Written by contributor Amy Thompson of Progressive Pioneer.

The big turning point in how we make and eat sweet treats in our home actually came when I was potty training my son.  We did a little candy bribery to encourage him to use the potty.  We used the good health food store type of chocolates, but even then after 24 hours of a steady stream of sugar, my son was a nut!

The difference between my kids on sugar and off is night and day.  And so, I did a sweep through the house and tossed all the refined sugar and flour.

We now only cook with whole wheat flour and unrefined sweeteners.  Because I happen to love treats, we still have them fairly often; they’re just not the kind of treats that leave you with a sugar hangover.  And often guests can’t even tell that they’re eating “healthy” desserts.

Carrot/Pumpkin Cupcakes

For my son’s birthday party, we had carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  They were all whole wheat and only sweetened with honey.

For the holidays, you could use 2 cups pumpkin puree and leave out the carrots and a bit of the pineapple, though you may need to add a bit of extra honey because the pineapple adds sweetness.  Swap out the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice, and you’ll have a very merry treat. These would be perfect for Thanksgiving, too, and are easy enough to whip up for an impromptu dessert.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup unsweetened, crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used pecans)

Mix the dry together, and the wet together, then combine them.  Bake at  350 degrees for 35-40 minutes for a cake, less for cupcakes, or until a skewer  comes out clean.

For the frosting, you can combine cream cheese, butter,  vanilla and honey, and it’s delicious.  You can also skip the butter; I just happen to love it that way.

Healthier Brownies

Another dessert that doesn’t suffer in the least from healthy tweaks is brownies.  I promise you will never even notice the difference if you use 100% whole wheat flour. My favorite, most incredibly indulgent recipe can be found here.  All whole wheat and no refined sugar.  Guilt-free indulgence!

Tips for Using Whole Wheat Flour and Honey

I find that many recipes adapt well to using honey instead of white sugar.  The only things you want to watch for are flavor compatibility and consistency.  Honey has its own very delicious flavor, but it may not compliment the recipe.

And, of course, honey is more runny, so you may need to increase your dry ingredients.  When I use whole wheat flour to replace white flour, I often add a bit less than called for, anyway, as it can be dryer and denser than white flour.

Don’t be afraid to mess around with recipes a bit. You can usually substitute at least half of the white flour with whole wheat without changing the character of the dish much.  I usually go for the whole 100% swap even if it changes it a bit; it’s always still delicious – just not exactly like people may expect.

But, they will thank you when they still feel perky and happy after dessert, rather than becoming a permanent fixture on the couch, sluggish and slow.  I don’t know about you, but I feel the effects of refined sugar right away (headache, grumpiness, fatigue…).  It’s so great to be able to enjoy dessert without the side effects.  Hopefully you can find some healthy ways to sweeten your holidays too!

Photo by Stock Exchange

Do you find yourself in sugar overload mode during the holidays?  What are your tricks for keeping the sugar intake down?  Do you have any favorite healthy dessert recipes?