Cheesecake is a delicious, irresistible dessert that is usually loaded with fat, sugar and calories. Fortunately, there are many ways to make this decadent treat healthier while still tasting like the real thing. From incorporating nuts and seeds into the crust to light and fresh toppings and smart ingredient swaps for the filling, you can easily transform cheesecake into a luscious and nutritious dessert the whole family can enjoy without feeling guilty.
Transform the Filling
Most of the fat and calories in a traditional cheesecake are contained in the rich filling. There are many low-fat alternatives available. If you still want to use cream cheese, use a low-fat version. Try using tofu, which offers a silky texture. Cottage cheese that is finely blended makes for a rich and creamy filling alternative. Greek yogurt is another ideal substitute because it is rich in protein but lower in calories than cream cheese. Experiment by using half dairy, half fruit filling, such as canned pumpkin or steamed and mashed butternut squash.
Add Fresh Fruit Topping
Any fruit can make a healthy topping for cheesecake, but berries in particular are an ideal pairing. Berries are rich in antioxidants and fiber. Eating berry-topped cheesecake will leave you feeling full quicker, cutting down on your consumption. Cherries are a traditional cheesecake topping that are a good match because of their sweet and distinct flavor. Try tropical fruit like kiwi and mango for a refreshing summertime treat.
The traditional cheesecake has a crust made of graham cracker crumbles. There are many ingredients that can easily be added to a cheesecake crust to give it a nutritious boost. Grind or chop up nuts—almonds, pecans, walnuts and macadamia nuts are particularly good, especially when spiced with cinnamon. Nut crusts have a tendency to burn quickly so follow the recipe instructions closely. If you can’t resist that graham cracker flavor, mix in a handful of crushed high-fiber cereal or flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds with the graham cracker crumbles for a healthy compromise.
Reduce the Sugar
By adding fruit, you can reduce the sugar in your favorite cheesecake recipe because fruit imparts a natural sweetness. Fruit can be blended with the filling ingredients as well as scooped on top of the cheesecake. Use alternative sweeteners instead of sugar in the filling and crust. Try natural sweeteners like honey, coconut nectar, maple syrup and agave nectar which tend to have a richer flavor than sugar so you can use less than the recipe calls for.
Shrink the Size
Consider creating a healthier cheesecake in individual portions by baking them in a muffin tin. This limits your serving size and discourages you from cutting an extra generous slice from a traditional-sized cheesecake. Miniature cheesecakes are also easier to transport so they make the perfect after-lunch treat at work. Better yet, bring the rest of the batch to work and share with your co-workers so you are not tempted to binge.
There are many creative ways to transform cheesecake from a naughty dessert to a healthier indulgence. Of course, moderation is key so stick to one small serving to maximize the health benefits. Whenever possible, use fruit versus unhealthy cheesecake toppings such as chocolate chips and caramel sauce. Skip the cookie crumbs and whip up your own cheesecake crust by using a combination of nuts or healthy cereal. Experiment with low-fat dairy options for the cheesecake filling. Try swapping one healthier ingredient each time you make your favorite cheesecake recipe until you completely transform your favorite dessert into a guilt-free treat.
Hannah Jameson is a professional blogger that shares advice on healthy cooking. She writes for RecipeChart.com, where you can find all kinds of healthy and delicious recipes.