Considering Yogurt, Sour Cream and Healthy Desserts

I realized yesterday that I was being a bit of a hypocrite.

In a post last week, I praised Greek yogurt. One of the reasons it is so great, I argued, is because it is an excellent substitute for sour cream.

Greek yogurt “has one-third the calories, one-tenth the saturated fat and three times the protein” of sour cream, I wrote.

Yet here I was, just a few days later, using sour cream in two different recipes, for chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting. What’s up with that?

I think it’s because I treat baked goods differently than other foods. In my mind, baked goods should always get the full-fat treatment. It’s one thing to substitute yogurt for sour cream in a sauce. It’s quite another to make the same substitution in a cake. I consider cakes and other baked goods sacred, and not treating them with the full-fat respect they deserve would be blasphemous.

I am of the general opinion that it is better to eat rich desserts sparingly than to eat low-fat desserts more frequently. I love tackling food challenges, so you would think I would embrace the challenge of making a delicious healthy dessert. Instead, that sounds like an oxymoron I don’t even want to contemplate. Even though I did a two-part post about making healthy scones for breakfast, I don’t think healthy scones are really the answer, because they’ll never taste as good as traditional full-fat scones. Why bother with a poor facsimile?

I’m all for healthy baking. I strive to incorporate more fiber and whole grains into the breads I make. There’s just something different about cutting calories in a cake or croissant. When the unhealthiness is inherent in the food item, it seems pointless to fight it.

Of course, I could be wrong. I think I would be willing to cut 50 percent of a dessert’s fat if I could preserve 90 percent of its flavor. Is that possible?

Maybe I’m being too stubborn and principled. What say you, readers? Is it good to look for calorie and fat savings in everything I bake, or should some dishes be off limits? Are low-fat desserts a great alternative or an offense to the palate?

  • Jana

    I am so with you on this one! I always use butter and full cream things when baking. Because cakes, pastries and desserts are about the sweetness in life, I rather indulge properly once in a while than having sub standard versions more often. Low-fat are in my opinion an offense to the palate! :-)

  • Emily Watts

    I recently followed a banana bread recipe that called for extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, and it was delicious. So though it wasn’t low calorie or low fat and still tasted rich, at least it contained healthier fats than versions with butter, so I felt good about that.

  • Lydia

    I think it depends on the dish. I prefer pecan pie with less sugar because I can taste the nuts better when the filling isn’t so sweet. I prefer low-fat Oreos to regular because the low-fat cookies are crunchier.

  • AngieC

    I am a dessert recipe purist, as well. I have always enjoyed baking much more than cooking. In fact, I have only tried one dessert recipe in which I enjoyed the lower-fat version nearly as much as the regular version: replacing oil with unsweetened applesauce in fudge brownies. I can hardly taste the difference.

    All other desserts should be enjoyed with their original ingredients, and with their intended serving sizes. Isn’t it the first few bites that are the most satisfying, anyway, rather than gorging on mass quantities? My parents always told me that if you are so hungry to wolf down three desserts, you are not eating enough healthy food before your dessert!

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