Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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Healthy Desserts for Kids

Dessert is magical.

In order to get dessert working for you, you've got to take it down a peg or two.  In most homes, dessert has way too much power.

Kids want dessert.  And, knowing this:

  • If you are parenting a picky eater, you probably use dessert to pressure your kids to eat more than than they want.  
  • If you are parenting an overeater, you probably try to restrict your child's access to dessert.
Research shows that pressure and restriction are parenting strategies that don't work.


You don't have to ditch dessert.  Just neutralize it.
  1. Serve dessert every night.  Read Dessert: How I LOVE Thee.
  2. Establish the rule that everyone who wants dessert gets it—no matter how well they've eaten.
  3. If dessert has a lot of power in your home, consider serving it at the same time as the main meal.

And then...change what you serve for dessert.

Serve fruit, yogurt, cheese or other healthy foods for dessert most nights, and sweet desserts only occasionally.

Need some ideas?  You don't have to serve fruit straight-up.

You can add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla, or a dusting of powdered sugar to fresh fruit such as bananas, kiwi, oranges, cantaloupe, grapes, apples, mango, pear, cherries, blueberries...


Got a little more energy?

  • Grilled Pineapple
  • Mixed Berry Salad with Mint
  • Vanilla-Roasted Peaches with Raspberries
  • Broiled Plums with Marscapone Cream
  • Mango-Lime Rocotta Parfaits
  • Fresh Papaya with Coconut-Lime Yogurt  
  • Baked Apples
  • Roasted Fruit
  • Blueberries with Maple Whipped Cream
  • Apricot Fig Compote
  • Carmelized Pears
  • Carmelized Apples with Fresh Rosemary
  • Orange Sections with Mint Leaves & Honey
  • Carmelized Pineapple with Honey and Yogurt
  • Mixed Berries, Apples and Bananas
  • Puree of Apples and Blackcurrents

Many of these ideas came from Martha, others came from one of my favorite family cookbooks, Chef Bobo's Good Food Cookbook. (Every recipe in this book is a winner with kids—even the cauliflower soup. I kid you not.)

Want some ideas for serving yogurt? Read The Magic of Yogurt.

Change what you serve for dessert and you'll change how you and your kids interact around dinner.

You might even change how you interact during the course of the entire day. Less stress.  More success.  

There are so many kinds of fruit that you could have something different every night for a month. If you're willing to cook the fruit, you'll be able to offer variety every night for 2 months (or more).

But, if your kids do get bored with fruit dessert, consider your strategy a success—it's a sign that you've neutralized the biggest bully on the block.

And, it's a sign that you've taught your kids the habits they'll need for a lifetime of healthy eating. 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

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Reader Comments (4)

Ok. I do MOST of the stuff you discuss on your site (much love, btw)

BUT, I have a tiny little daughter who LIVES for fruit! We often serve fruit for dessert and, yes, she does clamor for it. She will pass on he vegetables or quinoa and wait for the fruit. GIven her druthers, it would be fruit: breakfast lunch and dinner. Since fruit is always served at each, she seems to be getting her way. Also, she has an older brother who isn't as compelled by fruit, so serving it up for dessert to him works wonderfully, and he will always try dinner.

So what to do here? Limit fruit servings? That seems weird. But... I'm open...

"1) Your kids won’t clamor for fruit dessert; kiwi just doesn’t have the same appeal (or sway) as cake. That means your kids won’t be tempted to forgo their real food for it, and they certainly won’t beg, whine and wheedle their way to it. In turn, you won’t be tempted to use dessert to get a few more bites of broccoli into your beauties. The dessert dance will be over."

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDuckett


Yes, I do think you should limit fruits. I know it sounds weird, but the goal here is to teach your daughter to eat a well-rounded diet, and that means teaching her that she has to eat fruit in proportion to the other stuff.

I suggest you neutralize the fruit the same way I suggest other people neutralize a sweet dessert: serve it at the same time as the meal. If you find that your daughter eats just enough fruit to avoid the other stuff, serve a smaller portion of fruit. And if that doesn't work, serve fruit only once or twice per day.

Just because fruit is good for her, it can't be allowed to crowd out all the other stuff.

Good luck,


April 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Hi Dina,

I have a similar situation to Duckett. My 3.5 yo is a great eater, and I don't have too much trouble with him...loves fruit but will eat most anything most of the time. My 14 month old will only eat "real" food now, no more purees, and he definitely has a preference for fruit...but he only has four teeth, so he can't manage many of the vegetables, and he doesn't have much language yet so I can't really discuss the options with him. As a result, breakfast and lunch are generally 75-90% fruit, and dinner at least 50%. He seems to be thriving. We don't serve dessert with meals, on the rare occasions we have ice cream or cake etc it's a stand-alone special activity, or a treat as part of a larger event. Would your advice be the same to me, to limit the fruit? I'm trying SO hard to get my kids off to the right start, and the older one seems to be doing well, but the younger is much more of a challenge!

May 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda


I had the same problem when my daughter was a baby: she gave up baby food before she had enough teeth to handle real table food. It's tough.

You still have a lot of wiggle room because your child is so young. If fruit is working for you then keep serving fruit. Having said that, however, you can cook vegetables until they're soft enough for your baby to gum. Small pieces of bread, cheese, etc. would also probably work. And of course, there's yogurt, etc.

The point here is don't get stuck in too much of a routine (keep mixing up the foods) and don't assume your child will or will not like something. Serve it anyway. And finally, be happy (yes happy) if your child tastes even one bite of anything. Tasting, not eating, should always be the goal.

Thanks for sharing your story.



May 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

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