The Best 250-Calorie Dessert Recipes
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The Best 250-Calorie Dessert Recipes

These dessert recipes are the real deal: rich brownies, gooey caramel popcorn, and decadent raspberry mousse cake. They're 100% -- okay, maybe 99.9% -- guilt-free.

Caramel Popcorn

Nearly 43 percent of Americans say they'd stop eating dessert if it meant they could add 5 years to their life. No worries: At only 250 calories, these four treats won't require any sacrifice.

Makes: 12 servings, about 1 1/3 cups each
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour


  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 5 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


  1. In a stockpot or an extra-large saucepan, heat popcorn kernels in 3 tablespoons of oil. Stir to coat all kernels. Cover and cook over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes, or until kernels are fully popped (shaking pot after 3 minutes).
  2. Lightly coat 2 large baking pans with cooking spray. Pour popcorn into pans and preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, honey, remaining oil, and salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden or silicone spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in baking soda until smooth.
  4. Evenly drizzle over popcorn; stir to coat. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 250 calories, 1g protein, 41g carbohydrate, 11g fat (4g saturated), 1g fiber.

Big Fudgy Bittersweet Brownies

Makes: 9 servings, 1 brownie each
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes


  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 ounces high-quality unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat or presifted whole wheat flour


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8-inch-square nonstick baking pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, egg white, yogurt, and vanilla extract; set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, oil, salt, and 3 tablespoons water, stirring constantly for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa and chocolate until chocolate melts, then add egg mixture. Add all flour, stirring until batter is smooth.
  3. Pour batter into baking pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until top is firm. Cool completely in pan on rack. Cut into squares.

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 250 calories, 4g protein, 35g carbohydrate, 14g fat (4g saturated), 3g fiber.

Nutty Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes: 12 servings, 2 cookies each
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes


  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup natural, unsalted chunky peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, blend peanut butter, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add white and brown sugar, half of the flour mixture, and the beaten egg, blending after each addition. Finish with the remaining flour mixture and pecans.
  3. Roll dough into 24 balls, about 1 rounded tablespoon each. Arrange balls about 2 inches apart on nonstick baking sheets. Using a fork, flatten dough balls, forming a crosshatch design on the tops.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in pans, then transfer to racks and cool completely.

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 250 calories, 5g protein, 26g carbohydrate, 14g fat (4g saturated), 2g fiber.

Fresh Raspberry-Mousse Almond Crumb Cake

Makes: 8 servings, 1 piece each
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes (plus 3 hours refrigeration)


  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 ounces (1/2 package) light cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup raspberry jam or preserves (preferably seedless)
  • 3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) fresh raspberries (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons (5/8 ounce) sliced almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or potato masher until crumbly. Reserve 1/2 cup for later use.
  2. Add yogurt, vanilla and almond extracts, egg, baking powder, and baking soda to mixture. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Pour into 8-inch-round nonstick baking pan.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and jam; beat at low speed until blended. Spread evenly over batter. Top with reserved flour mixture, sprinkling of raspberries (optional) and almonds.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes, or until edges are browned and center is nearly set. Cool on a rack. Refrigerate 3 hours, or until well chilled. Cut into 8 wedges.

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 250 calories, 5g protein, 30g carbohydrate, 12g fat (7g saturated), 1g fiber.

6 Tips for Healthier Baking

Boost the Fiber

  • In cakes and cheesecakes: Instead of frosting, icing, or whipped cream, top generously with seasonal fresh fruit.
  • In cookies: Add 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats and subtract 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.

Cut the Calories

  • In cakes: Replace half of the fat (butter, margarine, or oil) with unsweetened applesauce, then reduce sugar by about a spoonful.
  • In cookies: Eliminate a quarter of the sugar and increase vanilla extract by 1/4 teaspoon.

Up the Nutrition

  • In cakes: Replace half of the butter or margarine with healthier canola oil.
  • In cookies, brownies, and muffins: Replace up to half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat or buckwheat flour.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, February 2007.