By Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian
Fruit forward desserts brighten every season. Bold hues of red and purple delight in berry sorbets, a burst of citrus adds zing to fruit tarts, and the velvety smooth bite of baked peach and apple bring comforting warmth to cobblers, crisps, and bars. Fruit forward desserts make our senses sing while delivering a full serving of fruit, just a bit of sugar, and a symphony of health benefits.
We can all say “yes” to a treat that brings us closer to the fruit goal (1 ½ – 2 cups for adults) each day. Fruit is naturally sweet, which means a fruit forward dessert can contain less sugar and fewer calories, satisfying our sweet tooth without challenging our waistline. It gets sweeter—fruits provide many essential nutrients like potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure; dietary fiber, which satisfies hunger and reduces cholesterol levels; and important vitamins, like antioxidant vitamin C, necessary for the healthy growth and repair of body cells and tissues. A one-cup serving of red raspberries, for example, packs 36% Daily Value of dietary fiber, 60% Daily Value of vitamin C, and has only 80 calories. Eating fruit may also help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
While there’s nothing quite like preparing and enjoying fruit forward desserts with the season’s fresh offerings, preserved fruits—whether frozen, canned, or dried—hold their own in flavor and nutrition. Best of all, they’re irresistible! Try these simple ways to include more fruit-forward desserts.
- Crisp with Whole Grain Topping
Crisps are a simple way to showcase your favorite fruits, whether fresh, frozen, or preserved. All it takes is fruit topped and baked with a few quality ingredients. Fill a baking dish half to three-quarters full with sliced fruit or whole berries (fresh or frozen). Add a squeeze of lemon juice for balance, a drizzle of 100% fruit juice, and a couple of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla. While this combination may be sweet enough for most palates, you can add a spoonful of sweetener, such as brown sugar or honey if desired. Mix a 3:1:1 ratio of oats, whole grain flour, and brown sugar with cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger, a dash of salt, and about a quarter cup melted margarine. Add chopped nuts—walnuts, almonds, or pecans—if you’d like. Add just enough water so mixture just comes together. Crumble over the fruit and bake until golden and tender. For an uber easy recipe, try this Red Raspberry Crisp.
- Fruit Bars
Fruit bars deliver smiles, nutrition, and energy on the go. Finger foods are always a hit and this one won’t disappoint. Press a mixture of dried, fresh or frozen fruits tossed with whole grain cereal, nuts, oats, honey and nut butter into a baking dish and bake about 25 minutes. Cut into bars that deliver a nutritious dose of energy on the go. Frozen red raspberries are ideal in fruit bars. Not only is chopping unnecessary, but they are flash frozen at peak ripeness, preserving all the nutrients we crave. My vegan Red Raspberry Crumble Bars, made with frozen raspberries, oats, hemp seeds and almond milk, are as tasty as they are nutritious.
- Fruit Parfaits.
The parfait is personalized perfection, built exactly to order! And it’s so quick and fun to assemble. Using a clear glass or dessert bowl, layer cut or frozen fruit, plain or vanilla yogurt, nuts, granola, or any other favorite ingredients, repeating as desired. Check out this fun take on a fruit parfait: Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake Parfaits.
- Freeze It!
Sorbet is fruit forward at its best. With just two ingredients—frozen fruit and a bit of sugar—it’s like eating a cool, dressed up version of pure berry, peach, or whatever your fruit pleasure. Puree all ingredients in a blender and freeze until ready to enjoy. This simple Red Raspberry Whole Fruit Sorbet is an easy recipe to get your started. Pour the puree into popsicle molds for a handy version. You also can add plain Greek yogurt (dairy or non-dairy, as desired) to make a quick frozen yogurt. Delish!
Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.