Vegetables For Dessert?

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

We’ve always been told, “Eat your vegetables,” but did you know this could apply to your dessert too? A recent trend picking up speed is creating desserts that highlight vegetables rather than other typical sweet ingredients. And we’re talking more than just the old favorites like pumpkin pie and carrot cake. Chefs have started getting creative in the kitchen to bring you desserts that pack both a sweet and a savory punch.

Here are some ways that you and your family can start whipping up some fun, delicious, healthy recipes that star some of the planet’s most healthy ingredients—vegetables!

Make a traditional red velvet cake, but use beets in your cake—the deep color of beets won’t stand out because the cake is already red.

Make a chocolate cake that incorporates tomato puree.

Prepare brownies that include a pureed white bean or avocado in place of the oil or butter.

Whip up a pumpkin dip by combining canned pumpkin, reduced-fat cream cheese, light whipped topping, and cinnamon and nutmeg, and serve it with cut-up fruit or graham crackers.

For kids, the old standby of “Ants on a Log,” prepared with honey mixed in with the peanut butter (for sweetness), is a great way to get them to eat veggies for dessert.

Freeze up a sweet potato sorbet.

Add root vegetables, such as beets, turnips, parsnips and carrots, into your cupcakes for additional fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Create a baked veggie custard by pureeing a root vegetable of your liking and creaming it with milk, eggs, a small amount of sugar, and then baking it according to a standard custard recipe.

Add finely shredded zucchini into your blondie recipe.

Pureed cooked butternut squash makes a great addition to muffin batter.

Replace the fruit used in any “fruit crisp” recipe with your favorite summer squash, such as zucchini or yellow squash.
Prepare a traditional fruit salad made from your favorite fresh and/or frozen fruits, and top it with grated carrots for added veggie nutrition as well as beautiful orange color.

A final note: Even though these desserts incorporate vegetables and some fruits, they are still desserts, which are typically high in fat and calories regardless of any health benefit you might confer from their produce punch. So, as with all desserts, remember that it is a treat that is to be consumed every once in a while, not on a daily basis. It’s also important to continue to practice portion control.

For more information on nutrition, visit online at www.operationfoodsearch.org.