Ten healthy, delicious alternatives to sweets

  • Craving something sweet, but want to eat healthier?
  • Snacks can be part of a healthy lifestyle as long as they are not overly processed
  • Our dietitians have some yummy suggestions

Who doesn't enjoy the occasional sweet treat? The problem is that “occasional” easily becomes “more often than not”. 

The consumption of foods high in sugar has increased over the years, and the variety of sweet treats is greater today than ever before. We're all familiar with the adverse health consequences of consuming too many sugary foods, but the temptation to indulge is always present. 

We tend to overlook that sugary snacks often replace more nutrient-dense foods, which provide us with the energy and essential nutrients we need to support metabolic processes and, in children, needed for growth and development.

As a healthy diet should be based on unprocessed wholesome nutrient-dense foods, the examples below offer a healthy alternative to the sweets or chocolates we love to reach for.  

1. Blueberries covered in frozen yoghurt

Freezing preserves the nutrients of fresh fruit when it is fully ripened before frozen.

 You will need

  • ½ cup of blueberries
  • ½ cup of low-fat plain yoghurt

Method

1. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.

2. Place a toothpick in a blueberry and dip it into the yoghurt, making sure it is fully coated.

3. Place the yoghurt-covered blueberries on the baking sheet.

4. Freeze overnight and enjoy as a delicious, healthy treat.

2.  Apple and cinnamon date balls (makes 14–16)

You will need

  • 1½ cups pitted dates
  • 50g raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried apple rings
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

Method

1.  Blend all ingredients except the desiccated coconut in a food processor until well combined.

2. Scoop one tablespoon of the mixture at a time into your hands and shape into compact balls.

3. Roll the balls in the desiccated coconut and set aside.

4. Repeat until all of the mixture is used. It should yield 14 to 16 balls. 

5. Leave to set in the fridge for one hour before serving.

3. Honey-roasted nuts

Nuts provide healthy unsaturated fats which promote heart health.

You will need

  • 3 cups unsalted mixed nuts
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • a pinch of salt

Method

1. Prepare a baking pan with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

2. Place the nuts in a bowl and coat with the oil, honey and salt

3. Spread the coated nuts in a baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir, and bake for another 10 minutes until golden in colour. 

4. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the nuts into a bowl and stir, otherwise they will stick together in chunks. 

5. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.  Enjoy 20g of nuts as a healthy treat.

4. Strawberries covered in dark chocolate

Dark chocolate-covered strawberries are another way to reap the benefits of antioxidants in cocoa as well as the berries. Simply dip some fresh strawberries in melted dark chocolate. Place them on wax paper and freeze for 15 minutes. 

5.  Homemade trail mix

Prepare your own trail mix by combining unsalted mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, and dried mango pieces. Divide portions of 30g into separate containers for a quick, filling snack on the run. 

6. Apple slices with peanut butter

Spread a tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter on slices of apple for a satisfying, sweet, crunchy snack. 

7. Baked pear with cinnamon

Preheat your oven at 160 degrees Celsius. Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on sliced pears and bake for 10 minutes for a warm, comforting snack.

8. Fresh pineapple with mild curry spice

It may sound strange, but the combination of a slight dusting of mild curry spice over freshly sliced pineapple is a rather refreshing, sweet, and nutritious snack. Try it and decide for yourself. 

9. 'Nice-cream'

Nice cream is a fruit-based ice cream, where you can make different blends of frozen fruit with additions such as peanut butter and different milks, and then freeze the mix.

Strawberry banana nice cream

  • 1 banana, peeled and frozen
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 2 tbsp almond milk

Blend all ingredients together and refreeze. 

10. Fruit lollipops

Homemade lollipops offer the benefits of fruit without added sugar or artificial ingredients. Simply blend any fruit with water or milk. You can also use yoghurt for a creamier texture. Pour the mixture into lollipop moulds and freeze overnight. 

Choose one or two of these sweet treats and keep them on hand for snack time. Some of them can also be used for a surprise in a school or work lunchbox. 

READ | 5 steps to create healthy school lunchboxes

READ | How to eat healthy on a budget 

READ | 5 tips for eating healthier during the coronavirus lockdown

Image credit: Lisa Fotios from Pexels