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  • Heather Bainbridge EdM, MA, RDN

Zest for Success: How to sweeten fruit without sugar for a dessert-worthy dish

What makes a winning dessert? It's a combination of complementary flavors, sweetness and mouthfeel. While most may not think of fruit as dessert, my California Fruit Salad might just be the exception. I've brought this dish to numerous parties and the response is always the same, "ooh, that's so good!" Then I'm typically asked, is it honey that makes it so sweet? "Nope." So what is it?

It's my secret ingredient that brings out fruit's naturally sweet goodness: zest. It also is incredibly refreshing.

I'm not saying honey or sugar is bad (in moderation), but most of us average more than double the daily recommendation according the AHA and CDC. So when we can, finding substitutes that can compliment the flavor of a dish without adding unnecessary calories is a true find. The walnuts balance the sweetness, adding a satisfying crunch and the diversity of fruit lends to the right mix of textures-the smooth yet crisp grapes, the soft mango, the juicy oranges and the firmer flesh and seeds of the strawberries and kiwi.

Lemon and lime zest work great too. The options are plentiful to transform fruit from snack status to dessert delight. And by all means add zeal to your snacks with zest to add variety and enjoyment because that's what keeps us eating healthfully for the long haul. I'm loving clementines and blackberries with lime zest right now. It tastes deliciously bright and looks beautiful (we also eat with our eyes).

To good health and food,


California Fruit Salad with Walnuts

By: Heather Bainbridge

Serves 6

1/2 cup Walnut halves

2 Naval oranges, peeled, quartered and chopped; plus peels

1 pint Strawberries, hulled and halved

1 1/2 cups Red grapes

1 Mango, chopped

2 Kiwifruit, peeled, sliced and chopped

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 300 degrees F. On a foil lined tray or small sheet pan spread walnuts in an even layer and sprinkle with water. Zest one orange peel over the walnuts avoiding the white pith. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned and fragrant.

While walnuts are baking, zest the rind of the second orange peel in a large bowl. Add strawberries, grapes, mango, kiwifruit and oranges. Stir fruit and sprinkle walnut halves overtop.


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