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Dessert spreads healthy food, yummy flavor

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Eating well doesn't mean skipping dessert.

Nature has provided fruit as an ideal way to end a meal. It's light, sweet and pretty. It's nutritious and low in calories. But sometimes you want a little something more.

One approach is to dress up the fruit. Some low-fat or nonfat yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon make a bowl of berries more attractive. The sweetness of ripe strawberries is enhanced with a bit of balsamic vinegar. To bring out all their sweetness, thread a variety of fruits on skewers and grill or broil them.

If that still doesn't seem like a real dessert, other choices get to the heart of the matter while keeping sugar and fat low and flavor high.

There are a few simple strategies to follow. Use whole-grain rather than refined flour in baking. Substitute canola oil for a saturated fat like butter. Use just enough sugar and fat to add flavor but not calories.

Crisps are a good way to eat fruit and enjoy a sweet crumbly topping. These old-fashioned desserts also provide nutrients and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, natural substances found only in plant foods.

This time of year, a crisp is a tasty way to get today's healthy apple.

And we should eat our apples. Research indicates that apples are the most concentrated food source of flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals. Flavonoids are believed to protect against cancer, heart disease and other serious health problems.

Apples also provide about 8 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.

Apple cider sweetens dessert without using sugar. Like the apples from which it is made, cider contains health-protective substances, including quercetin and other flavonoids linked to lowered risk of stomach, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers.

This apple crisp is one of many ways dessert can seem indulgent, yet have a place on even the most health-conscious menu.

This material is prepared on behalf of the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C. For prompt nutrition advice from a registered dietitian, call toll-free (800) 843-8114.

APPLE CRISP

4 apples, cored, cut in thin slices or bite-size pieces

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup apple cider

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. nutmeg

2 tbsp. oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In bowl, combine apples, raisins and apple cider. Toss well.

In another bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using pastry blender or knife and fork, cut in oil until mixture is fully blended.

Transfer apple mixture to baking dish. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over surface.

Bake, covered, in preheated oven 30 minutes. Uncover. Bake 20 minutes longer until apples are tender.

Let stand on wire rack at least 20 minutes. Cut in squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings; 205 calories, 5 g fat, 42 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 7 mg sodium and 5 g dietary fiber each.

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