You can beat the bulge with these tasty family desserts


Home baking can be so soothing and satisfying it’s no wonder so many people are putting on a pinny to give it a go.

It is a great family activity when children are stuck at home feeling bored — as it’s a team effort and young chefs are always proud of the biscuits and cakes that they produce.

But if you’ve been panicking about the effect of the delights on your waistline, worry no more.

The flexibility of the myWW programme from WW, where no ingredients are off limits, means you can set SmartPoints aside for enjoying the results of family baking sessions — and savour every mouthful secure in the knowledge it won’t scupper your healthy eating goals.

You can enjoy the end results without feeling guilty.

‘At WW we believe it’s important for the whole family to enjoy preparing and eating food together. And the occasional biscuit or piece of cake is no exception,’ says Julia Westgarth, WW head of programme.

That’s why today — as we continue our exclusive WW series to help you navigate the challenges of the coronavirus lockdown without piling on the pounds — we’re sharing brilliant WW recipes for muffins, cakes and other sweet treats for you to try at home

That’s why today — as we continue our exclusive WW series to help you navigate the challenges of the coronavirus lockdown without piling on the pounds — we’re sharing brilliant WW recipes for muffins, cakes and other sweet treats for you to try at home.

Not only are they scrumptious, but they’re relatively low in saturated fat and sugar. One slice or a portion won’t sabotage any plans you have to lose extra ‘lockdown pounds’ or maintain a healthy weight.

‘Many of our recipes use clever adaptations to make them healthier, such as including fresh fruit,’ says Julia.

‘This adds moistness and natural sweetness, meaning you need less sugar.

‘In fact, the delicious chocolate muffins, which contain ripe bananas (as well as eggs, cocoa powder and a few squares of dark chocolate), don’t require any sugar to be added at all!’

Many of the recipes also make use of healthier low-fat alternatives to full-fat butter or cream such as low-fat spread, reduced-fat cottage cheese, calorie-controlled cooking spray and low-fat yoghurt.

This is why an indulgent slice of the baked vanilla cheesecake, for instance, will only take up six of your SmartPoints Budget whichever colour plan you’re following.

The WW app has a wide selection of healthier versions of recipes for traditional cakes and biscuits. There is also a clever recipe-builder feature that you can use to calculate the SmartPoints values of your favourite recipes

The WW app has a wide selection of healthier versions of recipes for traditional cakes and biscuits. There is also a clever recipe-builder feature that you can use to calculate the SmartPoints values of your favourite recipes

Or for roughly the same SmartPoints value, you could enjoy a red velvet cupcake with its satisfying dollop of frosting on the top.

When you taste it, you’d never guess it’s made from low-fat soft cheese, zero per cent fat natural yoghurt, a dash of vanilla essence and only a tablespoon of icing sugar — instead of the usual heavyweight combination of full-fat butter and lots of icing sugar.

And if you’re struggling to get your hands on flour, there’s a darkly-delicious flourless chocolate cake recipe, which uses ground almonds instead, making it suitable for anyone who is gluten-intolerant, too.

If you’ve been buoyed by your success with baking our WW recipes, you could always try using these healthy hacks to adapt other favourites to make them more waistline-friendly.

The WW app has a wide selection of healthier versions of recipes for traditional cakes and biscuits. There is also a clever recipe-builder feature that you can use to calculate the SmartPoints values of your favourite recipes.

It means you can experiment by substituting lower-fat alternatives or by using sweeteners such as Stevia to replace part of the sugar content.

‘You’ll be amazed at how good your baking can taste with a bit of thought and just a few healthy tweaks,’ says Julia.

Instant mood-boosters 

 It’s not possible to see life in the most positive light all the time at the moment — and it can be tough. If you’re feeling down or anxious, try these tips to lift your mood and help you feel ready to take on the day.

  • Think of kindnesses you’ve received from friends or family. Being aware of the good traits in those we love can in turn make us feel more supported, safe and generous in our view of the world. Make a list of the three best qualities displayed by some of your nearest and dearest.
  • Counter negative self-talk. ‘When you catch yourself saying unhelpful things in your head, try to say several positive things in response,’ suggests WW’s Julia Westgarth.
  • Want to make the most of the spring mornings? Go for a 20-30 minute walk between 8am and noon, when the blue light from the sun is at its highest level. This helps regulate your internal clock and help your sleep schedule.
  • Keep focused on the positive benefits you’ll enjoy when you reach your health or fitness goals by creating a ‘New Me’ board with pictures to show the clothes you want to wear or activities you want to take part in. Place it somewhere you’ll see it every day or do this online with pinterest.com or the Evernote app.

Chocolate muffins

Prep time 5 minutes plus cooling

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes 6

  • 3 large very ripe bananas (about 450g peeled weight)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 20g dark chocolate, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Line 6 holes of a muffin tin with paper cases.

Put the bananas, eggs and cocoa powder in a food processor or blender and blitz until completely smooth.

Divide the mixture between the paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the muffins comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the muffins, then allow to set before serving.

Chocolate muffins

Chocolate muffins

Rocky road bites

Prep time 10 minutes + cooling & chilling

Cook time 1 minute

Makes 20

  • 50g low-fat spread
  • 150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 50g mini marshmallows
  • 70g reduced-fat rich tea biscuits, crushed into small pieces

Line an 18cm square cake tin with baking paper, leaving some paper hanging over the edge of the tin to make the cake easy to lift out. Put the low-fat spread and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 1 minute, or until melted. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Reserve a few of the marshmallows for decoration, then add the rest to the chocolate mixture, along with the biscuits, and stir well to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Scatter over the reserved marshmallows and chill for 1 hour or until set firm.

Lift the rocky road out of the tin, remove the baking paper and cut into 20 equal-sized pieces.

Rocky road bites

Rocky road bites

Flourless chocolate cake

Prep time 30 minutes, plus cooling

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 12

  • Calorie-controlled cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 85g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 120ml half-fat creme fraiche
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 165g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp icing sugar, to decorate
  • 125g fresh raspberries, to serve 

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Mist a 23cm springform cake tin with cooking spray and dust the base and sides with 1 tablespoon of the cocoa powder.

Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 1 minute until melted. Stir until combined, then set aside to cool.

Sift the remaining cocoa powder in to a small bowl, add the creme fraiche and mix until smooth and combined. Set aside. Now put the egg yolks and 65g of the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Beat using a hand-held electric whisk until pale and creamy.

Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract, then beat until smooth. Fold in the creme fraiche mixture until smooth and combined, then fol in the ground almonds.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until combined, then beat for a final 2 minutes until you have a thick, glossy meringue.

Gently fold one-third of the meringue into the chocolate and almond mixture. Repeat with the remaining meringue until combined.

Transfer to the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin – this will take about 1 hour.

Gently release the cake from the tin, transfer to a cake stand and dust over the icing sugar. Serve with the fresh raspberries scattered over the top. 

Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate cake

Banana cake

Prep time 20 minutes, plus cooling

Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes 

SERVES 10

  • Calorie-controlled cooking spray
  • 3-4 really ripe bananas (you’ll need 300g peeled weight)
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g 0% fat natural Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g porridge oats
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 160c/fan 140c/gas 3. Mist a 900g loaf tin with cooking spray and line the base and ends with a long strip of overhanging baking paper.

Put the bananas, honey, eggs, yoghurt and vanilla in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Wipe the bowl of the food processor clean.

Reserve 2 teaspoons of the oats and put the rest in the food processor with the flour and baking powder, then blitz to a fine crumb. Add to the banana mixture and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Scatter over the reserved oats and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean, with just a few sticky crumbs.

Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out and slice to serve.

Banana cake

Banana cake

Baked vanilla cheesecake 

Prep time 20 minutes, plus cooling

Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes

Serves 10

  • 50g low-fat spread, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 125g low-fat digestive biscuits
  • 150g reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • 300g low-fat soft cheese
  • 170g low-fat vanilla yoghurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 125g strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 75g raspberries
  • 75g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Grease and line the base of an 18cm springform cake tin with baking paper.

Put the digestives in a food processor and blitz to a fine crumb, or place in a sealed plastic food bag and crush with a rolling pin. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the melted spread until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the base of the prepared tin. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 150c/ fan 130c/gas 2.

Press the cottage cheese through a sieve and put into a food processor. Add the soft cheese, yoghurt, eggs, vanilla and sugar and blitz until smooth. Pour the mixture over the cookie base and shake the tin gently to level the surface.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the cheesecake is set in the centre, but still slightly wobbly. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven as it cools, for at least 1 hour — this gradual cooling helps stop the cheesecake from cracking.

Chill until ready to serve, then carefully remove the cheesecake from the tin and pile the berries on top — you can serve any leftover berries on the side.

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Red velvet cupcakes 

Prep time 20 minutes, plus cooling

Cook time 20 minutes   

Makes 12

  • 60g low-fat spread
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 1 x 15g tube red gel food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100ml low-fat natural yoghurt
  • 150g plain flour, sifted
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp skimmed milk

For the frosting

  • 150g low-fat soft cheese
  • 75g 0% natural Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Put the low-fat spread and caster sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with a hand-held electric whisk until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and continue beating until well combined. Sift in the cocoa powder, add the food colouring and vanilla, and beat until combined.

Mix in half the natural yoghurt, followed by half the flour, beating well. Repeat with the rest of the yoghurt and flour, and beat for 2 minutes until fluffy. On a low speed, beat in the bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar, then add enough milk to get a mixture that drops easily from a spoon.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are risen and springy to the touch.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Use a teaspoon to dig out a small hollow in the centre of each cooled cupcake, and grate the removed pieces of sponge into a bowl, so you have fine red cake crumbs.

To make the frosting, mix the soft cheese, yoghurt, icing sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Swirl on top of the cooled cupcakes, filling the hollows, then scatter over the cake crumbs to decorate.

Red velvet cupcakes

Red velvet cupcakes

 Sleep clinic: Yes, you can get better rest

With lots of time to fill in lockdown and no familiar routine, it’s important to establish healthy habits — especially when it comes to sleep.

If you do not have to get up for your morning commute, it can be tempting to stay up an hour or so later than usual at night to ‘just finish’ a box set or take in more news headlines.

Or perhaps you are going to bed at your normal time, but finding that your mind carries on whirring and worrying once you’ve turned out the lights.

The odd late night might not matter, but most of us will soon feel the effects of poor sleep in terms of low mood, lack of concentration and energy.

The odd late night might not matter, but most of us will soon feel the effects of poor sleep in terms of low mood, lack of concentration and energy

The odd late night might not matter, but most of us will soon feel the effects of poor sleep in terms of low mood, lack of concentration and energy

Your weight will also be affected, as tiredness triggers increased cravings for fat-filled, rich or sugary foods.

We tend to think of sleep as when the mind and body shut down — but in fact it’s an active period during which a lot of important processing, restoration and strengthening is carried out.

Getting enough good-quality sleep is essential to our mental and physical health and can help to reduce the risk of suffering from obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease. If you’re struggling to get off at night, or you’ve slipped into poor sleeping habits during the coronavirus crisis, how can you get a good night’s rest?

Start by setting a regular bedtime, say experts at WW. This helps your body’s internal clock to regulate itself so that you begin to feel sleepy at the same time every night.

Prepare for bed about an hour beforehand — with a wind-down routine that includes relaxing activities such as gentle yoga stretches or reading a book.

Recent research shows that taking a warm bath one to two hours before settling down for the night can also help you to drift off. This is because our body temperature naturally falls a couple of degrees in the hour before sleep — and the warmth of the bath can help to kick-start this process.

Experts agree phones, tablet computers and other electronic devices should be kept out of the bedroom. These give out ‘blue’ light waves that interfere with your body’s production of ‘sleep’ hormone melatonin.

Try to avoid a nightcap, too. Although a tipple before bedtime can help you fall asleep more quickly, research shows that your sleep will be much worse.

Repeating a pre-bed routine can help ease you off as it gives sleep ‘cues’ to your body.

Sometimes, despite our best endeavours, we still find ourselves staring at the ceiling at night. But we can calm our thoughts so sleep comes more easily. Here are some suggestions to try:

Meditate or listen to soothing music to calm a busy mind

Both have the power to slow your heart rate and breathing, lower your blood pressure and may even trigger your muscles to relax. These biological changes mirror some of those your body undergoes as you’re falling asleep, making music or meditation an excellent preparation for good rest.

Start a worry list

Taking your cares to bed can keep you up at night. Instead, try setting aside a few minutes each evening to jot down what’s on your mind. Then put the list to one side and head to bed. By writing down your worries, you’ll feel as though you’ve got them out of your system. 

Try the Three Good Things technique

Before bed, think about three things that happened in the past 24 hours that made you happy. 

A text from a friend, perhaps, or a walk outdoors in spring sunshine, or maybe you really enjoyed a tasty supper.

Studies show grateful people are less likely to have their minds clouded by negative, worrying thoughts and more likely to sleep better.

If you do find yourself awake in the middle of the night, don’t lie there tossing and turning. If you’ve not dropped off again within about 20 minutes, get up and carry out a quiet activity, such as reading until you feel sleepier, then try to get off again.

Accepting that you cannot drift off — rather than fighting to get to sleep — can actually help you. Comforting yourself with the idea that you are still resting will reduce your anxiety levels and the chances are you’ll end up nodding off.

What plan is for you? 

To tailor your food choices to your lifestyle, myWW offers a choice of three plans: Green, Blue and Purple. You can go to the myWW app for a self-assessment.

GREEN: For those who usually eat out and prefer to grab and go, this gives a daily allowance of 30 SmartPoints and 100+ ZeroPoint fruits and veggies to choose from.

BLUE: If you like cooking but also need the flexibility of the occasional ready-meal, Blue gives a daily allowance of 23 SmartPoints and 200+ ZeroPoint fruits and veggies.

PURPLE: For those who cook from scratch, giving a daily allowance of 16 SmartPoints and 300+ ZeroPoint fruits and veggies.

You also get a weekly allowance (known as weeklies) for splurges, bigger portions or going out. You can also save daily SmartPoints you don’t use. Up to four unused daily SmartPoints are rolled over into weeklies so you can treat yourself at the weekend.

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