It’s holiday weekend!  Families and friends are gathering to celebrate the occasion, often with heaping trays of food, snacks, and desserts in tow.  The sweets enjoyed at the end of the meal are a significant contributor to the total caloric intake of a meal, and can easily provide as many or more calories as the meal itself.  

As such, I would like to share with you one of my very favorite recipes.   These chocolate espresso brownies are absolutely delicious – they are moist and satisfying, and you’d never guess that they contain only 115 calories per square!  The secret that makes this recipe low calorie yet very flavorful is that cocoa powder is used instead of chocolate.   And no, the brownies are not microscopic – they are appropriately portion controlled at 1/16 of an 8×8″ pan.  

For diabetics, please note that the carbohydrate content is about 17 grams per square.  This is not a lot of carbohydrate, but they are simple carbs (sugar and flour), making this a high glycemic index food (a deviation from the recommendations of choosing complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index).  Therefore, these squares may cause blood sugars to rise a little more than a complex carb food would.  Having said that, one square as a special Easter dessert would be a much better choice than many other desserts, which can easily contain several fold higher carbohydrate and calories.


  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour (or try whole wheat flour for a more complex carb)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso powder (I like to use a Starbucks Via!)
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tbsp coffee flavored liquor
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350F.  

Whisk together cocoa, flour and baking powder. 
In a separate bowl, stir together canola oil and sugars. 
In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. 

In a small cup, dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tbsp hot water.  Stir coffee, coffee liquer and vanilla extract into the canola/sugar mixture, along with the egg whites.  Gradually stir this into the cocoa mixture, until well blended.

Pour the batter into an 8×8 inch baking pan lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean.   Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 16 brownies.

Per brownie:
115 cal, 2g protein, 17g CHO, 5g fat, 1g fiber.

Note that these brownies don’t have any icing – they don’t need it, as they are so rich on their own.  For decoration, consider adding one dark chocolate chip to the top of each one while they are still warm (for an additional 2.5 calories!).

It can be a challenge to maintain a healthy dietary pattern on weekends like this!  Remember to practice portion control at all aspects of the meal as well, and to make healthy food choices wherever possible!

Dr. Sue © 2011

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