Tips for healthy desserts from top chefs

Eating dessert may have once been a fast track to gaining extra pounds, but a new wave of talented chefs is proving you can have your cake and eat it too — guilt free. You’ll love this recipe for pumpkin seed raisin cookies.

Raw pumpkin seed raisin cookies
Raw pumpkin seed raisin cookies

If you’re looking to drop a dress size or two, avoiding dessert is usually a great way to start. After all, it’s in lashings of chocolate, cream and layers of cake where all those unhealthy calories lie, waiting to cling to hips and thighs, right? Not necessarily, say some of the world’s leading health-focussed chefs and cooks who are redefining what dessert means to the weight-loss world.

Primarily the domain of raw food chefs, healthy desserts literally mean you can have your cake and eat it too, without obsessing over refined sugars, unhealthy fats and bad cholesterol. Made with such ingredients as cashew nuts, coconut, raw chocolate and even avocado, there’s nothing lost in the way of taste, and the body also gets wholefood nutrients—and you stay full for longer.

So tempting are these desserts—from cheesecake to chocolate mousse—that they’re not only helping sweet tooth connoisseurs to lose weight, but also get healthy.

“One of the best things about raw food desserts is that they are 100 per cent guilt free,” says chef Laura Dawn, of Sacred Source Nutrition. “Working as a raw food chef over the years, I’ve learned to find raw, wholefood substitutes for what we’ve come to consider ‘normal’ ingredients… giving up dairy many years ago, I’ve found alternative ways to get that creamy flavor and texture that I sometimes want.”

Laura says hemp seeds make a great creamy alternative, as does coconut meat or butter. She also sings the praises of avocado, explaining it’s a perfect dessert ingredient, as it’s rich in healthy fats, and is a great replacement for oil or butter.

The recipe below was created by Dawn to satisfy her own personal dietary desires, but you would never know it is gluten and dairy-free by the taste!

“I wanted to come up with a raw ver­sion of oat­meal raisin cook­ies, but with­out oats, gluten, wheat or dairy,” says Laura. “I have to say this recipe that I cre­ated comes pretty darn close. I used pump­kin seeds instead of oats and they are quite deli­cious as an occa­sional, tasty healthy treat.”

Raw pumpkin seed raisin cookies

Makes about 20–25 cookies.

Essen­tial Kitchen Equipment:

All you will need is a food proces­sor and a food dehy­dra­tor. I like to use the Excal­ibur but there are oth­ers on the mar­ket to choose from.

Plan­ning for this recipe:

If you would like to make these cook­ies for a spe­cial occa­sion, you need to plan ahead by soak­ing 4 cups of pump­kin seeds the night before and also allow 12 hours for dehy­drat­ing. I like to time it so that I put the cook­ies in at night and wake up to warm soft cook­ies for a break­fast treat.


  • 3/4 cup of raw organic honey
  • 3 cups organic coconut shred
  • 3/4 cup of raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons of cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 cups soaked pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 pound dates
  • 2 ounces water
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of raw organic coconut sugar


  1. In a bowl, place 3/4 cup of raw organic honey. If you don’t like to use honey, you can com­pen­sate by using more dates.
  2. Mix the honey and organic coconut shreds with a spoon or fork until thor­oughly mixed together.
  3. Add in raisins, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, and mix well. Set bowl aside.
  4. Take half of your 4 cups of soaked pump­kin seeds and place it in the food proces­sor and process until smooth. Add it into your bowl and mix well.
  5. Process 1/2 pound of dates or 1 packed cup in the food proces­sor with water and vanilla. Process until you get a date paste. Mix into bowl.
  6. Add raw organic coconut sugar to the cookie dough.
  7. The best way to mix bat­ters for recipes, in my opin­ion, is by hand. With clean hands, mix all the ingre­di­ents together, with thoughts of lov­ing kindness.
  8. Sprin­kle the remain­ing whole pump­kin seeds into the mix, and keep mix­ing with your hands until the bat­ter is evenly distributed.
  9. Take a dehy­dra­tor tray and make small(ish) cook­ies, about 1–2 inches across. Avoid mak­ing them too thick as this will take a lot more time in the dehy­dra­tor. I like to make raw cook­ies the right amount that I would like to eat as a serv­ing snack.
  10. I fit 4×4 raw cook­ies on the tray, for a total of 16 evenly spaced raw cookies.
  11. Place them in the dehy­dra­tor at 150 for the first hour, and then reduce tem­per­a­ture to 115. They are ready as soon as you get your desired con­sis­tency. Some peo­ple like them drier and some gooier. I usu­ally leave mine in for about 12 hours – sam­pling reg­u­larly of course.

Laura’s tip

Most people equate desserts with processed sugar, but it really doesn’t have to be. Eating refined sugar actually depletes the body of minerals, and has a similar addictive quality as other drugs. There’s no reason we need to use refined sugar when we have whole foods like dates to sweeten recipes. Depending on the recipe, I also like to use dried figs or perhaps a little bit of raw, organic coconut sugar. Another great alternative is raw organic local honey, as it is loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Photo courtesy of Laura Dawn.

More healthy eating

Kim Snyder’s glowing green smoothie recipe
Mid-week vegetarian meals
Low-carb dinners


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