Guilt-Free Desserts To Start the New Year

Key "Light" Pie
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Buffy Hargett

A fresh calendar usually comes with a side of healthy resolutions. We vow to exercise, eat better, and do a laundry list of things to get healthier. It's a little tricky—especially when we're surrounded by so many divine Southern desserts. It's hard to say no to a slice of chess pie or towering layer cake. But thankfully, there are better-for-you desserts that still deliver on the sweets. Don't believe a dessert can be healthy and still taste good? Wait until you taste our Lightened Hummingbird Cake and Key "Light" Pie. We promise you won't feel like you're missing anything. Plus, healthy doesn't always mean substituting ingredients. Portion sizes can also play a large part in keeping us on track, so we included a few of our miniature desserts. These healthy dessert recipes are proof that you can have your cake and eat it, too. Here's to a healthier year—and you.

01 of 24

Meyer Lemon-Cheesecake Bars

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Meyer Lemon-Cheesecake Bars

These lemony bars are a great make-ahead treat. Use fresh orange juice and zest instead of lemon for a different flavor profile. Top with blueberries for additional healthy sweetness (and a pop of contrasting color).

02 of 24

Brown Sugar Baked Pears

Brown Sugar Baked Pears
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Recipe: Brown Sugar Baked Pears

No crust, no cake, and if you want to lighten it up further, just reduce the amount of butter, sugar, and ice cream that you use. A baked pear with just a little cinnamon is guaranteed to be sweet and delicious.

03 of 24

Raspberry Crumble Bars

Raspberry-Almond Crumble Bars
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Raspberry Crumble Bars

Who can resist a fruit crumble? And this version, packed with raspberries, rolled oats, and almonds, it's almost like breakfast in a bar. To make them even lighter, cut down on the sugar in the filling, or swap it with a different sweetener.

04 of 24

Banana Pudding

Healthy Desserts: Banana Pudding
Photo: Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Banana Pudding

This pudding delivers a velvety rich custard, ripe banana flavor, vanilla wafers so soft they melt in your mouth, and an irresistible golden-baked meringue topping. All this, and it's lower in fat and calories than traditional versions. These make great individual party desserts or make the pudding in an 8-inch square pan. We love it with extra wafers.

05 of 24

Rainbow Fruit Pizza

Rainbow Fruit Pizza
Southern Living

Recipe: Rainbow Fruit Pizza

Use whatever fruit is in season—pomegranates, bananas, oranges, and pineapple all make for a stunning presentation. You might want to save it all for yourself, but your kids or grandkids will love making and eating this sweet pizza too.

06 of 24

Spiced Plum Compote

Spiced Plum Compote
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Recipe: Spiced Plum Compote

Just because the holidays are over, it doesn't mean you have to give up cozy flavors. Simmer plums with warm spices like cinnamon and cloves, and you have a festive topping for healthy, protein-rich Greek yogurt.

07 of 24


Splenda Peanut Butter Cookies Stevia Jar
08 of 24

Lightened Hummingbird Cake

Lightened Hummingbird Cake

Recipe: Lightened Hummingbird Cake

While we love the classic, this lightened version is equally good. All you have to do is sub in applesauce in place of some of the oil, and scale back on the butter, sugar, and eggs. As for that creamy frosting, use a light cream cheese instead.

09 of 24

Chocolate-Pecan Tassies

chocolate pecan tassies
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Chocolate-Pecan Tassies

Healthy isn't just about ingredients. It's also about portion sizes. Whip up these little tassies and they're a satisfying, bite-sized treat after dinner. You get the richness of a slice of pecan pie in a healthier (and cuter) size.

10 of 24

Mini Berry Cobblers

Mini Berry Cobblers Recipe
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Mini Berry Cobblers

These mini cobblers are packed with juicy berries and topped with a simple biscuit. Just one will serve up the satisfying sweetness needed to finish off a meal without going overboard on the sugar and fat.

11 of 24

Carrot-Pineapple Mini Bundt Cakes with Buttermilk-Vanilla Glaze

Carrot-Pineapple Mini Bundt Cakes with Buttermilk-Vanilla Glaze
Cedric Angeles; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Carrot-Pineapple Mini Bundt Cakes with Buttermilk-Vanilla Glaze

Get your year off to a vibrant start with these tiny Bundt cakes, which are perfect individual servings and also packed with carrots. Serve with or without the glaze. Everyone loves mini-Bundts, so they're perfect for entertaining too.

12 of 24

Instant Pot Applesauce

instant pot apple sauce
Jennifer Causey

Recipe: Instant Pot Applesauce

It's a dessert, snack, breakfast, and baking substitute all in one. You'll definitely want to keep some in your fridge, and with an easy recipe like this one, it won't be hard. Make sure to enjoy a cupful warm, too.

13 of 24

Mini Red Velvet Cakes

Mini Red Velvet Cakes
Southern Living

Recipe: Mini Red Velvet Cakes

Another individual dessert that helps control portion size but doesn't skimp on ingredients. And that frosting—mascarpone and cream cheese? Oh, yes.

14 of 24

Apple Butter Cobbler with Drop Biscuits

Apple Butter Cobbler with Drop Biscuits
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl Jones; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Apple Butter Cobbler with Drop Biscuits

Even if you're eating healthier, some winter nights just call for a cozy dessert. It's easy to lighten this one up: When preparing the apples, you can moderate the amount of sugar or sub it out for something like honey, maple syrup, or agave.

15 of 24

Roasted Pears

roasted pears
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Roasted Pears

Aside from snacking on one straight from the fruit bowl, this might be one of the healthiest ways to enjoy a pear. The recipe uses honey as a sweetener and just a dab of butter for richness.

16 of 24

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Chocolate Pudding

It's childhood nostalgia in a bowl, and with this recipe, you can enjoy this classic dessert in a healthier way. At just 300 calories and 3 grams of fat, you'll get a lot of chocolate happiness without abandoning your healthy resolutions.

17 of 24

Winter Blackberry Cobbler

Winter Blackberry Cobbler
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Winter Blackberry Cobbler

Frozen berries make this recipe a possibility in the cold months. The minimal pastry allows the fruit to shine and limits the amount of sugar and butter you'll consume.

18 of 24

Summer Fruit Skewers

Summer Fruit Skewers
Southern Living

Recipe: Summer Fruit Skewers

Sub the summer fruits for winter ones, like persimmons, oranges, bananas, and pineapple. It'll be bright, vibrant, simple, and good for you.

19 of 24

Gluten-Free Peach Cobbler

Gluten Free Peach Cobbler
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Gluten-Free Peach Cobbler

Peaches in January? Yes, thanks to the frozen section. And, making it gluten-free ensures all can enjoy.

20 of 24

Simplest Pear Tart

Simplest Pear Tart
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Recipe: Simplest Pear Tart

There's not much to this tart, but that's the beauty of it, as the pears are allowed to shine. The presentation is simply beautiful too.

21 of 24

Orange Cream Granita

Orange Cream Granita
Alison Miksch; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Recipe: Orange Cream Granita

Make it a bright and fresh start for the new year with this zesty frozen dessert. These shaved ice treats are fun for a party and can be made into slushy cocktails with the addition of your favorite spirit.

22 of 24

Sweet Potato Cobbler

Sweet Potato Cobbler
Antonis Achilleos, Food Styling: Gordon Sawyer and Tina Stamos, Prop Styling: Lydia Pursell

Recipe: Sweet Potato Cobbler

The hearty, healthy sweet potato shines in this cobbler, which uses just a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon to flavor.

23 of 24

Fresh Fruit Salad

Fresh Fruit Salad
Jen Causey

Recipe: Fresh Fruit Salad

This is the one instance in which salad can be a dessert. Choose your favorite fruit medley and garnish it with fresh mint leaves and a drizzle of honey.

24 of 24

Key "Light" Pie

Key "Light" Pie
Jennifer Davick; Styling: Buffy Hargett

Recipe: Key "Light" Pie

Fat-free condensed milk, egg substitute, reduced-fat graham cracker crust, and fat-free whipped topping considerably lighten the traditional key lime pie.

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