Celebrate summer with desserts made with fresh fruit. Cutting back on high-fat, sugar-laden treats, like cakes, pies and brownies is a good idea, but no one wants to skip dessert all the time. Fresh melon chunks, sliced peaches, papaya and ripe berries give your meal a nutritional bonus and satisfies the sweet tooth. Here are some ideas for combining summer fruits with low-fat ingredients to make dessert special- go heavy on the fruit and light on the extras to keep it nutritious.

Summer favorites like cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon are sweet, juicy and flavorful enough for dessert right off the vine. Adding a scoop of sorbet or sherbet to a melon wedge along with a splash of raspberry syrup or lime juice turns fresh melon into a tasty dessert. Melons are virtually fat-free, low in calories and provide a good source of vitamins A and C. With only 50 calories per cup of melon cubes, they’re a nutritional bargain.

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries signify the peak of summer sweetness. Take advantage of their vibrant color and flavor to jazz up any fruit salad, or top a dish of mixed berries with a scoop of vanilla yogurt or whipped topping for a healthy treat. Sprinkled over frozen yogurt or layered with low-fat pudding they make a beautiful and great-tasting sundae or parfait. Berries average about 60-80 calories per cup. They’re an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.

For a quick, appealing dessert surround a wedge of angel food cake with slices of fresh peaches or nectarines. Add a small scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt and top with fresh berries and a drizzle of lowfat chocolate syrup. Peaches and nectarines have only 50-65 calories each. They provide vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber.

The key to including dessert is to enjoy a treat without overloading on calories, fat and sugar. As with many things in life, moderation is key, so you’ll need to stop yourself before you overindulge. Try sensible portions; you can eat 1 slice of pie and still be in your calorie range for the day.

Not every chocolate cake or banana nut muffin is created equal. Look for desserts without a lot of butter, sugar or creamy frosting. Since feeling guilty can ruin a good meal, try some healthy alternatives instead of your “regular” desserts.  I have included a few in this post for you to try.

Desserts for everyday:

  • Low fat cookie
  • Frozen 100% juice bar
  • Fresh berries with low fat topping
  • A one ounce piece of chocolate
  • Frozen grapes
  • Angel food cake
  • Pudding made with skim milk
  • Low fat ice cream or sorbet
  • Fruit salad
  • A fresh fruit smoothie

Some tips to baking healthy desserts:

  • Egg substitutes or egg whites instead of whole eggs.
  • Use applesauce or prune puree to replace half the oil or butter when baking to add moisture into your cakes and breads without adding more fat.
  • Less sugar. A lot of recipes call for much more sugar than is needed. Cut back by 1/3. Sugar altenatives for baking are a good option also. You might even like it better.
  • Fruit-based desserts. Although you still have to be careful, these desserts often have less calories and fat than other desserts.

Baked Peaches and Blueberries with Pecan Topping

Pecan halves form a top crust and provide crisp contrast to the soft fruit. Serve warm or chilled, on its own or with a scoop of ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh berries, picked over and rinsed
  • 9 cups (loosely packed) peeled, pitted and sliced ripe peaches
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca (granulated or instant)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

Topping:

  • 1  1/4 cups rolled (old-fashioned-not instant) oats
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1  1/2 cups pecan halves

Directions:

Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F.

In a large bowl, mix together the blueberries and peaches (plus any juices they’ve released), tapioca, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish.

Combine the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Distribute the pecans on top of the fruit in the baking dish and sprinkle the oat mixture over the nuts.

Set the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch spills if the fruit bubbles over.

Bake until the fruit is tender and the juices are thickened and bubbly, 35 to 45 minutes. If the nuts begin to get too dark before the fruit is done, cover the top loosely with aluminum foil.

Set on a rack and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Frozen Raspberry Tart

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup dark chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup sugar or sugar alternative for baking
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, strawberries, and/or blueberries

Directions:

Coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray; set aside.

For crust:

In a small bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared tart pan. Set aside.

For filling:

Place raspberries in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to extract as much of the mixture as possible (you will need about 1 cup). Discard the solids.

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating about 3 minutes more or until stiff and glossy peaks form (tips stand straight).

Add about one-fourth of the egg white mixture to the raspberry mixture, whisking until smooth. Add the lightened raspberry mixture to the egg white mixture in the bowl. Using a whisk, gently fold together until no white streaks remain. Pour filling into crust; smooth the top. Cover and freeze for 8 to 24 hours.

To serve, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the sides of the tart pan. Cut into wedges. Garnish with fresh berries.

Almond-Tangerine Panna Cotta

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate or cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup tangerine sections (3 to 4 tangerines)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cherries

Directions:

Place four 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins in a shallow baking pan; set aside.

In a small saucepan stir together 3 tablespoons sugar and gelatin. Stir in milk. Heat over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Whisk in yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon of the almond extract until smooth. Pour mixture into custard cups. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours or until set.

For sauce:

in a small saucepan stir together 1 tablespoon sugar and cornstarch. Stir in pomegranate juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in tangerine sections, cherries and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Cool.

To serve:

Immerse bottom halves of custard cups in hot water for 10 seconds. Using a small sharp knife, loosen panna cotta from sides of cups. Invert a serving plate over each cup; turn plate and cup over together. Remove cups. Serve panna cotta with sauce.

Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Yield: 36 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup reduced fat butter alternative, such as Smart Balance
  • 1-8 ounce package light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar or sugar alternative for baking
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan and spray foil with cooking spray; set pan aside.

In a small saucepan stir together the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Stir in blueberries and orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

For crust:

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2 cups flour and the powdered sugar. Cut in the butter alternative until fine crumbs form and mixture starts to cling together (mixture will still be crumbly). Pat mixture firmly into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer bowl beat cream cheese, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the 1 tablespoon flour until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Pour over hot baked crust, spreading evenly. Spoon blueberry mixture in small mounds over the cheese layer. Use a thin metal spatula or table knife to marble the mixtures together.

Bake for 20 minutes more or until center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Remove uncut bars from pan by lifting foil to a cutting board.

Cut into bars and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. If desired, sift powdered sugar over bars just before serving.

Lemon-Cornmeal Pound Cake with Berries and Cream

16 servings

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or sugar alternative for baking
  • 8 tablespoon butter or reduced fat butter alternative, softened
  • 3 large eggs or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour for the pan

Topping:

  • 1  1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1  1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, optional
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour.

To prepare cake:

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour with the next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl.

Combine 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended; stir in lemon zest and vanilla.

Combine buttermilk and 3 tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl or measuring cup.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl; beat at high speed using clean, dry beaters until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of the egg whites into batter. Gently fold in remaining egg whites.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare topping:

Combine berries, honey and lemon juice. Chill 30 minutes.

Beat cream, if using, with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Serve cake with berries and cream.

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