With the festive season in full swing, make the healthy choice by switching to desserts that not just satiate your dessert cravings but also do not pile up the calories.
It is that time of the year when festivities are in the air and this is the time when cheat meals come to the forefront. And desserts naturally are a big part of the celebrations. However the weighing scale post the party binge is not what will bring a smile to your face. So why not make smart choices with desserts this season so that you can binge guilt free. We tell you how.
Whenever we talk about eating healthy, foregoing desserts is what comes to mind, and with the advent of the festive season it becomes harder with such an abundance of sweets around. The key issue in most desserts is the use of processed ingredients. “The use of fresh fruit vs preserves or jams is always a good idea. If you want to go for more indulgent sweets, look for home-chefs creating small batches of such sweets and desserts. These home-chefs tend to add the least possible number of additives and use homemade, good quality ingredients,” says Saloni Kukreja, Founder, Food of Mumbai, a food blog. Chef Manoj Rawat, Executive Chef, Hilton Garden Inn, Gurgaon Baani Square adds, “we often use ingredients like low fat yoghurt, soya milk, makhana, daliya (broken wheat), jaggery, sesame seeds, quinoa, chia seeds, less sugar in desserts, use of fresh fruit juices as sweetener.” Incorporating healthy ingredients like unrefined sugar, fruits, whole grains etc. can turn a dessert into a guilt free delight. “Many people use a lot of artificial sweeteners in desserts which are not required at all, using things like stevia or organic jaggery or even date syrup is just perfect to replace sugar in your desert. You can even replace it with fruits (banana/mango) that are naturally sweet,” says Vanshika Puri, The French Affair. We live in an era where people have become conscious of what they consume and rightly so. “The fact that there is a demand for healthy products and substitutes, its supply is in plenty. Desserts can be given a healthier twist with use of simple substitutes, example dark chocolate for sweeter onea, healthier sweeteners in place of sugar like stevia and play of dry fruits,” says Chef Rohan, Culinary Director, Silver Beach Hospitality.
In olden days, long before processed foods entered the food chain, we used whole foods and natural sources of sweeteners. When we become mindful of what we eat, we become mindful of how we cook it too. Try substituting refined flours with alternate flours, such as whole wheat, millets flour and buckwheat flour Likewise preparing desserts with yogurt instead of heavy cream is a good idea. It is natural and slight tartness adds an interesting contrast and balance to the sweetness of the overall dessert. “Dry fruit laddoos are a great example; made with ghee (which is beneficial for the body in cold weather) and using dates and figs for binding, makes it one of the healthiest sweets. Wheat kheer is my favourite too, that also reminds me of winters back in our farm. Freshly ground wheat flour works best for this. The flour is roasted in ghee, mixed with boiled milk and tastes simply divine. Cane sugar Brown rice kheer is another favourite, using natural cane sugar while brown rice provides healthy carbs and fibre,” says Chef Ranveer Brar, Brand Ambassador, Parag Milk Foods. Jitendra Awasthi, Junior Sous Pastry Chef, The Westin Mumbai Garden City adds, “there are numerous examples where a simple approach of opting for the least cooking option combined with right ingredient results to a healthy and nutritive creation. With healthy eating becoming a lifestyle, people are opting for multigrain energy bars and flourless cookies as gifts during the festive season.”
Twist of Health
Healthy desserts are gaining more popularity nowadays, the use of alternative flours like coconut flour and almond flour are way healthier than refined flour and they taste really good too. However it does take some effort to make the shift. Rebekah Blank, Brand Head at Fabcafe by Fabindia avers, “it certainly takes some trial and error. Some ideas just never work out and some are amazing from the beginning. I love creating a dessert around a healthy fruit or vegetable, like a banana cake around bananas or a carrot cake around carrots and apples, usually desserts that have their root in something natural come out quite well.” Eating healthy should be about enjoying everything in a balanced fashion. “This festive season we have introduced Mithai Boxes which are created using the freshest, wholesome, natural and non-refined ingredients with our knowledge of combining these in a simplistic manner to satiate your cravings this Diwali. The specially curated box of Plant-Based sweets Made with Jaggery, Khandsari sugar and lots of love to brighten up your day,” says Pallavii Gupta, Partner, Santé Spa Cuisine. Using all natural ingredients with no artificial colouring and preservatives is the key. “Taste we usually find is appreciated by our audience as long as the sweetness is coming in what you are eating we have achieved our goal. The challenge is the pricing. Because we don’t cut corners for our ingredients and give the best quality in its natural form, the cost increases which consumers hesitate to pay,” says Malika Suri, Founder Mimansa at Foxtrot. Chef Ajay Markan, Corporate Chef, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts adds “we have different types of healthy seeds (Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, melon seeds) available which can enhance the nutritive value of the dishes, also there are lot of local grains available which can replace refined flours like Ragi flour and Nachni flour.”
Whether you are eating desserts after dinner or as an afternoon treat, it can be a part of a balanced diet as long as one pays attention to portion sizes and also opting for healthier options. It is a good habit to read the nutrition levels to choose the ingredients that provide some nutrients. It is always advisable to go natural with desserts. Usage of probiotic products makes an excellent choice of ingredients for desserts. Introduce more of nutrient- dense dessert options made with whole food ingredients. “Strawberry coconut chia seed banana bread can be made with healthy ingredients like organic strawberries, chia seeds, Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond and coconut milk with finger millet and water chestnut flour. Zucchini brownies can be made with sustainably grown zucchinis with a combination of dark chocolate with multigrain mix,” says Chef Yash Mathur, Executive Sous Chef, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway. Festivals are always a time for indulgence and considering that everyone likes to finish on a sweet note, those are the biggest contributors to calories. “We use a lot of natural products as opposed to artificial sweetening or colouring. We have a special gluten free Orange Cake which is fresh, aromatic and zesty, and has now become a favourite of guests. Not only is the cake made without flour, but the colour and flavour comes from slow boiling the orange peel over time to extract the essence out of the mixture. A great example of a truly natural, and guilt free dessert,” opines Chef Calvet, Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru.
Healthy desserts however do not mean a compromise on their taste or integrity of the recipe. This is best achieved when you understand the characteristic of chosen ingredients and accordingly play with alternative ingredients. Chef Santhanam S, Executive Pastry Chef, Radisson Blu Atria, Bengaluru avers, “while making desserts we prepare some classic combination desserts with quinoa that can be easily replaced with Whole Ragi, Broken Wheat or event with broken rice. Our flourless chocolate cake for instance is best for gluten allergens.” One of the key propositions while making a healthy dessert is to pick the ingredients which are nationally balanced and then comes the check on the calorie count. Manish Uniyal, Head Chef, Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore explains, “with the market nowadays flooded with healthy food options it is not very difficult to choose the right ingredient for your dessert, applying the correct cooking techniques are important to keep the goodness of ingredients intact.” Matcha Green tea for instance, adds a healthy twist on traditional ice cream and is infused with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals like potassium, zinc and magnesium. “Additionally, consuming matcha is also associated with enhanced cognitive function, better metabolism, and improved cardiovascular health, among other things. Matcha goes very well with desserts and can be blended with chocolates,” says Chef Sahil Singh, Head Chef – Modern Pan Asian cuisine, Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. So this festive season make the right choice and indulge your sweet tooth – albeit with a healthy twist.
Maple Cinnamon Apple Sauce Recipe (Courtesy: Sheriyar Rustom Dotivala, Executive Chef, The Resort Mumbai)
- 3 apples (sweet red apple)
- 3 Granny Smith
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
- A dash of sea salt
- Peel, core and chop the apples into 2-inch chunks. In a heavy, saucepan over medium heat, combine the apple chunks, maple syrup, cinnamon and lemon juice. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the apples have softened up a bit.
- Take off the lid of the saucepan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to break up the larger chunks, until the apples are soft but still have some texture (5 to 10 minutes).
- Remove the saucepan from heat and, if necessary, add more maple syrup, cinnamon or lemon juice, to taste. Serve warm or chilled; let it cool to room temperature before storing it in the fridge.
This story first appeared in Smartlife Magazine’s Nov 2019 issue here: