Building a better dessert: The ‘Three Pleasures’

2 min read

Dessert shouldn’t have to be a tradeoff between unhealthy ingredients and flavor, according to Walter Willett of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Willett, chair of the School’s Department of Nutrition and Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, is on a mission to reimagine dessert around what he calls the Three Pleasures: fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate.

Willett explained his dessert vision in a July 22, 2016 National Geographic article. “Simplicity and pleasure captures the experience in a way that is light, not decadent,” he said.

Each “pleasure” provides a treat for the senses as well as a health benefit. Fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as natural sweetness, and they provide a burst of color to the plate. Nuts provide healthy fat and protein, and a satisfying crunch. Dark chocolate adds flavor without the sugar in milk chocolate, and provides flavonoids that may reduce blood pressure and insulin resistance.

Willett said that when dining out he often challenges chefs to go off-menu and create a dessert for him around the Three Pleasures. He’s found that while some will send back a simple fruit bowl sprinkled with nuts and served with a few squares of dark chocolate, many send back inspired creations involving ingredients like fruit purées and chocolate sauce.

Harvard Chan’s Nutrition Department is challenging readers to try this strategy dining out or to craft their own Three Pleasures combination. Tweet photos and descriptions to @HSPHnutrition with the tag #3ForDessert.