6 Healthy, No-Sugar-Added Desserts

healthy dessert with blueberries

Sugar has been receiving heaps of publicity lately, and not the favorable kind. Diets high in sugar are partially to blame for a host of health issues—from obesity to an increased risk of diabetes.

The average American consumes about 20 teaspoons of sugar per day (more than double the recommended amount for men and more than triple the recommended amount for women). Why? Because our brains love it! And because it’s so readily available. We all know that soda, cookies, cakes, and the like are drowning in excess sugar, but there’s a lot of hidden sugar lurking in just about every processed food, even the savory ones like ketchup and salad dressing.

While it’s OK for most people to indulge in a small amount of added sugar once in a while, your body certainly doesn’t need 20 teaspoons per day. One way to cut back on sugar is to satisfy your sweet tooth with nature’s bounty. Fruit is sweet as can be all by itself, and when it’s combined with other whole, healthy ingredients, something magical is created—dessert, done naturally.

In the dessert recipes that follow, fruit steps in to sweeten the deal. These plant-based recipes won’t induce a sugar high or crash, require no baking, and can be made in a pinch. If you’ve ever tried to decrease your salt intake, you’ve probably noticed that after some time, your body and palate adjust to a lower salt diet, and foods that used to taste perfectly delicious now taste way too salty. The same goes for sugar. Once your body and mind grow accustomed to the sweetness of nature, it’s hard to look back at your days of sugar overload.

Mexican Spiced Truffles

Cacao is a super food containing magnesium, antioxidants, and iron. But most chocolate bars (yes, even dark chocolate) are packed with added sugar. These decadent truffles balance cacao’s rich flavor with a hint of spice and touch of natural sweetness.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups walnuts
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 2/3 cup pitted dates
  • 2/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground star anise
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:
Process walnuts in food processor. Be careful not to over-process or else too much oil will be released.

Add raisins and dates, and process until combined.

Add cacao powder and spices, and process until sticky and slightly crumbly.

Transfer to a large bowl. Add water and mix well by hand.

Roll dough in your hand to form small balls (your typical truffle size).

Option: roll the balls over dried coconut flakes, more cacao powder, salt, etc.

No-Bake Fig and Apple Cobbler

Fall is the perfect time of the year to dig into fresh figs and apples, and to eat cobbler, of course. Dried figs will work just fine in this recipe, as will any variety of apple. This healthy treat makes for a perfect dessert or midday snack. The protein in the walnuts will provide sustained energy to help fuel your day.

Ingredients:

Fig and Apple Filling

  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 figs, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 4 dried figs
  • 1 pitted date
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Filling

Put all filling ingredients in a food processor or blender, and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Remove half of filling and place in a small rectangular dish. Flatten out with a rubber spatula.

Blend remaining mixture until pureed. Pour pureed mixture on top of chopped mixture and press flat.

Topping

In the same food processor or blender, pulse all topping ingredients until coarsely ground. Do not over-mix.

Crumble mixture over fig and apple filling and press lightly.

Strawberry Oat Bars

There’s just something about macadamia nuts that makes us swoon. Maybe it’s because most of them are grown in the lush Hawaiian landscape, or maybe it’s their irresistible creaminess. Somehow, though, these nuts become even more delectable when they’re added to desserts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts
  • 2 tablespoons oats
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

Pulse dates, nuts, oats, and salt in a food processor until well-combined. Press mixture into bottom of 9-by-5 inch pan.

Mash half the berries in a bowl and spread on top of date mixture. Top with remaining berries.

Option: use blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries instead of or in addition to strawberries.

Oatmeal Cookie Shake

It’s always a good idea to keep a few peeled, chopped bananas in the freezer. Frozen bananas are the star ingredient in many naturally-sweetened, cold treats. You never know when you might need to whip up a quick smoothie, mix up a batch of banana ice cream, or drink your oatmeal cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole, frozen bananas
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1/4 cup homemade almond milk (recipe below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cardamom

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Top with a dash of cinnamon.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

In the Mayan language, “chia” means “strength,” because Aztec warriors ate chia seeds for energy and endurance. But chia seeds are much more than tiny energy powerhouses. They can also bind ingredients together to help make delicious jams, puddings, and more.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups homemade almond milk
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Berries (for topping)

Directions:

Place all ingredients (except berries) in a medium-size bowl and whisk until well-combined.

Cover and place in refrigerator overnight. Mixture should be jelly-like. Top with berries before serving.

Easy Homemade Almond Milk

Everyone should have an easy almond milk recipe in his or her healthy cooking repertoire. Homemade almond milk is smooth and creamy, and tastes like real almonds. It doesn’t contain thickeners or the other fillers commonly found in most store-bought almond milks.

You’ll need a nut milk bag for this recipe (a great investment). And don’t toss the leftover pulp! There are dozens of ways to use it later on. You can blend it into smoothies; bake it into breads, cakes, or pizza crust; or use it as a binder in veggie burgers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw almonds, soaked
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions:

Soak almonds in a bowl of water overnight. Drain and rinse.

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for about one minute. Strain mixture through a nut milk bag to extract milk. 

Discover how to eat for your mind-body type at our 6-day mind-body immersion workshop, Perfect Health. Learn tools and practices that will help you make healthier choices that will feel good everyday. Click here to learn more. 

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About the Author

Jen Stiff

Writer and Yoga Teacher (RYT-200)
Jen is a writer, editor, and storyteller. She lives in California with her mountain man husband and two pugs. When she’s not writing or frolicking with animals, Jen is practicing or teaching yoga, traveling to faraway lands, and cooking up delicious vegan desserts. Jen has healed her own mind, body, and soul through yoga, meditation, and healthful eating, and she loves to share her passion for health and well-being with the world through writing.Read more