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Friday’s Flavor: You can have your cake and eat it too

Originally published October 29, 2010

When I tell people I’m a dietetics major with a health minor, most assume I work out all day and eat nothing but salads.

Come over to my apartment though, and I guarantee there will be some sort of dessert, pastry or baked good on the counter.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to pass up on all the sweet stuff. Cakes, cookies, brownies, pies, ice cream and desserts of all kinds can be enjoyed without feeling guilty afterwards.

There is no such thing as a bad food. Let’s say you love ice cream, but turn it down because it is viewed as unhealthy.

You don’t have to give up ice cream to be healthy. You can enjoy your ice cream (as long as you don’t eat an entire pint in one sitting). But you should balance it out with the rest of your diet.

While moderation is always key, you can also alter recipes to make them better for you by substituting in more healthy ingredients for the not so healthy ones.

Dessert can even be advantageous to your health.

The right kind of dessert can have added benefits other than being a tasty sweet treat. Desserts can be a great way to get in your recommended daily amount of fruits, grains, milk, and even vegetables. The average 21-year-old female who receives less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day should consume 2 cups of fruit per day, 6 oz. of grains, three of which should be whole grain, 3 cups of milk, and 2 ½ cups of vegetables.

Part of these recommendations could come from a sweet treat. For example, a slice of pie made with real fruit may help you top off your recommended 2 cups per day.

Whole grains can be used in many baked goods, including muffins, cupcakes and cookies. You can also add fruits, nuts or vegetables to these for added health benefits.

Frozen yogurt is a good source of milk and can also provide fruit.

Vegetables in dessert may sound strange, but items such as zucchini bread and carrot cake prove that vegetables can be used in sweet treats, too.

In addition to adding servings from the different food groups, desserts can add other important nutrients, like antioxidants.

If you like to make your own desserts, you can make a few small changes to make healthier desserts.

Here are a few ideas:

Substitute applesauce for butter, oil or shortening in cakes and breads.

If you’re making cake from a box mix, just use the mix and a can of Diet Coke.

Try using whole wheat flour instead of white flour.

Replace sour cream with plain yogurt.

Use frozen yogurt in place of ice cream.

If a recipe calls for 2 eggs, use 1 egg and 2 egg whites.

When baking “low-fat,” set your timer a few minutes earlier than the recipe specifies because with less fat you can easily dry out your baked goods.

Choose dark chocolate instead of milk or white chocolate.

If you’re out at a friend’s or on the go and you’re not sure which desserts are healthy, some good choices include real fruit popsicles, fruit, angel food cake, puddings made with skim or low fat milk and frozen yogurt.

Dessert can provide nutrition and shouldn’t be passed up on because you’re trying to be “healthy.” Ernestine Ulmer, a writer born in the early 1900s once wrote “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

For more information about healthy desserts use reliable sources such as the American Dietetic Association’s website or the United States Department of Agriculture’s website

Counseling is also available on campus from senior dietetic students through Bodyworks, a free and confidential nutrition counseling service. For more information visit

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