August 26

6 Tips to Bringing Desserts into a “Healthy” Life for Kids

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I’m gonna tell you a secret.

Something that has haunted me my whole life…

It’s been my downfall, until I learned how to harness it effectively.

It’s this….I have a SWEET tooth.

And it used to hurt my progress in the gym

Or keeping a consistent diet.

Until I learned how to bring it into my life in a long-term and sustainable way.

Guess what?  Your kids probably go through this too. 

Their world is SURROUNDED by desserts in the form of:

High-calorie sugar cereal commercials on TV

Other kids showing their “snacks” at lunch time that are just sugar bombs (like cookies, fruit rollups, pop tarts, etc…even they are the “organic” versions of all these things)

If controlling desserts has been an issue for you and your kids, and you want a more long-term solution for enjoying desserts without letting the heavy calories and insane sugar high interfering with your health goals, then I’ve got some tips for you from years of experience teaching healthy cooking to kids, plus living my own health-conscious lifestyle.

1) You can make healthy desserts!

There’s a whole world that I discovered on YouTube of “healthy desserts” and I found out how you can make things like:

Pumpkin Cheesecake, Carrot Cake or  French Toast using some lower-fat and sugar-free alternatives.  You can’t go TOO far down the rabbit hole or you’ll use weird things like “non-fat” cream cheese…which shouldn’t exist in mother nature because cream cheese is pretty much just fat!

Still, you can balance the sugar-free options with some actual sugar.  You can use some of the fat, and then substitute it with other elements.  You can even add protein powder to make your cheesecake have the same calories and protein as an off-the-shelf protein bar.

Try out some of the links above and I bet your kids won’t notice the difference!  Plus it’s an excuse to cook together.

2) Weekends ONLY

It’s too tempting to get sugary snacks all the time! 

I’m sure you’ve been at a coffee shop with your kid…and he asks for a muffin (which is basically a cupcake without the frosting).

It’s too easy to give in, but instead let’s go back to making desserts what they are…a “treat.”

A treat is in irregular indulgence.

To keep it easy, stick to weekends for treats.  A gelato on a Friday afternoon, or a Saturday slice of pie after dinner.

It helps provide some structure for kids (and you!)

3) Don’t buy the quart, just the pint.

If your kids have problems with “quantity” and “portions” then do what I do…get the SMALL version.

I was at Sprouts and talking to someone in the freezer aisle.  (Yes, I strike up random conversations with strangers at the grocery store, especially if I need help deciding on a dessert).  She was suggesting the Tillamook ice cream, which is a very delicious and high quality brand.  Her child even pointed to the massive quart of mint-chocolate that was on sale!  

But I DON’T go for the quart.   It’s just too much temptation for someone who lives alone and works from home.

Even as I write this blog post, if that ice cream was in my freezer it would literally call out my name!

“Enjoy a scoop after your writing is done!  You’ve earned it,” it would say.

“No, I haven’t,” I would reply.

The key is to just get the amount you and your kids will enjoy THAT day.

A wise friend who is in her late 40s but is in great shape said “You either waist it, or waste it.”

I encourage you to just enjoy the ice cream, in a smaller portion, that day.  Don’t let it sit at home all day, and this can apply to all unhealthy foods!  Will power is a limited resource, so don’t think you’ll be strong enough after a long hard day as a mom to not eat some ice cream that’s sitting in your fridge on a Wednesday evening.

Just stick to the pint, or the one scoop when you’re out and about!

4) You CAN use sugar to ENHANCE food that’s good for you…just not a lot

Sugar is ok to use during your week, provided it’s in small quantities.  Here are 5 quick examples

  • A vinaigrette for a mixed green salad tastes BETTER when it has a bit of sugar or honey to balance the acidity of vinegar or fresh citrus.
  • A bit of sugar in your morning coffee or tea won’t destroy your diet.
  • If you make a sauce that’s kinda sweet, like teriyaki, adding sugar is ok and can help your kids eat chicken breast and broccoli
  • Have you eaten cooked oats?  It’s not that good on its own, but with a bit of brown sugar, it’s delicious
  • If you’re making pasta with tomato sauce, a bit of sugar will help balance the intensity of the tomatoes.

Again, a little goes a long way!  And if your kids are now eating oats, salads, tomatoes, broccoli and chicken breast, I think that’s worth it.

5) Make it a HIGH QUALITY dessert

I was at the mall last Sunday with a friend looking for a tasty treat.  We had just gone on a backpack up in Payson and having returned to the city we were craving an afternoon treat.  At the mall in Chandler Fashion Square there’s a candy shop that lured us in with “free samples.”

The store owner knew we were there for a sample and quickly gave us a bit of a “chocolate brownie ball”  

I took a bite, excited to eat a treat, and was NOT impressed. It was overly sweet, without flavor and tasted processed.  I asked if they made their candy and the owner said no, they just offer a wide variety in nicely sealed and labeled packages.  We tried another candy and were again disappointed.

I feel like our society is at a point now where specialty stores really need to bring something special to the table in order to compete in the marketplace

Even going to the See’s store would have fresher chocolates than these guys.  We walked out very unimpressed and headed to a nearby crepe shop.  

If you’re gonna indulge, make sure it’s good!  Don’t waste it on processed or lame sweets.  

Talk to your kids about this and show them how the experience can be so much more satisfying when it’s a HIGH quality treat.

6) Have the DESSERT Making Experience Become a Chance to BOND With Your Kids

What sounds more memorable:

Going to a cookie store to buy a cookie.

Or making cookies at home with your kids

Some of my favorite memories in the past few years were trying out new desserts in my kitchen.  

A few of these memories include:

A local chef helping me learn the intricacies of making french macarons from scratch.

An afternoon volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sister of LA where my “Little” and I were trying to get these LAME cream puffs to rise…and it wasn’t working.  We tried 2 batches unsuccessfully, but when the third one finally rose we had achieved success!

A Sunday experiment with a friend trying to make a “healthy carrot cheesecake” It had a few false starts and some last minute changes, but overall it came out pretty good!

If baking delicious foods at home with your kids sounds like a fun idea, check out our upcoming series!

Go to to check out our weekend series of making:

  1. Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  2. Pumpkin Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust
  3. Cookies!  2 Ways:  Classic Chocolate Chip and Snickerdoodle Cinnamon-Sugar
  4. Chocolate Lava Cake with Freshly Whipped Cream
  5. Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
  6. Cream Puffs with Vanilla Custard

It’s for kids ages 8-13 (but younger kids can join with their parents) on Saturdays from 11:00am-12:30pm starting 9/18-10/23.  Plus we can ship you ingredients!

This series will continue onwards with NEW lessons, so that link will have the latest lessons, recipes and times.

It’s limited to the first 12 households, and it’s going to be a chance for kids to learn all about essential baking techniques.  

Just go to to join!

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Eric Horwitz

About LIFT

Eric founded LIFT Enrichment in 2010 because he wanted to help young kids develop their culinary skills so they could make healthy foods for friends and family for the rest of their lives.  He has worked with kids for over 15 years and enjoys their energy and enthusiasm for learning new things.  Eric studied abroad in Italy while at UCLA and discovered a passion for cooking.  

Eric Horwitz, Ceo of Lift

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