Ah, dessert - the not-so-healthy-but-definitely-delicious apple of nearly everyone's eye. Folks who don't have at least a little bit of a sweet tooth come few and far between, and we all know the feeling of sitting down to a plate of our favorite dessert and thinking to ourselves, "How much should I eat?" While it's totally true that everything can be enjoyed in moderation, it can be a fun challenge to try new ways to make desserts healthier. Read on for simple tips and tricks on how to add much-needed nutrients to your favorite sweet treats!

Say Yes To Seeds

cereal, corn, wheat, pasture, groats, sesame seed
Amy Yi

Now, this might sound a little weird, but hear me out, because adding seeds to your sweet treats is one sure-fire way to make your desserts healthier. Not only can seeds add a fun texture to your baked goods, they come packed with nutrients. Flax and chia seeds ("ch-ch-ch-chia!") are perfect examples: Flaxseeds are full of antioxidants, fiber, and wonderful omega-3 essential fatty acids, while chia seeds boast these same benefits, plus calcium and protein. Convinced yet? Start giving your sweet treats a dose of seeds with these simple recipes. 

Experiment With Fruits and Veggies

zucchini, cucumber, courgette
Jasmine Tang

We've all heard how important it is to eat our fruits and vegetables, but for some folks, this is easier said than done. Not a huge fan of eating fruits and veggies plain? Try experimenting with adding them to your desserts to give your baked goods some much-needed nutrients and moisture! This can be as basic as a loaf of classic zucchini bread, or step outside your comfort zone with this chocolate chip squash bread! Once you're hooked on those (let's be real, it's gonna happen), consider moving on to these desserts featuring avocado or these 3-ingredient pumpkin spice muffins (perfect for fall 🍁).

Swap Your Vegetable Oil For Applesauce

chocolate, cake, brownie, sweet
Meredith Ross

If you're someone who thinks substituting applesauce in place of vegetable oil would make the brownies in the pic above taste ~nasty~,  think again. As a self-proclaimed lover of the "applesauce over vegetable oil" substitute, I can say that this one is a total winner. Not only is it a healthier swap for obvious reasons (applesauce contains more nutrients and far fewer calories than your standard vegetable oil), using applesauce in place of vegetable oil will leave your desserts tasting just as moist as if the swap had never been made. While it's not recommended for cookies, this simple swap works great in baked goods, such as cakes and muffins. Choose unsweetened applesauce over the sweetened version to skip out on added sugars (the unsweetened is plenty sweet as is!) and sub your applesauce in place of oil in a 1:1 ratio. 

Keep It Sweet - But Not Always With Sugar 

syrup, egg, cream, sweet, butter, honey, pancake
Christin Urso

Maple syrup obviously has a place atop a stack of pancakes, but what about in desserts? Surprise - sweetening your desserts with maple syrup is one of the many ways to make desserts healthier! Pure maple syrup is full of all those great-for-your-body goodies, including antioxidants and several important minerals, while still clocking in at fewer calories than honey. Note: We are talking about pure, 100% maple syrup here, not fake maple syrup, which includes high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients (pure maple syrup is the only ingredient on the bottle we're talking about!) It's a pricier swap, but totally worth the nutritional benefits. Head on over to Tablespoon to learn how to sub pure maple syrup for white sugar, honey, and more!

Try Coconut Sugar Instead Of White Sugar

nut, coconut, nutmeg
Jessica Yeh

Interested in another substitute for traditional sugar? Consider giving coconut sugar a try. Because it's lower on the glycemic index than normal white sugar and brown sugar, using coconut sugar in desserts can lead to less of a spike in your blood sugar, which is important for diabetics. Of course, take this sugar-swap tip with a grain of salt - as with any type of sweetener (pure maple syrup included), too much can definitely be a bad thing, so don't go overboard on using coconut sugar simply because of nutritional benefits. As with any sweetener, use it sparingly! You can substitute it in a 1:1 ratio in place of white sugar or brown sugar (it's slightly caramel-y taste does make it a particularly good substitute for brown sugar.)

Go Dark

chocolate, cream, brownie, chocolate cookie, cookie
Jocelyn Hsu

Just when you probably thought there couldn't be any more ways to make desserts healthier, I'm bringing out one more: Going dark. Dark chocolate boasts way more health benefits than other types of chocolate, including plenty of antioxidants and flavanols, which help lower blood pressure. A general rule of thumb is the higher the percentage of cocoa listed on your chocolate (for example, 75% cocoa), the "darker" the chocolate is. Of course, the higher the cocoa content, the more bitter your chocolate will be. If you're not a fan of very dark, bittersweet chocolate, opt for a percentage on the lower end of the dark chocolate spectrum (such as a 70% cocoa content) or use half dark chocolate and half semisweet chocolate in your next decadent dessert. 

It's clear that there are tons of ways to make desserts healthier, regardless of what your dessert of choice is. Whether you're a chocolate fiend, cookie-crazy, mad about muffins, or hopelessly obsessed with some other sweet treat, this article has the tip for you. Now, go forth and experiment to satisfy your sweet tooth - and your nutritional needs, too.