On your quest for a healthier diet, you might be wondering if there are some healthy dessert options out there that won’t totally wreck your progress. While avoiding or limiting sugar on a healthy diet plan is important, a sweet treat from time to time that is also nourishing can go a long way to keep on you track.
There are a number of desserts, which when made mindfully at home, can be a lot healthier than their standard counterparts, depending on the ingredients you use. Homemade gelatin dessert is a great example. It’s a gut-nourishing, low-calorie dessert that will satisfy your sweet craving without the food coloring and processed sugar of Jell-O brand gelatin.
How to Make Gelatin from Animal Bones
Gelatin is made by boiling the connective tissue and bones of animals over a long period of time. The rich, Jell-O-like end product is liquid when hot (bone broth) and gels into a springy consistency after it’s been refrigerated. Here’s a great recipe for slow-cooker chicken bone broth that outlines the entire process.
We know that bone broth boasts a host of health benefits, including skin improvements, relief from joint pain, healing a leaky gut, and boosting your immune system, and the gelatin found within it is a big reason why. Bone broth is great for sipping or using as a base for soups and sauces, but that doesn’t exactly address the sweet tooth problem. This brings us to homemade Jell-O.
As we hinted at before, the ingredients you use for your homemade desserts (whether it’s ice cream, cookies, Jell-O, or something else) will help determine the overall nutrition and health benefits in the end.
For this reason, we recommend avoiding the commercial gelatin powder from brands like Knox and opting for grass-fed gelatin. Knox gelatin packets are neither organic nor sourced from grass fed animals.
A great alternative is Great Lakes gelatin. Just be careful when you purchase to avoid anything that says “hydrolysate,” as those products will remain liquid in the refrigerator. Look for the Great Lakes brand beef gelatin to avoid getting the wrong thing.
If you’re vegan, gelatin won’t work for you, but you could try substituting agar agar instead for a nearly identical texture.
How you sweeten your unflavored gelatin is the next question. You want to avoid too much added sugar to keep your dessert somewhat healthy, so choose a natural sugar source like fresh fruit juice, raw honey, or maple syrup. If you’re going for super low sugar, you could try stevia or a sugar alcohol like xylitol or maltitol, although you might not get as firm a set without a real sugar source.
A Note on Fresh Fruit
Some fresh fruits do better than others in homemade gelatin. Pineapples, kiwi fruit, papaya, figs, and prickly pears all contain an enzyme called protease. This enzyme helps digest proteins, and since gelatin’s structure holds up due to its protein content, these fruits will prevent it from setting properly. If you’re dead set on using these fruits in your homemade gelatin, all but kiwi can be peeled, cubed, and boiled for at least five minutes to neutralize these enzymes. You can also use pasteurized juices from these fruits, which have gone through a heating process as well (1).
Gelatin dessert is best within the first few days of making it. The longer it sits in the refrigerator, the gummier it gets. We’ve offered a standard gelatin to water ratio, but if you prefer a gummier or looser consistency, you can adjust your proportions accordingly, adding more gelatin for a gummier finish and more water for a looser finish. Enjoy!
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