With summer approaching, fruit can be a refreshing way to both cool oﬀ and enhance meals with ﬂavor and health beneﬁts. In fact, fruit is one of the key components of heritage diets; speciﬁcally, we recommend that a major step towards any heritage diet is to enjoy fruit for dessert. Now, farmers’ markets all over the country are starting to have more and more fresh fruit available, so we asked our panel of experts to pick their favorite ways to include fruit with dessert, whether as the central ingredient of a dish or added to enhance traditionally non-fruit-based desserts.
Ask the Experts, Fruit-Forward Desserts Edition
The beauty of summer is that there is an amazing variety of ripe and delicious fruit. There’s really nothing better than a ripe summer peach or strawberry. Honestly, sometimes the pure simplicity of that ripe fruit is all I need. Some of my favorite summer desserts involve these ripe, juicy fruits tossed with fresh mint or basil, a drizzle of yummy olive oil, and maybe a spritz of fruity vinegar or lime juice. But I really love fruit bars, too! And I’m a bit partial to these Blueberry Bars I made last summer with fresh Michigan blueberries (courtesy image below).
– Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, Dietitian and Chef, www.sarahaasrdn.com
Summer is the time to enjoy fruit in all its glory. Nature reserved fruits as its own special reward. Many plants and trees wait an entire year to push forth their sweet fruits — all part of the natural cycle of nature. We enjoy fruit, spit out their seeds, and new life begins again. Many traditional diets understand this connection with the land, and they revel in the fruits that become available in the summer. It just so happens that fruits are packed with nutrients and compounds that are health protective, too. I think the best way to enjoy seasonal fruits, such as berries, apricots, peaches, and melons, is au naturel — they are best enjoyed picked ripe and eaten (in many cases) skin and all. However, it’s also the time to enjoy fruit-forward desserts, which are based primarily on whole fruits. These include cobblers, pies, crisps, and parfaits. And don’t forget to enjoy these summer fruits all day long, on top of cereals, as a snack, in salads, smoothies, and even savory dishes, such as pilafs, and sauces.
– Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, Author of Plant-Powered for Life and The Plant-Powered Blog, Nutrition Consultant for Oldways
These Blueberry Almond Cookies (courtesy image below) are hands down one of my favorite summer sweets! The antioxidant-bursting blueberries add just the right sweetness to these whole grain delights. Serve them warm with a scoop of fresh sorbet or grab one on the run for a breakfast treat; the possibilities are endless!
– Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, Nutrition Communications Consultant at Shaw’s Simple Swaps, Fertility Nutrition Expert at BumpstoBaby.com, Co-Author of Fertility Foods.
To have your cake and eat it too, always include fruit in your dessert and ﬂip it so the fruit becomes the centerpiece. Instead of a typical strawberry shortcake, ﬂip it so strawberries are the main attraction. Start with a bowl of berries and top it with a small piece of cake and dollop of whipped cream. Love ice cream? Start with a bowl of your favorite fruit or fruit medley and top it with a small scoop of frozen yogurt or ice cream. When you make fruit the centerpiece, it’s easy to satisfy your sweet tooth while enjoying the delicious and naturally sweet ﬂavors of nature’s bounty.
– Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Director of Nutrition for WebMD, webmd.com/kathleen-m-zelman
I created this recipe for Grapes from California (courtesy image below) and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. I love its simplicity, its beauty, and how it satisﬁes that craving for a frozen sweet treat in a healthy way. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of ﬁber, vitamin B6, copper, manganese, and potassium.
BONUS RECIPE: Frozen Grape and Banana Skewers with Chocolate Drizzle
Serving size: 2 skewers
2 ﬁrm ripe bananas
2 tablespoons orange juice
½ cup red grapes (about 16)
½ cup green grapes (about 16)
8 10-inch wooden skewers
1½ ounces dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa solids), ﬁnely chopped
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Cut the bananas into ½-inch thick rounds. Place in a small bowl and toss gently with the orange juice.
- Skewer the fruit, alternating two grapes for each piece of banana, and place the fruit skewers onto the lined tray.
- Place the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir well, and microwave another 10 seconds if necessary to melt the chocolate. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate onto the fruit skewers.
- Place the tray in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Once frozen, skewers may be transferred to a sealable plastic bag where they will keep in the freezer for up to a week. Allow to soften at room temperature for 5 minutes before eating.
Nutrition: Calories 140; Total Fat 4.5 g; (Sat Fat 2.5 g, Mono Fat 1.3 g, Poly Fat 0.2 g); Protein 2 g; Carb 27 g; Fiber 3 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 0 mg
I love building desserts around fresh fruit from the farmers market. My favorite spring/early summer dessert is strawberry rhubarb crisp made with fresh strawberries, rhubarb, whole grain oats, a little ﬂour, and brown sugar. It’s just the right balance of sweet from the berries and tart from the rhubarb. I top it with a big spoonful of plain Greek yogurt to add some creaminess along with protein and a little fat.
– Alissa Rumsey, Registered Dietitian and Author of Three Steps to a Healthier You.
When I get an abundance of blueberries in my CSA I whip up a simple blueberry syrup (courtesy image below). My daughters used to like to add the syrup to shaved ice to make homemade snow cones. I drizzle it on top of frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream for a summertime treat!
– Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Culinary Nutrition Consultant and Author at www.JaniceCooks.com
One of my favorite desserts is what I call an Easy Fruit Crisp. Grease a baking ramekin or small cast iron skillet with olive oil, then ﬁll with whatever fruit is in season (fresh berries, diced peaches, or even strawberry and rhubarb in the spring). Then, cover the top with granola and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the fruit softens. In-season fruit is deliciously sweet, so there is no need to add any sugar to the fruit mix. And the granola is a short-cut way to get that delightful crisp topping. Serve with a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt, if desired.
– Kelly Toups, MLA, RD, LDN; Program Director, Oldways Whole Grains Council
Berries with a side of dessert, please! I love including berries for desserts. Mixed berries — blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries — due to their bright color, ﬂavor, and appeal could be the main dessert (courtesy image below). Or, berries can be used alongside ice cream, frozen yogurt, or your favorite sweet treat. How about topping a small scoop of ice cream as a garnish on top of your berries instead of the other way around. You can still enjoy your sweet treat, but you’ll save calories and gain lots of vitamins, minerals, and ﬁber.
– Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD; Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at New York University, www.portionteller.com
Two ideas for fruit in the summer: Dark Chocolate Covered Kiwi Pops (I recently passed these out at the Today’s Dietitian conference and they went SO FAST!) and Strawberry Kiwi Popsicles. These are a wholesome, simple and easy summer dessert that ﬁt well into a heritage diet.
– Rebecca Scritchﬁeld, MA, RDN, HFS; Author of Body Kindness
Don’t turn oﬀ your grill once the ﬁsh is done for dinner. Sear mango slices for a sweet dessert (courtesy image below). Mangoes are rich in potassium, vitamins A and K, and the antioxidant beta-carotene. Lightly brush the mango with oil and grill a few seconds on each side. Top with vanilla Greek yogurt and some fresh lime. Leftovers (if there are any!) are even better the next day for breakfast.
– Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, LDN, FAND; Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University, author of Nutrition & You
My ﬁrst visit to the Greek island of Crete in 2005 included a 9-hour lunch with a 75-year-old man named Manoli. He invited me to his stone house situated in the middle of a grove of olive trees. We began with a simple chicken soup with fresh baked bread, olive oil, and soft cheese. We had what seemed like an incredible amount of wine and moonshine, and for dessert we had fruit. Oranges, apples, grapefruit, all freshly picked and perfectly ripe. The true Mediterranean dessert is not baklava, cannolis, or churros; it is a simple piece of fruit. Don’t get me wrong, I love just about every dessert, but I feel best and have the most energy afterwards if I have an apple or a banana instead of a scoop of ice cream on a brownie. Sometimes, if I want a little added pizzazz I might add some peanut butter to an apple, or I will have this simple recipe for apple with honey and cinnamon. Melted dark chocolate is delicious on strawberries, orange slices, or frozen banana. In the summer, I love frozen fruit instead of ice cream or popsicles. It is sweet, cold, and delicious! Finally, when you do want to have a more decadent dessert, try our amazing apple cake, made with fresh apples and olive oil instead of butter!
– Bill Bradley, R.D., L.D.N., Lecturer, Cookbook Author, and Founder of Mediterranean Living
The heat and humidity are already here to stay for much of the US. Our family often caps summer evenings with a simple bowl of fresh, seasonal fruit, maybe a bit of Greek yogurt, and sour cream or unsweetened whipped cream to dress it up. But at the end of particularly sultry days, a scoop of icy sorbet hits the spot. Made with the antioxidant- and vitamin-rich juice of sweet grapefruit, my recipe for Ruby Red Sorbet (courtesy image to the right) packs in loads of ﬂavor, plus 30% of your daily vitamin C and only about 70 calories per ½-cup serving. Add a couple segments of fresh grapefruit or a few mint leaves on top to garnish, and you have a beautiful, healthy, and so-very-refreshing summertime dessert.
– Heather Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN, Nutrition Consultant and Food Blogger at Heather Goesch Nutrition, and Contributing Author to Food & Nutrition Magazine; www.heathergnutrition.com
Grilled fruit is a delicious and healthy dessert to serve up this summer. When fruit hits the hot grates of the grill, it reduces the water content of the fruit, caramelizing its natural sugars. Almost any fruit can be cooked on the grill. Firmer fruits like apples, pineapples, and pears tend to be easier to grill, whereas softer fruits like peaches, plums, watermelon, and mango require a little extra attention when being grilled to prevent overcooking, which will cause fruit to become mushy. Grilled fruit is equally delicious in sweet and savory applications. Try grilled watermelon with feta cheese and mint, or grill peaches with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. My favorite is grilled pineapple!
– Julie Harrington, RD, Culinary Nutrition Consultant of RDelicious Kitchen
Farmers’ markets are stocked with in-season fruits such as berries, plums, peaches, and cherries. The sweet taste of this summer fruit creates a delicious dessert that requires very little added sugar. I enjoy fruit alone, or added to simple recipes to enhance the ﬂavors. A few favorites include grilled peaches with cinnamon, warm berry compote over Greek yogurt with mint, cherry cobbler made with almonds and oats, or simply any summer fruits topped with coconut whipped cream. My go-to quick and delicious dessert to serve a crowd is this Berry Cashew Cream Dessert Pizza (courtesy image below). This dish is bursting with great taste and packed with nutrient-rich ingredients no one can resist.
– Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, CDN; Nutrition Consultant at Triad to Wellness