This take on the classic dessert swaps in "nice cream" and cashew cream for a dairy-free, vegan, and Paleo-friendly alternative that's way more nutritious—and still satisfies your sweet tooth.

By Christy Brissette, RD
Updated: May 31, 2017

Is there anything more decadent than a banana split? It starts off with a banana, so you're getting a serving or two of fruit in, but this dessert goes off the nutrition rails pretty quickly after that. The banana is split open and filled with three types of ice cream (one scoop each of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, aka, Neapolitan). Next, comes a gooey sticky stream of hot fudge sauce. Then, finally, plenty of whipped cream with maraschino cherries on top.

So what's the damage in one of these ice cream parlor classics? About 500 calories, 53 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of saturated fat. Not really an indulgence you want to have on the reg.

But with this clean-eating version of a banana split that substitutes ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream with more nutritious alternatives, you'll save 300 calories and slash the saturated fat down to zero. This recipe also cuts the sugar in half-and it's all from natural sources: fruit!

Here, how to improve the classic banana split to make it a healthier treat.

1. Healthier Ice Cream Substitution: Nice Cream

If you haven't tried "nice cream" yet, you're in for a treat. It's essentially frozen bananas but with the consistency of ice cream. It's been termed "nice" cream thanks to all of the calories, fat, and added sugars you're saving. I always have frozen bananas on hand to whip up this naturally sweet treat.

All you need to do is toss a frozen banana and 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk into a food processor or good blender. Purée until you get a creamy consistency. Instant soft serve!

If you want a harder ice cream that's more scoopable to make your banana split, put your nice cream into a glass container and freeze for about 15 minutes to help it set.

How do you make your nice cream into different flavors, like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry? It's as easy as using the above recipe and adding some cocoa powder, vanilla extract, or frozen strawberries. Get the full details on how to make Neapolitan nice cream.

2. Healthier Chocolate Sauce Substitution: Date and Cocoa Hot Fudge Sauce

You can buy ready-made hot fudge sauce in a bottle or jar, but you're looking at lots of added sugar and not-so-healthy oils such as hydrogenated vegetable oil.

The swap? Chocolate sauce made with nothing more than dates, unsweetened almond milk, and cocoa powder. That's it! You'll use your blender or food processor to combine the ingredients and then heat them on the stovetop to get that creamy, gooey hot fudge consistency. Get the Date and Cocoa Hot Fudge Sauce recipe.

3. Healthier Whipped Cream Substitution: Cashew Cream

Search for healthy whipped cream alternatives and you'll find options that are super labor-intensive with more than 15 ingredients. Or on the flip side, you'll get quicker options that are loaded with artificial flavors, hydrogenated fats, and stabilizers (I'm looking at you, non-dairy whipped dessert topping).

To make a healthier whipped cream that also happens to be dairy-free, harness the healthy fats and bonus protein in cashews!

Simply blend 1/2 cup of raw unsalted cashews, 1/2 cup white grape juice, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth. Then freeze your cashew cream for about 10 minutes to help it set and you're ready to serve.

How to Assemble Your Banana Split

It's as simple as slicing a banana in half, topping with 1 scoop each of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry nice cream, putting a dollop of cashew cream on each scoop, drizzling with your date hot fudge sauce, and adding a few cherries on top. Sprinkle with roasted salted peanuts and you're in dessert heaven!


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