Better-For-You Desserts

Lauren Ott, RD  By Lauren Ott, RD  
  University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center -


Pumpkin Bites, Velvet Cake

The holidays are upon us, and that can only mean one thing…dessert. Dessert is a food group to me. And yes, you read correctly, I am a registered dietitian. In typical dietitian fashion, though, I find pleasure in creating recipes which make eating dessert a bit healthier, especially during this time of year, which tends to be a time of gluttony. The holidays are also a period of added stresses: time, money, time again…so anything I can do to cut back on the work involved in cooking good, healthy food is a perk.

Cue the canned foods. Not only does canning preserve most of a food’s nutrients, canned foods are typically harvested at peak freshness and quality, so you’re getting a big bang for your buck when it comes to nutrient density. Canned foods are also convenient, affordable, tasty, and have a great shelf life…seems like a no-brainer to me!

When looking to make better-for-you desserts, my two top go-to canned food ingredients (one traditional and the other a bit more novel) are:

#1 Canned Pumpkin

Canned pumpkin is one of my absolute favorite ways to add fiber, vitamin A and potassium to any recipe. It can also act as a fat substitute! Just use canned pumpkin in a one-to-one ratio in place of any fats in baked recipes (think butter, oil, etc.). These healthy pumpkin donut holes are absolutely fabulous tasting. The best part is they’re portion-controlled and, because they are fun, the whole family will love them.

#2 Canned Chickpeas

Another staple canned food in my house are canned chickpeas. Aside from the obvious uses like hummus and roasted chickpeas, I love to use chickpeas as a flour substitute. No, I haven’t gone crazy. Try it yourself! Using chickpeas in place of white flour is a great way to add fiber and protein while decreasing carbs and calories. Try this healthy cookie dough recipe, which uses ground canned chickpeas in place of flour.


So, during this season when it is so easy to over-indulge, don’t deprive yourself of dessert. Just choose options that offer some nutrition along with the sweet taste of the holidays. I know I will!


Follow Lauren Ott on Facebook and on Instagram @thedessertdietitian.