By Marisol Flores
Being vegetarian/vegan for three years opened a whole new world of dessert for me. I’ve been blessed to find treats which not only taste good, but are also pretty healthy. Below are some of my favorites:
1) Coconut milk ice cream
This creamy concoction tastes just like the real thing, with a touch of coconut flavor. It comes in several delicious varieties, including chocolate, hazelnut, pineapple, and mint chocolate chip. Most responsible brands use natural products for sweetness and color, so you’re not eating ingredients created in a lab. My current favorites are fudge bars by So Delicious, and various flavors by Luna and Larry’s. Both brands can be found at Whole Foods and other retailers. If you are in New York City and want an in-restaurant ice cream experience, I recommend Candle Cafe‘s selection of coconut milk ice creams and sorbets.
2) Dark chocolate
The purer the chocolate, the better it is for you. Most health-food stores carry a large selection of fair trade chocolate with a large percentage of raw cacao, sweetened by maple syrup, agave, or cane sugar. The things you can do with dark chocolate are endless. I’ve made hot chocolate by melting the chocolate slowly in a pan, then throwing in soy milk and honey. I’ve also dipped fruit in melted chocolate and drizzled it over a coconut/honey mixture for homemade truffles. My next project is vegan chocolate mousse, which I’ll make with tofu, dark chocolate and maple syrup. Chocolate mousse can also be made with avocado and cacao powder. By using your creativity, you can make some really delicious, healthy chocolate treats at home.
3) Natural sweeteners
Taking processed sugar out of your life contributes largely to your overall health and well-being. I’ve been using maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar to sweeten everything from dessert to afternoon tea. Purity matters, so look for raw, organic products without added corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. When it comes to smoothies, you can eliminate sweeteners by combining the right fruits. Experiment with adding mango, apple, or bananas to your smoothies, and you’ll get the flavor you need without adding sugar.
4) Tofu or nut-based cheesecake
I’ve tried several tofu and nut-based cheesecakes at vegan restaurants, and they’re really good. I can’t say they taste the same as real cheesecake, but they are delicious nonetheless. They are made by using tofu or nut paste for the base, instead of cream cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, or dairy otherwise affects you negatively, this is a great treat to have which will leave you feeling great the morning after. Recipes for making vegan cheesecake can be found on websites like youngandraw.com or you can try one at your local vegan restaurant. If you are in New York City, Souen makes a good tofu cheesecake, while great nut-based cheesecakes can be found at Pure Food and Wine and Cafe Blossom.
5) Vegan rice pudding
I grew up eating rice pudding made with milk, so I have an emotional attachment to this treat. Upon trying the vegan version, I did not miss the milk version in the least. The vegan rice pudding was made with soy milk and bought at Maoz Vegetarian, a chain that specializes in another vegan favorite of mine, falafel. I suspect it can be made by replacing milk with soy milk in the original recipe. If you love rice pudding, I highly recommend trying the vegan version, as it feels much lighter going down, and does not sacrifice taste.
6) Grain coffee
While grain coffee does not give you the immediate boost caffeine does, it is a highly nutritious drink that contributes to overall energy. It is usually made of roasted grains such as barley and chicory, and can be enjoyed hot or cold. Korean coffee chain Caffe Bene offers a great grain coffee called the Misugaru latte, made with both sugar and milk, but they can make it without these upon request. Most vegetarian, vegan, and health-conscious restaurants serve grain coffee. One of my favorites in New York City can be found at Souen. There are also instant grain coffees for sale in health food stores which you can try at home. While I’ve never tried these personally, I’ve heard Roma Coffee is a good option.
I hope that I’ve motivated you to try some of these healthy delicacies. It is a frequent misconception that things that taste good have to be full of fattening, unhealthy ingredients. Thankfully, that is not the case. These tasty treats have drastically improved my relationship with dessert. I hope they improve yours as well.