We’re Stealing This RD’s Secret To Making Desserts Way Healthier

Photo: Gina Paulson

If you’re anything like me, you didn’t grow up eating as healthy as you may eat now. My journey toward a healthier lifestyle truly began when I became more familiar with my kitchen. As I started experimenting with different recipes, it became apparent that each ingredient played a unique role in nourishing my body.

Cooking is now a staple in my life and is one of my favorite ways to bring people together. To me, sharing a home-cooked meal is only half the fun. Being able to cook together is the best way to spend time with those you love and care about. It’s also the first thing I recommend to my clients who are in search of living a healthier lifestyle.

Photo: Gina Paulson

Whenever I have guests over for dinner, I’ll have them help me in the kitchen by putting the final touches on the desserts. I enjoy making simple swaps to classic recipes and waiting until after my guests have tried the dish to tell them how healthy it actually was. Once people realize they won’t be giving up cheesecake, popcorn, and ice cream, the whole idea of being healthy is a lot less overwhelming.

I’m a sucker for a good dessert—one that’s refined-sugar-free, easy to make, and tastes like the real thing. The secret to seriously cutting sugar and other unhealthy ingredients out of dessert? Spices. Some spices, like cinnamon, actually trick your tongue into thinking the food you’re eating is sweeter. All spices add a ton of flavor, so you won’t even miss the eliminated sweetness.

My Dressed-Up Popcorn is so easy to throw together with friends or family and is so fun to customize using different toppings (basically, I grab whatever is in the pantry!). My favorites include coconut oil, cinnamon, a few pieces of dark chocolate, and coconut chips. My most recent dessert of choice has to be these incredible Raw Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares. There’s no baking required, and they’re a perfect seasonal alternative to pumpkin pie or classic cheesecake.

Raw Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

Photo: Gina Paulson

Makes 16 squares

Ingredients, Crust

Ingredients, Filling

Method

  1. Soak dates and cashews in warm water (separate bowls) for 3 to 4 hours. Set cashews aside. Remove pits from dates, drain, and add to high-powered blender or food processor along with remaining crust ingredients. Pulse until well-combined.
  2. Lay parchment paper in 9-by-9-inch cake tin, allowing it to fold out over the sides in order to pull cheesecake out later on.
  3. Press crust mixture into base of cake tin until evenly spread out.
  4. Combine coconut milk and drained cashews in the blender to blend on high for 3 minutes until smooth. Add remaining filling ingredients and blend for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Pour filling over the crust in cake tin. Place in freezer for 1 hour, then remove and let defrost for 10 to 12 minutes. Lift parchment paper from either side to remove entire cheesecake. Lay on cutting board to cut into 1- to 2-inch squares.
  6. Store in airtight container in freezer. When ready to eat, remove from freezer to let defrost about 5 to 10 minutes (best when slightly frozen). Enjoy!

Dressed-Up Popcorn

Photo: Gina Paulson

Ingredients, Popcorn

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons popcorn kernels

Toppings

Method

  1. Heat coconut oil in medium-size pot until warm.
  2. Add kernels and cover with lid.
  3. Shake pot so kernels are distributed evenly in the oil.
  4. Heat on medium-high, shaking pot occasionally until kernels start to pop.
  5. Allow kernels to continue popping. Once the popping slows down to every few seconds, remove from burner and pour in large bowl.
  6. Add toppings and mix until well-combined.

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