Heart-healthy treats to love

Posted 2/7/24

By Sidonie Maroon

Culinary educator for The Food Co-op


As cooks, we’re the gatekeepers of our family’s health, and we decide how the pantry is stocked. This goes for …

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Heart-healthy treats to love


By Sidonie Maroon

Culinary educator for The Food Co-op


As cooks, we’re the gatekeepers of our family’s health, and we decide how the pantry is stocked. This goes for day-to-day meals, but also for that delightful category, the treat. A treat is an out-of-the-ordinary occasion. Not hunger-easing like the mid-morning snack, but a respite, a reward, and a pleasurable experience. We have the power to influence and change our family’s treats for good reasons, while ensuring they remain delicious. 


Why Homemade Treats

Make Sense


Nutrient-dense: You decide exactly which foods to use, rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.


CONTROL: When you make treats at home, you have complete control over what goes into them, so you can avoid preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, as well as high amounts of sugars and unhealthy fats often found in commercial products.


CUSTOMIZATION: You can tailor treats to specific diets, such as gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, or allergy-friendly.


PORTION CONTROL: You determine the size of portions, which can help with weight management.


REDUCED SUGAR: You can substitute refined sugars with natural sweeteners like dates, bananas, or pure maple syrup and use less of them than found in store-bought foods.


HEALTHY FATS: Instead of processed vegetable oils, you can use healthier fats like avocado oil, coconut oil, or nuts in your homemade treats.


FIBER: Whole foods are often high in fiber, which helps feed your microbiome and keeps you regular.


ECONOMICS: Buying in bulk and making homemade is cost effective.


FAMILY: Making treats at home is a fun family activity that gets everyone involved and teaches children about nutrition.


Build a Treat Pantry


Stock your pantry with healthy ingredients, so you can little by little ween your family off their habitual choices. You don’t need to give up flavor, sweetness, or convenience. It will take time and effort. Make the switch one small treat at a time. Use pureed dates instead of sugar. Freeze bananas and dip in chocolate and nuts. Use vegetable purees like carrots and squashes. Eat fresh fruit in season. Healthy cookies, cakes, fudge, candy, pies, and tarts — you can have them all in moderation, and every bite will count toward the good life, with forethought and know-how.  


My Power Pantry


NUTS AND SEEDS: Pistachios, almonds, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, cashews and macadamia nuts, hemp hearts, sunflower, sesame, pepita, chia, flax and psyllium seeds.


DRIED FRUITS: Dates, figs, cranberries, raisins, blueberries, apricots and prunes.


LEGUMES: Black beans, navy beans, chickpeas, adzuki beans and mung beans (these can be used as purees in brownies and cakes).


FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: Lemons, limes, citrus, avocados, all fresh fruit and berries, carrots, beets, squashes, sweet potatoes and coconut milk.


WHOLE GRAINS: All whole grains, including the pseudo grains — quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth.


MISCELLANEOUS: Carob, dark chocolate, coconut flakes, coffee, tea, eggs, yogurt, and milks.


GOOD FATS: High-quality butter, olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.


SPICES AND FLAVORINGS: Cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, cardamom, anise, fennel, black pepper, cayenne, vanilla, and sea salt.


Make a Treat Recipe Binder


New ingredients and techniques can be off-putting and overwhelming. I recommend you make a binder for healthy family treat recipes. Print them and make notes. Try out new recipes that’ll suit your needs, so you can build seasonal go-tos that are easy to make.