As more and more scientific studies demonstrate that diet, not exercise, is the key to weight loss and weight management, we know that we should all make a few healthy substitutions in our diet. The good news is that finding nutritious alternatives to calorie-rich foods doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.
When you’re craving a heaping bowl of ice cream, try any of 15 these easy, healthy desserts instead. Packed with nutritional benefits, you’ll feel just as good after you eat these treats as you do while you eat them.
1. Cinnamon Bun Smoothie
Required ingredients: frozen bananas, rolled oats, pitted dates, milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract
Simply all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth.
The rolled oats in this smoothie not only create a thick, creamy texture, but they also provide a ton of healthy fiber. Research has also shown that a diet of whole oats can lower bad cholesterol levels.
2. Coffified Green Monster
Required ingredients: fresh spinach, brewed coffee, instant coffee, frozen banana, chocolate protein powder, ice
Blend the ingredients together, adding more or less ice depending on your preferred texture.
This smoothie combines the caffeine boost of coffee with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber of fresh spinach. One of the most nutrient-rich superfoods, spinach is high in iron and vitamin K, two minerals that promote healthy blood function and bone health. For extra variety, add any flavor of protein powder you like.
3. Greek Yogurt Popsicles
Required ingredients: Greek yogurt, honey, frozen fruit of your choice
These popsicles are effortless to make. Just pulse the yogurt, honey, and frozen fruit together in a blender. Scoop the mixture into a popsicle tray, freeze, and enjoy. Blend separate batches of frozen fruit to create beautiful colors, which you can use for a fancy, layered effect.
Greek yogurt is a creamy alternative to ice cream. Though it’s high in fat, Greek yogurt is also high in protein, calcium, and probiotics to support a healthy gut.
4. Peanut Butter Mousse
Required ingredients: silken tofu, reduced-fat peanut butter, powdered sugar, marshmallow fluff, peanuts for garnish
Puree the tofu, peanut butter, and sugar in a blender. Pour the pureed mixture into serving dishes, and let them cool in the fridge. Top with marshmallow fluff and chopped peanuts.
This velvety mousse gives a serving of healthy plant-based proteins from the peanuts and the tofu. For an even healthier variety, use homemade peanut or almond butter (which has no preservatives or sugar), and skip the sugar.
5. Strawberries with Balsamic, Greek Yogurt, and Mint
Required ingredients: fresh mint, Greek yogurt, strawberries, real maple syrup, pepper, honey
Slice strawberries, and stir in maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and a little bit of fresh ground pepper. In another bowl, mix Greek yogurt and honey. Top the yogurt with the strawberries, and sprinkle with fresh mint.
This sweet and savory dessert takes advantage of the many health benefits of Greek yogurt. It’s also the perfect pick-me-up when you’re feeling under the weather, as some studies have shown that honey can suppress coughing as well as medicine.
6. Pumpkin Rice Pudding
Required ingredients: rice, milk, canned pure pumpkin, honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt
While the rice is cooking, heat the milk, pumpkin, honey, and spices on the stove. Add this mixture into the nearly cooked rice, and bake together for about 50 minutes. Let the pudding thicken in the fridge overnight before serving.
This heart pudding gives an autumnal twist on a classic rice pudding. The addition of the pumpkin not only brings a seasonal flair, but it also provides some serious nutrients. Pumpkin is fiber-rich and especially high in beta-carotene and vitamin A, which contribute to healthy vision, a stronger immune system, and more youthful skin.
7. Pina Colada Smoothie
Required ingredients: frozen banana, frozen pineapple, coconut milk, vanilla extract
Just blend everything together, and garnish with shredded coconut and pineapple.
This tropical smoothie gives the full pina colada flavor without the calories of added sugar or alcohol. Though coconut milk is high in saturated fat, much of the fat is in the form of lauric acid, which the body converts into a compound that fights viruses and bacteria.
8. Pistachio Chia Pudding
Required ingredients: pistachio milk, chia seeds, vanilla extract, cardamom, maple syrup
Add the ingredients together in a sealable container, and shake to mix well. Use a spoon to stir the mixture, let it rest for around 10 minutes, and then shake again for a smooth texture. Refrigerate and serve cold.
This pudding is a great alternative for pistachio ice cream. It mimics the smooth, creamy texture but with fewer calories and less fat. Chia seeds are a superfood high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which improve essential brain functions.
9. Cannoli Strawberries
Required ingredients: ricotta cheese, strawberries, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest
Strain the ricotta through a cheesecloth in the fridge, and then mix the strained ricotta with the sugar, vanilla, and grated lemon zest. Hollow out the center of large strawberries, and fill them with the ricotta mixture. Garnish the cannoli strawberries with chocolate, nuts, or chopped fruit.
These bite-sized treats are a light alternative to traditional cannoli, with are rich in heavy cream and refined sugars. Ricotta cheese is full of healthful benefits like protein, calcium, and minerals such as phosphorus. Use light or skim ricotta cheese for a lower-calorie variety.
10. Carrot Cake Smoothie
Required ingredients: banana, diced carrots, almond milk, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
Blend all the ingredients together in a blender, and enjoy! Top with traditional carrot cake toppings like coconut, walnuts, or shredded carrots.
This recipe is a nutrient powerhouse! With the calcium and protein from the Greek yogurt, the potassium and fiber from the banana, and the beta-carotene from the carrots, this smoothie will fill you up and give you energy to start the day.
11. Chocolate Chia Pudding
Required ingredients: milk, semisweet chocolate, cocoa powder, agave nectar, salt, chia seeds, vanilla extract
Slowly heat the milk, chocolate, cocoa powder, agave nectar, and salt together, and then add in the chia seeds and vanilla extract. Let the pudding cool to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator. Serve cold.
Chia seeds add a hearty texture to this chocolate pudding, while providing their fiber and omega-3 health benefits. For extra superfood power, substitute the semisweet chocolate with dark chocolate, which science has proven to lower cholesterol and improve healthy blood flow.
12. Almost-Famous Frozen Yogurt
Required ingredients: whole-milk yogurt, Greek yogurt, extra-fine sugar, light corn syrup
Stir all ingredients together, place in an ice cream machine, and prepare according to the machine’s instructions. Serve with fruit, chocolate, or nuts for toppings.
This recipe is a close and healthy alternative to vanilla ice cream. With a satisfying and light texture, this frozen yogurt provides the calcium, protein, and probiotics of Greek yogurt. For a more natural take, substitute the corn syrup with all-natural honey or agave nectar.
13. Fruits in Lemongrass Syrup
Required ingredients: canned lychees, fresh lemongrass, sugar, mixed fruit of your choice
Bring the lychee juice, sugar, and crushed fresh lemongrass stalks to boil, and let it cool to room temperature. Pour over cut fresh fruit.
The lemongrass syrup in this modern fruit salad gives a unique zest to fresh fruit. You can add any fruit to this fruit salad, but especially consider adding fruits with the most health benefits, like grapefruit, papaya, and blackberries.
14. Homemade Cookie Dough Green Smoothie
Required ingredients: milk, bananas, kale, oats, almond butter, dates, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon juice
Add the ingredients to a blender, and blend until you reach your desired texture.
Because it’s vegan, raw, nut-free, and gluten-free, this smoothie can fit any diet. Containing superfoods like kale, almonds, and dates, this tasty dessert is full of fiber, antioxidants, folate, and minerals to keep you feeling full—and full of energy.
15. Blueberry Sorbet
Required ingredients: fresh blueberries, apple juice concentrate
Blend the fresh blueberries and juice in a blender until a thin liquid forms. Freeze the liquid in a baking pan for about 2 hours, and then lightly blend the semi-frozen mixture again. Place the mixture back in the freezer, and serve when fully frozen.
This two-ingredient recipe provides the antioxidant power of fresh blueberries without any added sugars. Substitute the apple juice concentrate with fresh-squeezed orange to add extra vitamin C and pulpy fiber.
Want more on-the-go healthy recipes? Learn how to cook healthy in less than 10 minutes!
Featured photo credit: Ken Hawkins via flickr.com