Making Desserts with Less Processed Sugar

Almost all of us love desserts!

Desserts are often loaded with processed sugar, making them a not-so-healthy treat. But there are ways to make desserts using less processed sugar, without sacrificing taste. Here are some tips for making healthier desserts that the whole family will enjoy.


Cut back on your processed sugar intake by incorporating delicious, unrefined sugars (naturally smart sugars) in your desserts. Natural “smart sugars” like coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, dates, sorghum and molasses are all delicious and nutritious alternatives to overly processed white sugar. These delicious natural sweeteners can enhance the flavor of baked goods and give you a more wholesome treat. Plus, they often contain valuable nutrients such as zinc, potassium and magnesium that when consumed in moderation can help satisfy cravings without filling you with empty calories. So why not try using less processed sugar (naturally “smart sweeteners”) in your favorite desserts? Your taste buds – and metabolism – will thank you!


There are many sugar substitutes out there but most of those are processed also. There have been no studies conducted, at the time of this writing, indicating long-term health effects. Why risk using unknown/new fad sugars? My suggestion is to use “smart sweeteners” which will reduce health risks by consuming excess processed sugars greatly.

One recipe that we will do in the next blog post is mini Pavlovas. I’m actually experimenting with this recipe now so that we can add it to our kids cooking club and holiday baking programs. It is important to note that when using these alternatives, the amount of temperature, the ratio of smart sugar to another ingredient, and the cooking time may be adjusted. But your experimenting will pay off big time. Taste really won’t be affected and you will be a “family hero” just for trying.

Natural wild honey varies in flavor based on where it came from. Let adventures begin!

For example, when substituting honey for sugar in a recipe, use only half or two-thirds of the amount of sugar called for in a recipe because honey is sweeter than sugar. Additionally, if using honey, dates or maple syrup for baking it is important to reduce the oven temperature by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit and increase the cooking time slightly. This will prevent burning the dessert or creating bitter notes.

Cheat Days

I must admit that the idea of a “cheat day” when dieting or building better health does sound intriguing. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to “cheat” one day a week or two weeks from their new eating regiment. The trick is to balance it and not go overboard.

Step 1: What are your cravings and urges? Write them down and decide which one you want to “cheat” on.

Step 2: Only cheat “halfway”. This will keep you from going overboard in your indulgence!
For example, I had a date night with my wife and we split a $15 hamburger. They actually split it in the back and gave us two full salads instead of French fries. I thought that was great! My wife was happy and her comment was “It has been a while since I have had a really good hamburger. The size was just right.”

Step 3: Don’t be alone. No sneaking and piling a buffet plate 12 inches tall with stuff that you know most of it will end up in the rubbish heap. Have someone with you who can just be there to be sure you are enjoying the “cheat”.

Step 4: Enjoy the Cheat day! Honestly, one cheat is worth it. But more than that, again, go to Step 3, have someone with you to be sure you don’t decide that inflation is on your side with this “cheat day” session.

Step 5. Trust the process and commit to your new eating plan/regiment. Expect a day or two backward on the scale or being the same weight for a few days, but you may find you are happier and more committed to developing better health knowing that it’s OK to cheat once in a while.

Chef Scott is not a dietitian or nutritionist. He is a chef and educator. Chef Scott feels that people should try to enjoy what they are doing even if it first seems like “ugh” weightless or diet or eating healthy. Those kinds of lifestyle changes take time to develop.

Chef Scott and his wife, Sarah, have gotten into the plant-based food movement such as “Forks over Knives”. They won’t give up all meat proteins at this time, but they eat 95% less fried foods and have found that there is a way to enjoy more plant-based participants in their meals. The result has been they are losing weight and are healthier.

Sprouting Grains Increases Nutrition of Food

One of the hottest topics in culinary is using a technique called “sprouting”.

Sprouting is practiced in many parts of the world to improve the nutritional value of seeds, grains, nuts and legumes. Sprouting is when these food items are soaked between 24 hours and 3 days.

When I was young we learned to germinate or sprout seeds that were going into the garden using this technique.

To sprout seeds, grains, nuts or legumes, place the amount you want to use in a bowl and cover with water. Each day drain, rinse and replace the water with fresh. Usually, 3-5 days is all you need. This process also aids in digestion.

The process of sprouting has been said to increase nutrient content while decreasing anti-nutrients. This should provide many other health benefits. Antinutrients are plant compounds that reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.

Antinutrients include calcium oxalate, lectins, tannins, which are a class of antioxidant polyphenols; protease inhibitors and phytate a.k.a. phytic acid.

Soaking and germinating are great methods for reducing these antinutrients. Below are some studies that show soaking will reduce these antinutrients by 9-30% They found this to be true with leafy greens as well, such as spinach.

Boiling, by far was the best technique to lower the antinutrients by more than 60%

Even better, use a combination of techniques like sprouting then boiling which can remove antinutrients by up to 95%.

Fermentation of food products such as yogurt, cheese, coffee, cocoa and soy sauce helps reduce antinutrients. How about making a batch of sourdough bread. Making this effectively degrades antinutrients in the grains, leading to an increased availability of nutrients.

Look at all of these studies showing that sprouting, soaking, fermentation and cooking grains reduce the bad stuff while increasing the availability of good things for our bodies. Plus, these naturally processed foods taste great and can be made with lots of variety.

Explore these food preparations and cooking techniques on grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and give us a response. Your body will thank you for it, especially your taste buds.

Sprouting instructions

NIH article about how our bodies digest quinoa

Soaking, boiling, and antinutritional factors in peas

Phytate in food and significance for humans

Making bread with sourdough

Germination and fermentation of cereals

Effects of germination on soy-beans

Reduce Ultra-Processed Foods

Processed Foods Modern Definitions Reduce Ultra-Processed Foods

There have been lots of talks about how to classify processed foods. Here is a modern approach being accepted across the nation from NIH (National Institutes of Health):

1) unprocessed or minimally processed,
2) processed culinary ingredients,
3) processed foods, and
4) ultra-processed food and drink products.

Unprocessed foods include edible parts of plants or animals, as well as fungi and algae. These are found to be fresh, frozen, or even fermented. Foods that have not been treated with additives, injected with salt or rubbed with oil prior to consumption. Examples are dry beans; grains like rice; fresh or dried mushrooms; meat and dairy products; seafood; plain yogurt; nuts; fresh herbs and spices.

Processed culinary ingredients involve some steps when getting ready for the market (production). These are ingredients made from unprocessed foods, like vegetable oils, butter, and lard. Foods like honey from combs, sugar from cane, and syrup from maple trees are part of this group.

Processed foods are products that have been infused with sugar, salt, and/or fat to help improve how long they remain on the shelves in stores. These include Canned fruits, fermented yeast breads (most breads), alcohol, cheese, pickles, and salted nuts.

Ultra-processed foods are ready to eat or ready to heat items. In short, foods that have been processed significantly for many reasons to make consumers happy.

Ultra-processed foods are made often in a factory, broken down from their whole or fresh form and treated with colors, thickeners, glazes, and additives. They may be fried then canned or packaged or wrapped. Foods here in this category may contain high-fructose corn syrup, protein isolates, or interesterified oils that replace trans-fats. Examples of ultra-processed foods include packaged granola bars, carbonated soft drinks, candy, mass-produced bread, margarine, energy drinks, canned or jarred cheeses, flavored yogurt, chicken nuggets, deli meats, hot dogs and pizza.

Reduce Ultra-Processed Foods

When research “strongly suggests“, I can’t use the words “have proof” (might be offensive to some), that foods that are ultra-processed are linked to weight gain, increased rates of various cancers, chronic inflammation and early death.

Studies are being released almost monthly showing the effects of processed foods. It is most unlikely that all of us will hop on the “all-natural” bandwagon. However, if we can make small shifts towards less ultra-processed food intake, it most likely will result in our having much better health and happiness.

Scientists consider food to be processed if it’s made with additives and preservatives for flavor and freshness, like sugar, salt, and/or oil.

Consumers feel that processed foods should be defined as such if the food has artificial preservatives. Therefore, the grocery shopper feels the list of processed foods is much smaller than the scientists’ list.

The main attraction for processed foods is that they are available at a very inexpensive cost. This is true with flour, sugar, soda pop, table salt and many other products. Early in the 1900s, as machines began to process more and more food, prices dropped. Consumer education on how food is processed was also kept silent as new food manufacturers wanted to introduce their product. Also back then, food could have more claims to health benefits without consequences. Today, we live in a very consequential society and information sharing is promoted with equal importance as the products we purchase.

The bottom line is that if we as consumers want information, we can find it. However, most consumers are blind and uncaring about what they purchase until health problems emerge.

As processed foods are under much scrutiny, new findings from recent studies suggest there is something different about how quickly our bodies take in processed foods and how those foods interact with key hormones that help regulate our appetites.

This makes a great case for learning how to cook.

For now, Chefsville wants to help by suggesting that families take steps to reduce their intake of ultra-processed foods. Bit by bit. Replace one each month with more natural foods. In a year, we would love to hear how well you are feeling and what steps were taken to get there.

Source: NIH Study reported by

Links: NIH Nova Classifications


Removing Wax and Pesticides

I love the “Fall” season. Living in Texas, I don’t see what I grew up with. Being from Maryland we had trees change colors, and the cold would come in slowly causing temperatures to lower, at a manageable rate.

As a chef, I look forward to pumpkin and apple season. Wonderful time. It is also time for butternut squash and newly brewed maple syrup. Since the weather is cooling off, Continue reading “Removing Wax and Pesticides”