada recommends measuring with your soul.
Banana Split Kebabs by Delish
This sweet dessert is a healthy, kid-friendly spin on an all-American classic. Skewering the fruit on kebabs makes this fun dessert easy to eat and serve.
Healthy Salted Caramel Milkshake by Joy Bauer
What’s better than the combo of sweet and salty in milkshake form? A sweet and salty milkshake that’s less than 200 calories, contains no added sugar and has 4 grams of fiber. Grab your straw and start sipping.
Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge by Samah Dada
In an effort to find more ways to eat peanut butter (other than straight up with a spoon), this peanut butter freezer fudge was born. When we're in the mood for something sweet, but still healthy and packed with healthy fats and protein, we reach for this freezer fudge! It only requires four ingredients, one bowl and essentially no time at all!
Key Lime Pie Bark by Joy Bauer
This Key lime pie bark is sublime! Studded with lime zest and crushed graham crackers, this frozen treat is making its way into the limelight (sorry, couldn’t resist). The star of the bark: 2% Greek yogurt — it freezes better than non-fat and offers protein and creaminess for a perfectly chilled and smooth treat.
Salted Caramel Cookie Dough Bars by Samah Dada
If you're like us and struggle to get your cookie dough to the baking sheet because you prefer to eat it straight up, this is the recipe for you! A chewy and healthy cookie dough base meets a three-ingredient vegan caramel, all topped off with a layer of smooth chocolate. Place it in the fridge for an easy, healthy, oven-less dessert that also happens to be vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free!
Healthier Banana Cream Pie Pudding by Joy Bauer
It's a great day to be a banana cream pie fan! A standard slice of banana cream pie will typically cost you about 540 calories, but my slimmed-down recipe clocks in at just 240 calories and is a cinch to make. Not to mention, the single-serve presentation alleviates the temptation to go back for seconds. It's a dessert you'll go bananas over.
No-Bake Nutella Oat Cookies by Carrie Parente
This no-bake dessert is an oatmeal cookie and Nutella lover's dream. These cookies require few ingredients and just a little work to throw together. The best part? They're ready in just 20 minutes! If you like coconut, feel free to add a cup of shredded coconut when stirring the Nutella into the quick-cooking oats, butter, milk and sugar for an extra chewy treat. Plus, you can always feel good about enjoying a sweet but healthier cookie recipe with all those fiber-filled oats!