Finding healthy desserts in NYC…Piece of cake!

It’s not exactly a “piece of cake” to find healthy desserts in the city. And the difficulty doubles if you are adhering to special dietary restrictions as well. But as always, New York City keeps pace with the most up-to-date fads, which now include the health food craze. Here are a few of NYC’s newest and healthiest dessert places:

Pop-bar Parents will appreciate that kids can’t tell the difference. When Reuben BenJehuda from Italy met Daniel Yaghoubi from Germany, their “mini-obsessions” with gelato and pops (respectively) brought about an idea for a unique dessert shop, later known as Popbar. It opened May 2010 in a colorful shop downtown.

Best known for its pistachio popGelato, blood orange popSorbetto and mixed berry myPop, Popbar features treats made of all natural ingredients that are gluten-free, preservative-free and kosher-certified. Popbars are made fresh daily, 24 at a time, and displayed in a colorful array that features popular personalized pops such as the pistachio myPop made of a pistachio popGelato, dark chocolate dip and pistachio topping.

It is safe to say that all popbars are a refreshing alternative to creamy ice cream, but the most satisfying pops are the popSorbettos, which are completely fruit-based and made without milk or cream. They are sweet and flavorful, and the mixed berry popSorbetto even maintains traces of the berry seeds to add extra tang.

Healthy ‘poppings,’ as they are cleverly called, include coconut shavings, nuts and granola. There are also brownie bites and cookie crumbs for those willing to splurge. But, as explicitly stated on the menu, ‘poppings’ are not all gluten-free like the pops.

Popbars are satisfying snacks for anyone, but most beneficial for parents and children who would normally be accustomed to an ice cream stop after meals. Pop-bars are all made with 100% fruit, and popGelatos and YogurtPops have less cream than ice cream, so kids enjoy a healthy alternative when choosing popbars. Children won’t be able to tell the difference from regular popsicles, but the health benefits are definitely apparent.

Tu-Lu’s Gluten Free Bakery

Celiac disease (and other dietary restrictions) don’t stand in the way of tasty baked goods.

Sweet both in looks and taste, Tu-Lu’s Gluten Free Bakery is a new addition to the downtown scene. Tully Lewis opened up the bakery in February 2010 after discovering she had celiac disease. She named it after her dog Tu-Lu. Later, Jen Wells, who also has the disease, partnered with Tully. The menu began to include dairy-free and vegan items, making it known “the people’s bakery,” as Wells says, smiling near the cupcake tree mural on the wall.

The most popular—and undoubtedly the most delicious—baked good is the gluten-free cinnamon coffee cake. With a perfect flaky crust packed with clumps of cinnamon, the cake is moist and flavorful despite its gluten-free ingredients. The mini-cupcakes come in a pack of 12 and are another hit of the bakery. Though similar in taste to other brands, they are a practical, bite-sized and gluten-free treat. The dairy-free red velvet and chocolate cupcakes are tasty as well.

A specialty of the bakery is the “healthy cookie,” made with oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit. The cookie has no added sugar, but maintains its sweet taste from the natural sugars in dried fruit. It is especially satisfying and filling for anyone with conscious taste buds or a limited sweet tooth.

Also popular are the vegan chocolate chip cookies and daily-made Paninis. Both sell out rapidly each day. The Paninis are made with Tu-Lu’s homemade sunflower seed bread, freshly baked behind the counter with the rest of the goods. Tully began the bakery because of personal dietary restrictions, and now provides tasty treats to New Yorkers with all types of dietary restrictions. But even without considering its limitations, Tu-Lu’s is a healthier way to indulge a sweet tooth.

Soft Serve Fruit Co.

Less ingredients lead to way more health benefits and even more taste benefits.

Recently, ice cream was overshadowed by its healthier alternative of frozen yogurt. Now, frozen yogurt may be overshadowed by an even healthier alternative found at Soft Serve Fruit Co. The company, which has locations uptown, downtown and in the Hamptons, serves vegan, dairy-free, fat free, gluten free, cholesterol free, kosher frozen fruit in a soft serve fashion. It is able to satisfy all of these diets because it is made only from natural fruit, filtered water and organic cane sugar…yet it is so good!

The most popular flavor, Banana Soft Serve, is a perfect healthy option when topped with fruit. But the menu offers a slightly more hearty option called the Crunchy Salty Sundae, which cannot be upstaged even at the most renowned (and probably unhealthy) ice cream shops. The sundae includes Banana Soft Serve, fresh banana, pretzels, peanut butter and chocolate chips. Soft Serve Fruit Co. toppings are often organic and always free of high fructose corn syrup.

It is hard not to be fooled by the creamy texture in each fruity soft serve dessert; however, one serving size of each flavor does not reach over 90 calories. And with fruit as its main ingredient, it is naturally fat free. Just as its frozen yogurt counterparts, there are a wide variety of toppings available, and flavors vary by season.

Soft Serve Fruit Co. is definitely a go-to for all dessert-lovers. It’s not only free of so many unhealthy ingredients, but free of guilt for all soft serve lovers.

Sari Soffer,  Birds Nest Foundation