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Food & Drink

Ditch excess sugar and fat with these low-calorie desserts

You can still indulge your sweet tooth without piling on the pounds. Here are ways to ditch the fat and sugar-laden cakes and ice cream with these low-calorie, satisfying alternatives to traditional desserts.

Fruit
"Nature's dessert is fruit," says Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "It contains the simple sugar our brain craves, most fruit is fat-free, and fruit is loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals our body needs."

Try coring an apple and then sprinkling it with cinnamon and baking it. This will bring the sweet aroma of baking apples into your kitchen and yield a tasty dessert that is reminiscent of apple pie but lacks the extra calories.

You can also use fruit, Cool Whip or whipped cream. Another option is to freeze some grapes to create a dessert that Thayer says tastes "like little bursts of sherbet."

Yogurt
Thayer suggests making a layered fruit and yogurt parfait for dessert. Or put a twist on the banana split by using low-fat strawberry and vanilla yogurt in place of ice cream, she says. Slice the banana length-wise and then top with dollops of yogurt. You can also toast some sliced almonds to sprinkle on top.

Recipe modifications
You may be able to reduce the calorie count of some of your favorite recipes. When baking, you can substitute apple sauce for vegetable oil. If the recipe calls for one cup of oil, you can use one cup of applesauce. However, this recipe alteration will likely change the texture of your baked good, so you can substitute applesauce for 75 percent of the oil that is called for and use oil for the remaining quarter to maintain the texture. Keep in mind that applesauce is sweeter, so you might want to reduce the amount of sugar you add or use unsweetened apple sauce.

If you are craving pudding, make the instant variety with skim milk. Thayer suggests topping chocolate pudding with strawberries, raspberries or both.  

Benefits
Making healthy swaps not only helps you cut calories, Thayer says. It also means that you get more nutrients with each calorie.

Thayer explains that a one-half a cup of ice cream contains at least 150 calories, one gram of protein, 69 milligrams of calcium and 75 milligrams of potassium.

A yogurt parfait made with one-half cup of low-fat yogurt and one-half cup of fruit topped with one tablespoon of low-fat granola, on the other hand, has 125 calories, seven grams of protein, more than three times the potassium (240 milligrams) and more than five times the potassium (400 milligrams).