February 11, 2019
Posted in: Baking & Pastry

Better-for-you desserts are increasing in popularity

Desserts are, at their core, an indulgence. As many who enjoy these treats and aspiring and current students at online pastry arts schools can attest, this final course plays an important role in many meals. From the wide range of sweet flavors to the anesthetic enjoyment of a well-crafted dish and the value of an occasional reward, desserts fill many important roles, both for those who create and serve menus and the diners who eat them.

Now, the rise of more health-conscious eating habits, whether at home, eating out or while making a quick stop at a restaurant or bakery for takeout, has added a unique spin to these often rich and filling foods. The influence of the better-for-you concept has generated new variations of these treats, allowing both for more experimentation with flavor and texture and the ability to better connect with potential customers.

A group of sandwich cookies.Better-for-you desserts – like gluten-free alfajores – can come from many different sources of inspiration.

What are better-for-you desserts?

Nation's Restaurant News pointed to the inclusion of nutrient-rich superfoods in desserts, whether as a foundational component or accompaniment, as a rising trend. There's no strict definition of what this type of dessert involves, however. A better-for-you dessert can simply be a dish that de-emphasizes high concentrations of fat, refined sugar and the resultant calories for a more balanced but no less delicious final product.

Effective examples of delicious but less-indulgent desserts

For superfood-focused dishes, NRN pointed to sweetened dessert hummus, which includes ingredients like chocolate and cookie dough along with the traditional chickpea and oil base. Toppings, mix-ins and garnishes like toasted or puffed quinoa, fresh seasonal berries, chia seeds, grain-free granola and other foods commonly seen in health-focused foods are also powerful additions to a wide variety of foods. Bakers need to draw on their education and experience to find opportunities to either build entirely new dishes or incorporate such ingredients into existing ones.

There are many more traditional dishes that can, with just a few changes or even none at all, fit into the better-for-you category. Tarts and shortcakes that go easy on additional sugar and fat while focusing on fresh fruit are two simple examples – they require few major changes and are already in the arsenal of many pastry chefs. Dessert salads – like the Watergate salad seen here and the various concoctions that go by names like "ambrosia" – can be made more healthy by emphasizing fresh fruits and nuts and minimizing the inclusion of canned fruits in heavy syrup, candy pieces and other ingredients that are similarly heavy in refined sugar.

In some cases, the marketing and appearance of a better-for-you dessert can be just as important as the actual ingredients. Be sure to highlight the inclusion of superfoods and overall nutritional profiles that may appeal more to fitness-focused and health-conscious customers, who may not be accustomed to finding such ingredients and nutritional content in desserts. Of course, you'll often want the dessert to appeal to other types of customers as well. In these cases, consider highlighting flavors and comparing the dish to more well-known ones while also noting the presence of healthier ingredients.

Working successfully with this trend

A better-for-you dessert taps into an enduring food trend that focuses on healthy eating while still providing a sweet treat at the end of a meal or as a standalone snack. From tinkering with existing recipes to create a more health-conscious approach to finding inspiration from a wide variety of other chefs and restaurants tapping into this trend, there are many avenues to explore. No matter where you draw your inspiration from, let us help you develop the skills to become a top-flight pastry chef through a flexible, effective online program.