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Are High Protein Desserts Healthier? Tips and Ideas

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Are High Protein Desserts Healthier? Tips and Ideas

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If dessert is the highlight of your day, but you also want to be healthy, what do you do? To support weight goals, muscle mass, and good overall health, transform your standard desserts into high-protein recipes. 

Protein can make a dessert healthier by squeezing out sugar and fat, keeping you fuller longer, and promoting muscle growth. Here’s an explanation and a lot of ideas to get you started. 

What Makes Dessert Unhealthy? 

Dessert does not have to be unhealthy, but it often is. It’s possible to make dessert healthier, but most get a bad rap for very good reasons. Once you understand the ingredients and elements that make dessert too often bad for you, it’s possible to change the recipe and make something better. 

Sugar

This is the most typical feature of dessert. Dessert is all about sweets: cake, cookies, ice cream, pie, and more. The common ingredient in all dessert is sugar. 

Sugar is not the enemy, but consuming too much sugar at once and in general can cause health problems: high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart attack, and stroke. 

Whole foods contain sugar, but the problem with most desserts is that they contain high amounts of added sugar. It is excessive added sugar in foods that causes these health problems. 

Saturated Fat

Many desserts are also high in saturated fats, sometimes even trans fats. Ingredients like shortening, butter, milk and cream, eggs, and certain vegetable oils, like palm oil, raise the saturated fat content in desserts. Health problems associated with too much saturated fat include: 

  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Weight gain

Trans fats are particularly bad for health. You can find them in many processed dessert foods, like cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and pie crust. 

Calories

Both fat and sugar contribute to the high calorie count in most desserts. Too many calories without nutrient density can lead to weight gain and obesity and all the associated health problems. 

How Protein Makes Dessert Healthier

Desserts are typically high in carbs and fat but low in protein. Making desserts with more protein makes them healthier in several ways.

They Leave Less Room for Fat and Sugar

The most obvious benefit is that when you pack a dessert with protein, there’s less room for added sugars and saturated fats. Anything you can do to reduce these culprits in a dessert will make it healthier. 

High Protein Desserts Keep You Fuller Longer

Protein is the most filling of the three macronutrients. When you eat more protein relative to carbs and fat, you stay fuller longer. Ultimately, this means you eat less and consume fewer calories. 

Protein Supports Muscle Growth

A high-protein diet is essential for maintaining and growing muscle mass. As we get older, muscle tissue declines, and it becomes even more important to consume adequate protein. 

Protein Has a High Thermic Effect

The thermic effect of food is the calories the body burns to digest food. Compared to fat and carbohydrates, digesting protein requires a lot of energy. By increasing protein in desserts, you counteract some of the extra calories. 

Read this ISSA blog to bust some common protein myths for your clients. 

Ideas for High Protein Desserts

There are so many ways to include more protein in your desserts. Choose simple options like nut butters and Greek yogurt, or take your favorite dessert recipe and modify it to include more protein. Use these ideas for inspiration. 

Simple Protein Desserts

Healthy dessert doesn’t have to mean a complicated recipe with lots of ingredients. You can make simple, high-protein desserts in minutes when the mood strikes. Plain Greek yogurt is the perfect base because it’s rich in protein, low in sugar, and has a basic flavor you can add to with other ingredients: 

  • Add berries and a touch of honey
  • Mix with granola and berries for a high-protein parfait
  • Swirl in your favorite nut butter and a little sugar substitute
  • Mix in honey and walnuts
  • Add a little sugar and cocoa powder for a chocolate pudding alternative

Chia Seed Pudding

This is an easy pudding that is also versatile. You can add avocado, cocoa, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, fresh fruit, and more. Start with a basic recipe and add to it: one-quarter cup of chia seeds, one cup of milk or a milk substitute, two teaspoons of sugar or sugar substitute. Mix the ingredients together and leave alone for a few hours or overnight to thicken. 

Chia seeds are great for a high-protein dessert. Use this recipe, but also add them to other desserts for added texture and 11 grams of protein per ounce. 

Protein Powder Baked Goods

An easy way to add protein to dessert is with your favorite protein powder. Try this recipe for five-ingredient peanut butter cookies. With both protein in the peanut butter and the powder, you get a double whammy. This recipe for chocolate mug cake uses both protein powder and egg whites. 

Take any baked good recipe you have, even pancakes, and replace some of the flour with protein powder. This ups the protein content while also reducing carbohydrates. A general guideline is to replace one cup of flour with a third of a cup of protein powder. Even try using chocolate protein powder or vanilla protein powder for an extra dash of flavor.

Perfecting your favorite recipe may require some experimentation, depending on the type of protein and moisture content of other ingredients. Too much protein powder can make baked goods dry. Most recipes require some amount of carbs, so replace only some of the flour or use alternative grains, like oat flour. 

Is soy protein or whey protein powder better for your goals? Find out here. 

Vegan Cookie Dough

Who doesn’t love eating raw cookie dough? Aside from the risks of eating raw eggs, store-bought cookie dough is packed with sugar and fat. Try a recipe for vegan cookie dough for less sugar, no salmonella risk, and plenty of protein. Blend these ingredients for a basic recipe and add any extras, like chocolate chips or walnuts: 

  • A quarter cup of sunflower seed butter
  • One 15-ounce can of drained chickpeas
  • Two tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • A half tablespoon of vanilla
  • A tablespoon or more of water or milk substitute
  • Three tablespoons, or less, of a sweetener, like agave nectar or maple syrup

Smoothie Bowls

Smoothies are not just for breakfast. Make a filling, high-protein smoothie bowl for dessert to satisfy your after-dinner sweet tooth. Ingredients like Greek yogurt, protein powder, nut butters, and chia seeds add protein. Include your favorite sweetener in moderation, and add in fruit, nuts, coconut, seeds, or even chocolate chips for a personalized dessert bowl. 

To make your favorite desserts healthier and more filling, just add protein. It’s easier than you think to make a healthy dessert that supports your weight and fitness goals. If you have clients with a sweet tooth, share these ideas with them. 

Does nutrition coaching seem like a successful career choice? Are you already a trainer and want to add another specialty to your skillset? Check out ISSA’s comprehensive course to become a Nutritionist.

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