Dessert, Reimagined

“Would you like to see the dessert menu?”

For anyone trying to eat healthy, this seemingly innocent query can seem like an absurd question and a downright hostile provocation. Of course, you would like to see the dessert menu and to inhale the chocolate mousse, but as someone who cares about health, you grit your teeth and order a tea instead. Or not…

Truth be told, dessert is extremely hard to resist, even for those with a great deal of self-control, when everyone else at the table is indulging. Research shows that we make similar choices to the people we dine with. If all of your friends are ordering cheesecake, odds are you will too, or at least take a bite.

The good news is that not all desserts created are equally bad for you. Research from Harvard’s School of Public Health found a delicious option that is healthier than the traditional and decadent triple chocolate cake but is still a treat — a trio of fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate. Motivated by his own sweet tooth, nutrition scientist Walter Willett was on a mission to create a smart dessert without all the added sugar, refined flour, and unhealthy fat. Based on his research he concocted a “better” dessert that skips the unhealthy stuff, is tasty and combines what he calls The Three Pleasures:


A refreshing and naturally sweet option that brings a burst of color to the plate. Dried fruits can also work well.


Along with a satisfying crunch and a variety of flavors, nuts are a great source of healthy fat and protein.

Dark chocolate

Depending on the brand and cocoa percentage, dark chocolate offers a wide range of complex and delightful flavors. Remember that the higher the cocoa percentage, the less sweet it will be — 70% or higher is a nice complement to the sweetness of the fruit!

Next time you’re out, look for this trio or ask the chef to prepare a dessert with The Three Pleasures in mind. Willett hopes that if the public gets involved on a mass scale, this request will challenge chefs everywhere to harness their creativity and redesign dessert.

At last, you can have your dessert and eat it, too.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman