By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Valentine's Day may not seem like the most likely time to put a healthier dessert strategy in play for you, your special someone or your kidlets, but it's the perfect time for a delicious bite in the right direction. If you're looking for a clever way to reduce dessert portions, a bite can go a long way.
This Valentine's Day, whether you prepare your own treats from your favorite recipes or zip into a supermarket bakery, treats like brownie bites, mini cupcakes or muffins and tiny cookies are big on flavor and lighter on calories, carbohydrates and fat.
Even more satisfying and innovative, though, is to stretch the treats by including them as highlights within an even more satiating health-conscious dessert.
Let some of the following loving ideas rev up your imagination.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for preparing homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
- FUN FLOATS
Along with a dollop of whipped cream, float a frosted, decorated mini cupcake atop diet black cherry soda, diet root beer, a bar of dark chocolate or strawberry high-protein shake.
- PB&J MUFFIN SANDWICHES
Slice a mini muffin and spread with natural peanut butter or almond butter and fruit-only strawberry spread (available in the jam aisles of supermarkets). After closing like a sandwich, lightly dust with ground cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa powder and an additional decorative dot of the strawberry spread.
- ANYTHING-BUT-KOOKY COOKIES
Use a small handful of mini cookies as dippers in raspberry-flavored low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt (higher in protein and lower in sugar than traditional yogurts). Also, dip mini organic or regular carrots and slices of Fuji apples (sweeter-tasting than many apples).
- SUNDAE ON VALENTINE'S DAY
Create a sundae by topping strawberry Greek (or regular) frozen yogurt with a sliced frosted, decorated mini cupcake, sliced fresh strawberries, a few chopped walnuts, and sugar-free chocolate syrup.
- CORNY BUT TRUE
Slice a mini corn muffin and gently mix with plain popcorn and a few chopped peanuts. Drizzle with sugar-free maple syrup.
- OATMEAL COOKIES WITH A TWIST
Break a small handful or chocolate or chocolate chip mini cookies in half and gently mix with oat cereal (like Cheerios) before adding low-fat milk or unsweetened soymilk or almond milk, or using the cookie halves as a topping for warm oatmeal that has been prepared with one of these types of milk.
QUICK TIP: Recently, juice stores and juice cleanses were so widespread that it might not have been that surprising to hear that one had popped up on the moon. However, Moon Juice isn't there. It's a current small, upscale Southern California chain that seems to have distilled all that was best from the juice craze. They also further distilled it into a major publication: The Moon Juice Cookbook: Cook Cosmically for Body, Beauty, and Consciousness. Mostly raw ingredients and herbs are employed by Moon Juice founder/former fine dining restaurant chef Amanda Chantal Bacon into primarily raw or lightly cooked finished snacks, treats, and beverages. More than a decade ago, Bacon's doctors' tests seemed to show that she helped tame a lifelong thyroid condition with her dietary changes. She expanded and more than 75 tempters like beet juice and seed crackers, cumin and chard crisps and savory tarts with cheese and tomato filling are a few of the unique and tasty "functional food" results.
Lisa Messinger at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.