01/02/2012 12:02 pm ET Updated Mar 03, 2012

Healthier Desserts That Are Tastier Than What You Might Expect? Yes, Please!

Desserts notoriously get a bad rap. When made with empty ingredients, I can see why. Sweets are usually high in calories; have little to no nutritional value; and just leave you wanting more.

Desserts get this bad rap because they are usually made from simple carbohydrates -- such as white flour and refined sugars -- which have no real nutritional value and can spike your blood sugar levels, which end up crashing later. This blood sugar instability stresses the body out and makes us think we need to eat more than we need -- which inevitably leaves us feeling dissatisfied.

Because sweets are the celebratory meal of the day, we want them to be really, really fun and really, really tasty -- so, we might ignore weird unnatural colors in frosting, or ingredients we cannot pronounce. Preservatives, chemicals, and artificial flavorings found in most packaged treats might go unnoticed, even though there are links to health issues. Desserts can also be full of unhealthy saturated fats such as loads of butter, or even hydrogenated oils and trans fats.

When you are some one with a sweet-tooth, it is hard to ignore the craving. As someone who believes in a healthy lifestyle and has an insatiable sweet-tooth, I had to find ways to create incredibly delicious but healthier indulgences. So, I threw out all of the refined ingredients I grew up baking with, and switched them for the world of truly all natural ones. Now, I only bake with whole food, unrefined ingredients -- ones that have not been stripped of their nutrients. Whole food ingredients are more nutritious than refined ones and are full of fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Here are the staples I recommend when baking healthier desserts:

  • Whole grain flours are fun to play with in recipes, as well as add an extra chewiness and nuttiness to desserts. My cabinet if full of interesting flours, such as whole wheat, oat flour, brown rice, spelt, quinoa, and corn.
  • Natural sweeteners have become my favorite ingredients to substitute for refined sugar because there are so many different tastes and kinds to choose from. Natural sweeteners include liquids like pure maple syrup, agave nectar, and brown rice syrup to crystalline sweeteners like Sucanat, date sugar, and palm sugar. These natural sweeteners are considered low glycemic and are nutrient-dense. They add moisture and depth of flavor to desserts, while not being overly sweet.
  • Healthier oils are a great substitute for butter, shortening or margarine when baking, especially if you are baking for someone who is lactose intolerant. I am obsessed with flavorless coconut oil. It bakes beautifully and has so many health benefits. The major bonus is that it is a heart-healthy saturated fat, that has zero cholesterol.

Here are some tips to start the New Year off right with healthier desserts! Celebrate more often with these unrefined ingredients at your finger tips. You'll be amazed by how fun and delicious baking with more natural alternatives can be.

I became so obsessed with healthier sweet treats, that I created a company that offers them! After perfecting my cookie dough and brownie batter, I knew I had to find a way to share them with the world. I founded Sweet Loren's ready-to-bake desserts made from unrefined, whole food ingredients. If you'd like to learn more, check out

Be sweet to yourself!