Parents can satisfy a child’s sweet tooth without a plate of empty calories. A carefully chosen dessert can deliver nutrients such as fiber and calcium and still be tasty.
According to data from the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), less than 3 percent of children get enough fiber. In processed food such as refined baked goods, much of the plant’s natural fiber has been removed, as opposed to whole-grain items, where fiber remains.
Many children, especially preteen girls, also fall short of getting enough calcium, according to NHANES data.
Dessert can be another opportunity to get those nutrients, by using whole grains, fruits, and dairy products. A bonus is that many of the ingredients are pantry and refrigerator staples, including oats, popcorn, yogurt, and fresh and dried fruit.
“People are trying to be efficient with their food purchases, and this way people can look at what they already have,” said Ellie Wilson, senior nutritionist with Price Chopper and Market 32 supermarkets.
When feeding children, portion size is key, Wilson said. “One thing to recognize is that children have small stomachs.”
A 4-oz. – half a cup — smoothie or yogurt with whole-grain cereal and dried fruit is a perfectly sized dessert for a young child, Wilson said. Whole-grain waffles make good desserts when combined with peanut butter and fruit, she said.
Airpopped popcorn, without all the butter and salt, can be made into a healthy dessert too.
“Popcorn is a whole grain. You can mix that up with some dried fruit and make a popcorn dessert, a popcorn trail mix,” Wilson said.
And fruit is nature’s dessert. Mango, which parents can buy pre-cut to save time, is popular with children, Wilson said. Those desserts all can be whipped up in a few minutes. Parents who have a little more time to spend can look into quickbread recipes that incorporate vegetables, including zucchini, squash or yam.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a downloadable recipes for pineapple-zucchini cake and an orange-banana frosty.