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Let’s get real for a second. For your grand plans and well-meaning intentions to start the year off on a healthy, clean-eating foot, sooner or later you’re going to break. For me, the tipping point usually comes at some point during the third week of January (seriously, every year like clockwork).
After much trial and tribulation with this struggle—wanting to remain “good” but needing to scratch the sweet tooth itch—I’ve found that having some tasty low-guilt desserts in my back pocket really helps. Here are nine favorites.
While dark chocolate may not be the health food we’d all like to believe it is, it isn’t too bad for your either; low in sugar and high in antioxidants, dark chocolate can be a great sweet treat even if you’re on a diet. But if you want something a little more indulgent, this luscious mousse fits the bill—and is sort of health food. Avocados, almond butter, raw cacao powder, agave, and cinnamon make for a shockingly easy and delicious dessert that just needs to chill for a couple hours after blending. Get the Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse recipe.
Yeah, okay, so the recipe calls for a cup of sugar. But you’ve got to admit that this crisp, vanilla-scented meringue topped with strawberry-blood orange compote is a lot more guilt-free than a thick slice of double chocolate fudge cake. Get our Strawberry-Blood Orange Pavlova recipe.
Instead of reaching for the pint of ice cream (tempting though that sounds), you can satisfy your sweet tooth with this tart, refreshing granité—that’s French for shaved ice—featuring unsweetened sour cherry juice, fresh ginger, and earthy, aromatic green tea. Get our Sour Cherry and Green Tea Granité recipe.
Related Reading: The Best Healthy Ice Cream Brands to Buy
On first glance, they may look like your average chocolate-covered sandwich cookies, but these clever sweets opt to replace the cookie with a healthier stand in: slices of banana. The result is nostalgically delicious. Get the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites recipe.
Bananas also make a surprisingly delicious ice cream alternative; just make sure your bananas are ripe before you freeze and blend them into a creamy treat. Top as you like; try a vegan salted caramel sauce, or dark chocolate sauce (or both…since you are eating fruit for dessert, after all). Get our Two-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream recipe.
Inspired by the classic Italian panforte, this chewy bar combines honey, dried figs, pungent spices, and toasted nuts to create a sweet bar that not only satisfies but also energizes. A pre-game treat before you hit the slopes, if you will. Or a sweet after-dinner nibble. Get our Dried Fig and Nut Bars recipe.
As much as we love pears poached in sweet port or vanilla-infused simple syrup, this seasonal dessert offers a healthier alternative. Aside from the drizzle of honey, baking helps caramelize the natural sugar in the fruit, which is smartly paired with tart cranberries and crunchy pecans. Get the recipe. (If you’d like to expand on this idea, here’s a more family style, less dinner party-fancy expansion on the idea). Get the Baked Pears with Honey, Cranberries, and Pecans recipe.
Sometimes you just need a warm, gooey baked good, and these don’t disappoint—but they do eschew refined sugar, dairy, and gluten, and have a surprise secret ingredient…chickpeas! They’re vegan too, and if you need yet another enticement, they’re incredibly easy: Just throw everything but the chocolate chips in a blender or food processor and blitz away). Get the Healthy Peanut Butter Blondies recipe.
Juicy, ripe persimmons mixed with tangy, chewy cranberries, chopped almonds and granola served over maple yogurt (okay, okay Greek yogurt if you’re feeling extra healthy): Now, doesn’t that just sound perfect? Get the Cranberry-Persimmon Parfait recipe.
Header image by Chowhound.