Healthy Dessert Ideas for Kids

Thursday, August 9, 2007 - 6:07pm

By Karen Crawford, MS, RD, CSP

Kids and sweets, more times than not, go hand-in-hand. Some kids make it their daily mission to score a cookie; they will go to great lengths to get their little hands on something sweet. They use their charm, their witty personality, and sometimes a step stool to reach the top shelf of the pantry. My husband was convinced as a child that sweets were purposely packaged in a noisy cellophane wrapper so that his grandmother could hear him sneaking them between meals. The good news is desserts do not have to be high in calories and fat in order for your kids to enjoy them.

Know that you do have a choice when it comes to desserts for your children. Below are several popular desserts, a healthy alternative to them, and the nutritional benefits of making the switch. Trust me: Your kids will not be able to tell the difference, especially the younger ones. If there is a protest by older kids, well, I bet they warm up to the alternative when the third option is none at all!

Easy Alternatives that Your Kids Will Love

Typical Dessert

Healthy Alternative

Nutrition Benefit

Helpful Tip

Ice Cream

Frozen Yogurt*

70 less calories and 4 grams more protein

Comes in a variety of flavors, even chocolate!

Milk Chocolate

Dark Chocolate**

30 less calories and packed with antioxidants

The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa. A bar with 70% cocoa has the health benefits without tasting bitter.

Hard Candy

Dried, fresh or frozen fruit

Loaded with vitamins and minerals

Dried and frozen fruit contain the same great nutrients as fresh fruit but are available year round.

Pies or Cakes

Dark Chocolate-Covered Strawberries or Bananas

Antioxidants in the dark chocolate and vitamins and minerals in the fruit

Chocolate-covered fruit is simple and easy to make. Recipes can be found in most cookbooks or on the Internet. Just replace the milk chocolate with dark.

*Haagen-dazs Vanilla

**Hershey's Special Dark

Still not convinced your children will go for it? Here are a few more ideas:

  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese and canned fruit (canned in it's own juice, never light or heavy syrup)
  • Skim milk with sugar-free chocolate or strawberry syrup
  • Sugar-free hot cocoa
  • Sugar-free JELLO
  • Home made popsicles, made with sugar-free juice or Kool-Aid.

Recipe Tricks

Altering a recipe can really make a positive nutritional difference and is easy to do. Try one or more of the following:

  • Cut the amount of sugar in half. Typically recipes call for way too much sugar. Our sugar acuity continues to go up and up as manufactures raise the sweetness of their products. It may take a little getting use to but you and your family will adjust to things not being so sweet. They may even taste better!
  • Replace white flour with whole wheat flour in cookie, cake, and pie recipes. The whole wheat flour has at lease twice the amount of fiber as white flour and works just as well.
  • Exchange 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg. This will reduce the amount of fat and calories in the recipe.


Desserts are certainly not something that your kids need after every meal or even every day. How often you offer your child a dessert is up to you. But following the tips above will help to ensure that their desserts are still part of a healthy and well-balanced diet.