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Healthy sweet treats

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Cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream: it all tastes so good, but can it all be healthy, too?

"I think that sounds like an oxymoron right," said Susan Mitchell, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND. "Healthy dessert?"

Mitchell says your best bet is to make your own treats at home.

"You choose what goes in the recipe that you make," she said. "That means you're able to choose healthier oils, healthier fats, what type of sugar and how much that you use." 

Some sugar alternatives? Other nutritionists say try Stevia, an herb that's 40 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol that's only partially absorbed by the body, so it only has about nine calories per teaspoon. And coconut sugar has about the same calories as regular sugar but provides traces of iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and antioxidants.

Gerald Bennett, executive chef of Puff ‘n Stuff Catering in Baltimore, Maryland, also has an alternative you may have never thought of: dates. They're high in fiber and protein, and only 20 calories each.

"There's just so many things that you can do with dates," he said. "There's not a limit. Actually, the limitation is your creativity."

Here's an easy recipe you can try at home: Toasted Coconut Almond Date Laddoos.

"This is something that I eat a lot," Bennett said. "This is my energy bar."

First, in a nonstick pan, add grated coconut on medium low heat. Chop up your dates and deseed. Then, check your coconut.

And start mashing up your dates. Add chopped almonds or your favorite nut, a little coconut. Then roll into balls and into your toasted coconut.

"There you go," Bennett said. "Very simple dessert.  It takes little time. But it's great and good for you."

A sweet substitute for the sugar you won't even miss. Bennett says for a better crunch, you can add more nuts to the outside of the ball. Dates and date syrup can be used in all types of desserts, from cookies to brownies and cakes. The rule of thumb when substituting: For every cup of sugar, use one-third cup of dates.