Healthy Desserts? Try These Fruit Recipes

Healthy Fruit Dessert Recipes

Try these recipe makeovers for guilt-free fruit goodies.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

What's not to like about fruit for dessert? You've got "something sweet" and at the same time you're getting a serving of fruit, complete with fiber and health-promoting vitamins and phytochemicals. But how often do we sit down to just a bowl of fruit for dessert?

Think of our favorite fruit desserts, like strawberry shortcake, fruit crisps and cobblers, fruit pies and tarts, upside down cake -- they're anything but low-calorie. Yes, we do like our fruit, but we love it dipped in chocolate, topped with ice cream or whipped cream, or layered with pastry crust or cake.

The good news is that there are some easy ways to instantly make your favorite fruit dessert recipes healthier. Check out some of these ingredient switches:

  • Make your dessert "a la mode" with a cookie scoop (1/4 cup) of light or low-fat ice cream instead of a 1/2-cup scoop of full-fat ice cream. You'll save 130 calories, 10.5 grams fat, 6.6 grams saturated fat, 59 milligrams cholesterol, and 8 grams carbohydrate.
  • Add a small dollop (1/8 cup) of light whipped cream instead of a big plop of heavy whipping cream (1/2 cup). You'll save 162 calories, 17.5 grams fat, 11 grams saturated fat, and 65 milligrams cholesterol.
  • Serve your fresh fruit atop a slice of angel food cake (weighing 50 grams per slice) instead of buttery pound cake (85 grams per slice). You'll save 95 calories, 14 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 80 milligrams cholesterol, and 16 grams carbohydrate.
  • When your pie recipe calls for dotting butter or margarine on top of the filling or on top of the crust, just skip this step. You'll save 100 calories, 11.5 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, and 30 milligrams cholesterol for every tablespoon of butter you leave out.
  • Reduce the sugar called for in any fruit dessert recipe by 25%. Sometimes you can cut the sugar even further, by 1/3 or half, depending on the recipe. You'll save 49 calories and 12.5 grams carbohydrate for every tablespoon of sugar you cut.
  • Don't add oil or melted butter to cake mixes. There's already about 4 grams of fat per serving of dry mix. Add something liquid but low in calories instead, like fat-free sour cream, applesauce, strong coffee, or light yogurt. You'll save 54 calories, 6 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat per serving (if the cake mix calls for 1/3 cup of oil and makes 12 servings).
  • Instead of a two-crust pie, opt for a fruit crisp topped with an oatmeal crumb mixture. (For even more calorie savings, use a healthier crumb topping recipe with more fiber and less sugar.) You'll save 100 calories, 10 grams fat, 2.5 grams saturated fat (if you enjoy a serving of our Apple Pie Crisp (see below) instead of a small slice of apple pie.)

To demonstrate these makeover tips, here are four recipes for healthy (or at least healthier) fruit desserts.

Light Berry Dump Cake

To make half of a recipe, use a 9 x 9-inch square baking dish, 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of cake mix, and half the amount called for of the remaining ingredients. Baking time will be about the same.

3 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or use partially thawed frozen ones)
3 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (or partially thawed frozen ones)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 (18.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix
6 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1 teaspoon butter extract (optional)
Canola cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the inside of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray.
  2. Combine blueberries, blackberries, cinnamon, and powdered sugar in large bowl. Spoon evenly into the prepared baking dish. Cover the mixture evenly with the dry cake mix.
  3. Combine fat-free sour cream, fat-free half-and-half and butter extract (if desired) in a medium bowl with whisk or pulse until smooth in a food processor or blender. Drizzle mixture evenly over the top of the cake mix in the prepared baking dish (do not stir). Coat the top generously with canola cooking spray.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve warm or cold. If you cut the short end of the pan into 3 columns and the long end of the pan into 6 columns, you'll make 18 servings.

Yield: Makes 18 servings

Nutrition Information: Per serving: 169 calories, 2 g protein, 33 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 208 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

Quick Lemon Custard With Fresh Fruit Topping

1 box (4 servings) instant sugar-free lemon pudding
1 1/2 cups cold 1% low-fat milk (or skim milk)
1 cup vanilla yogurt (whatever type you prefer, light or low-fat)
1-1 1/2 cups fresh fruit, sliced (or whole blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries)


  1. Pour cold milk into mixing bowl. Sprinkle pudding powder over the top. Beat on medium- low speed, scraping sides at least once, for 2 minutes or until well blended.
  2. Add yogurt and beat on medium-low briefly to blend.
  3. Spoon evenly into 4 dessert dishes (about 1/2 cup each). Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Right before serving, top with fresh fruit.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information: Per serving (using low-fat vanilla yogurt): 138 calories, 6 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fat, 0.9 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 378 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 11%.

Strawberry Pie

9-inch pie crust, baked (use whole wheat if available)
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups sliced strawberries, firmly packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 4 drops red food coloring (optional)
4 cups whole strawberries, trimmed of tops and rinsed and dried well
8 dollops of light whipped cream or similar (optional)


  1. Bake pie crust as directed on the package (be sure to prick several times with a fork before baking.)
  2. While pie crust is baking, prepare the strawberry syrup. In small bowl, combine water with cornstarch; set aside. Pour sliced strawberries into medium nonstick saucepan and mash well with potato masher. Stir in the sugar and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Gradually stir cornstarch mixture into strawberry mixture. Reduce heat to low and simmer until nicely thickened, stirring constantly (about 5 minutes.) Let cool.
  3. Arrange whole strawberries in the baked, cooled pie crust. Pour mixture evenly over berries in the piecrust. Chill for several hours before serving. Serve each slice of pie with a dollop of light whipped cream, if desired.

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Nutrition Information: Per serving: 222 calories, 2 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 6.4 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 147 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 26%.

Apple Pie Crisp

With the wonderful crumb topping, you'll hardly notice there isn't any crust.


Crisp Topping:
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons no-trans-fat margarine with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon, melted (melt in microwave or small saucepan)
3 tablespoons maple syrup, pancake syrup, or light pancake syrup

4 cups cored and thinly sliced apples (pippin and Granny Smith work well), firmly packed
1/4 cup sugar (or substitute 2 tablespoons Splenda)
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
2 tablespoons unbleached flour


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9x9-inch baking dish, 9-inch cake pan, or deep-dish pie plate with canola cooking spray.
  2. Toast the walnuts by spreading on a pie plate and heating in oven until fragrant (about 7 minutes). Chop the nuts medium-fine.
  3. Combine the flours, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the melted margarine and maple syrup over the top and blend on LOW speed until crumbly. Add the chopped nuts and mix well. (The topping can be prepared up to a week ahead and refrigerated).
  4. Put the sliced apples in a large bowl. Add the sugar and apple pie spice to a 1-cup measure, then pour over the apples and toss. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the apples and mix gently. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  5. Spoon the topping over the apples, pressing down lightly. Place the dish on a baking sheet (if necessary) to catch any overflow. Bake on the center rack of oven until the topping is golden brown and the juices have thickened slightly, about 35-45 minutes.
  6. Serve warm with light vanilla ice cream.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition Information: Per serving (using Take Control margarine): 227 calories, 4 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fat (0.7 g saturated fat, 2.7 g monounsaturated fat, 3.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 35 mg sodium, 1 g Omega-3 fatty acids, 4 g 0mega-6 fatty acids. Calories from fat: 35%

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2008 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Published April 25, 2008.



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