It’s the moment of truth for many diners. Choosing whether or not to order dessert often leads to regret-tinged ‘no’s or requests to bring one slice of cake with six forks. Menus haven’t made things easier—the penchant for including words like “death” and “killer” in the names of desserts maximizes guilt and minimizes the joy of an occasional indulgence. But a new day is dawning for the final course of the meal, as many restaurants seek ways to offer sweet finales that are not only satisfying, but nutritious, as well.
It’s a smart response to a dietary climate in which 31 percent of consumers report they have made small changes to achieve an overall healthier diet over the past year. Nearly a quarter of Americans say they are taking steps to reduce their sugar intake, according to Nielsen research. In addition, more than half say they are willing to pay more for food and beverages that don’t contain undesirable ingredients.
Elizabeth Falkner, former chef at San Francisco’s Citizen Cake and author of Demolition Desserts has said, “I know we are still seeing sprinkles and sugar bomber stuff out there, but I believe we are starting to see the trend in desserts to be less artificial and more nutritious.”
It’s easy to find plenty of inspiration from chef-driven menus all over the country. One standout is the so-simple-but-so-delicious roasted sweet potato with condensed milk and salt at Atla in New York City. At abcV, diners are opting for the pink grapefruit gelée and granite. Plus, purveyors and manufacturers of nutritious desserts are popping up all over, like D’Avocado, an avocado chocolate product.
Chef Erin McKenna is the creative force behind Erin McKenna’s bakery, with stores in New York, West Hollywood and Disney Springs in Orlando. She creates vegan, gluten-free pastries without refined sugar. One of her top sellers is a wheat-free, butterless brownie, made with applesauce, that manages to be both decadent and dense.
She has said, “It’s interesting to see how this is the new normal. A lot of people have experimented, taking gluten, dairy and egg out of their diets because those sometimes cause people trouble. People try it and feel better, so it is just how they eat.”