5 Low-Sugar Ways I Bake Dessert for My Family

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Amy Palanjian)

In our house, we do our best to eat meals that give our girls ample opportunities to eat lots of fruits and veggies. But since I know that life is more enjoyable when there are regular treats, we also do a lot of baking. I often feel like my kids are being offered sugary treats everywhere we go, so the baking I do at home is always lower in sugar. In addition to this helping to keep their intake of added sugars in check, it also exposes their palates to desserts with flavors other than just sweet. I’ve found a few lower-sugar desserts that everyone in the house enjoys. Here are my five favorites.

1. Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pack a mini chocolate chip cookie with lots of add-ins — chewy oats, flavorful coconut, sweet dried fruit — and you can cut down on the added sugar. (Don’t try to eliminate it all together or the cookies won’t have any of the pleasing crispness everyone expects!) These bite-sized cookies satisfy a craving for a warm baked cookie since each just-sweet-enough bite has a little bit of chocolate.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

With only 1/4 cup of sugar in the batter and kid-friendly flavor from jam (and, okay, butter), these shortbread cookies are a classic treat the kids can help make and eat. Use a lower-sugar jam (or try chia jam) to keep the fruit flavor front and center.

(Image credit: Amy Palanjian)

There’s no reason that a treat can’t just be a treat, but sometimes adding extra produce actually improves the texture. These egg-free brownies have a long list of healthy ingredients including banana, applesauce, oats, chia seeds, and spinach, but they taste like bittersweet fudge. And since the fruit is naturally sweet, you only need to add a small amount of honey and a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips on top.

(Image credit: Amy Palanjian)

By slightly reducing the granulated sugar in a classic batch of cupcakes — but not eliminating it all together or substituting it with something that doesn’t traditionally belong in a cupcake — you keep the classic texture and take the sweetness down a notch.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Ripe banana — you know, the kind that’s super brown and almost too sweet to eat fresh — is a great way to sweeten lower-sugar baked foods. It teams up with coconut and chocolate here for simple macaroon-like cookies. I sometimes hide a banana or two on top of the fridge if I want to make a treat like this in the coming days to ensure no one eats it and it has time to get nice and brown.