By Brie Staker
Full disclosure-I love sweets. I consider chocolate to be its own food group and have its own block on the food pyramid. I keep a chocolate stash in my house at all times for emergency purposes. I cling to those reports of dark chocolate being good for you as a catalyst to justify my obsession (it’s full of antioxidants after all). With that said, I learned years ago that running does not equate to eating whatever you want, and I am obsessed with learning about nutrition. I lap up podcasts, books, articles, documentaries, etc., on nutrition and food health. Outside of running cooking and baking are my favorite hobbies. I love nothing more than to spend a whole Sunday in the kitchen. My quest for healthier options without compromising my dessert obsession has led me to discover that you really can have your cake and eat it too (within reason of course). I have discovered that you can make a chocolate cake so decadent and rich and creamy and delicious that is made with…are you ready for this…sweet potato and banana (for real)! You can make brownies out of black beans and frosting out of avocado. AND if you don’t tell anyone, they are none the wiser.
So, as we approach the season where bleached nutrient depleted flours and processed refined sugar is king, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite healthy-dessert recipes. You can decide for yourself if you want to give into the sugar highs of the next few months or eat that cake knowing you’re really eating vegetables rich in fiber and nutrient goodness that will fuel you instead of crash you. Happy baking!
1. Healthy Vegan Chocolate Cake by Katie Adams of Lemons and Leggings:
This is that super yummy chocolate cake I mentioned that’s made out of sweet potato. It’s SO good! I’ve got some in my refrigerator right now, and I will definitely be having a piece tonight. When I eat it, I have to remind myself that it’s not a million calories because it tastes like I should feel guilty.
2. Almond Butter Date Candy Bites by Lottie of Running on Veggies:
I have been making these for years. They taste like a Snickers candy bar, and I have not yet met one person that didn’t like them (and I’ve fed these to a lot of people). They’re super-fast to whip up, and I like to cut them into small bite sized-pieces for a quick and easy treat.
3. Easy Chocolate Bark by Cookie & Kate:
Cookie and Kate is one of my go-to sites for recipes, and I LOVE her cookbook, Love Real Food. This chocolate bark checks all the boxes of holiday treats with easy good-for-you ingredients.
4. Protein Chocolate Fudge by Lottie of Running Veggies:
This fudge is delicious and another one that I have made many, many times. Oh, and surprise(!), it’s made with black beans. You can sub in your favorite protein powder, I’m partial to Health Warrior’s chocolate protein powder.
5. Salted Caramel Chocolate Turtles by Running on Veggies:
Yeah, these look amazing. I haven’t made them yet, but I’m certain they’ll be as delicious as all her other recipes have proven to be. I could list out pages of her recipes I’ve made…but I’ll spare you that. She’s a go-to in a runner’s kitchen and was Kara Goucher’s personal cook for awhile.
6. Protein Buckeye Balls by Running on Veggies:
Ohio is my home state. I was born and raised there and lived there until my late twenties. In Ohio, the Buckeye State as it’s known, making Buckeyes over the holiday season is a must. My mom and I would make Buckeyes every Christmas without fail—but we made the version loaded with powdered sugar, plus a little dab of sugar, a smidge (read: a lot) of butter, and probably more sugar. But back then, the internet did not exist, so there was no magic Google to search for a healthier option of anything. Dessert was just bad (but oh so good). Buckeyes are my favorite, that chocolate peanut butter combination gets me every.single.time. I was elated when I stumbled across a way to make this treat using good for me ingredients. There are a lot of healthy variations on the Buckeye now, and you do have the power of Google at your fingertips to find them, but this one from RunonVeg is another favorite of mine.
Some of my other healthy but decadent dessert recipes hail from good ol’ hard copy cookbooks. So, I can’t share a link to those but if you’re interested dust off that library card and check out Run Fast.Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky, as well its sequel Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat slow. Another favorite is The Plant Power Way by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt. A few weeks ago, I made a super yummy pumpkin pie from The Plant Power Way, which is made out of tofu—for real tofu! And those who tasted it only had positive things to say about it.
I hope you enjoy some good treats this holiday season and sneak in a couple of healthier options. As a sweet tooth chocoholic, I promise you these are all delicious. Happy Holidays!