Part of the excitement of the holidays involves the delicious meals and desserts shared with loved ones during this special time of year, but these tasty treats can be disastrous to your waistline and your health. According to a recent study, Americans gain an average of 1.3lbs between the week of Christmas and New Year’s alone.
While there are many ways you can combat this holiday weight gain -- from limiting your alcohol intake to arranging a post-meal walk with your loved ones -- replacing the sugary and fattening desserts with healthier options is an essential step in promoting your health this holiday season.
If you’re having difficulty coming up with holiday dessert ideas that aren't packed with sugar, fat and calories, then look no further! We’ve scoured the internet to find the healthiest, tastiest treats for you and your loved ones to enjoy together.
Healthy Holiday Dessert Ideas to Try
When it comes to preventing holiday weight gain, you don't have to sacrifice flavor to reduce your caloric intake. Whether you’re in the mood for cookies, pies or cakes, you can’t go wrong with any of these healthy holiday recipes that your whole family is bound to enjoy:
Iced Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies (courtesy of Cooking Light)
Baking cookies is one of the most universal traditions this time of year, but using all-purpose flour and icing will only lead to holiday weight gain. Whole wheat flour may seem like an odd replacement, but this ingredient will actually strengthen the vanilla and butter flavors in the cookies and help to cut calories.
Ingredients for Cookies:
- 9 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 10 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ounce 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ingredients for Icing:
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- Naturally colored sparkling sugar (optional)
- To prepare cookies, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg; beat until well blended. Add vanilla; beat until blended. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat just until combined.
- Flatten dough into a 6-inch disk; wrap with plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 32 cookies, using a 2- or 3-inch cutter, rerolling scraps as necessary. Place cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool.
- To prepare icing, whisk together powdered sugar, yogurt, and rind; drizzle over cookies. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if desired. Let stand on a wire rack until icing is set, about 15 minutes.
Double Crust Apple Pie (courtesy of My Recipes)
Although they’re a popular dessert option during the holiday season, apple pies are typically very high in sugar. Luckily with this recipe, you can enjoy even more flavor without the added sugar by tossing the apples in unsweetened apple juice.
Ingredients for Crust:
- 10.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- 3 tablespoons vegan shortening (such as Earth Balance), chilled
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 6 tablespoons ice water
Ingredients for Filling:
- 6 cups (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled apple
- 1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Baking spray with flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process to combine. Cut butter and shortening into 1/2-inch pieces; add to processor bowl. Pulse 2 to 3 times or until butter is about the size of dried peas. Sprinkle vinegar and ice water over mixture. Pulse 2 to 3 times or until mixture resembles coarse sand.
- Scrape mixture onto a lightly floured work surface. Press mixture into a ball; divide into 2 equal pieces. Press each half into a 4-inch disk. Cover each disk with plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes. (The dough can be made 1 day ahead. If it's chilled for 24 hours, let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling.)
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- To prepare filling, place apples and juice in a large bowl; toss to coat. Combine brown sugar and next 5 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a small bowl. Sprinkle apples with brown sugar mixture; toss well to combine.
- Unwrap 1 dough disk, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll to an 11-inch circle. Place into a 9-inch pie plate lightly coated with baking spray. Pour filling into prepared pie plate (dish will be very full). Arrange diced butter on top of filling. Roll remaining half of dough into a 10-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on top of pie; fold edges under, and flute decoratively. Cut slits in top of dough to allow steam to escape. Lightly brush top of dough with egg white. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- Bake at 425° for 15 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 350°. Bake an additional 1 hour or until golden and bubbly. Shield edges of pie with foil if necessary. Place pie on a wire rack; cool completely before slicing.
Fresh Gingerbread Squares (courtesy of Cooking Light)
In lieu of making a tempting gingerbread house with loved ones this year, opt for these fresh gingerbread squares instead. With their rich cinnamon and molasses flavors, these gingerbread squares are the perfect low-fat treat to enjoy on a cold winter night even after the holidays are past.
- 4 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
- 2.38 ounces teff flour (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup oatmeal stout beer (such as Samuel Smith)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 large egg
- Cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Whisk together flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, molasses, oil, beer, granulated sugar, ginger, and egg in a medium bowl; add to flour mixture, whisking just until blended.
- Pour batter into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 45 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Sprinkle gingerbread with powdered sugar; cut into 12 squares.
Pumpkin Pie Pudding (courtesy of My Recipes)
This pudding is a new take on a classic dessert your whole family will enjoy. Out of all the healthy holiday recipes listed here, it’s certainly the quickest and easiest to make. Plus, if you serve it right out of the slow cooker, it’ll taste just like a warm pumpkin pie without the crust!
- 1 15-oz. can pumpkin
- 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup biscuit baking mix
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Garnish: whipped cream
- In a bowl, mix together all ingredients except topping. Transfer to a slow cooker that has been sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray.
- Cover and cook on low setting for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Pudding will start to pull away from sides of slow cooker; test for doneness with a toothpick inserted in center.
- Serve warm, topped with dollops of whipped cream.
Healthy Diet, Healthy Living
Preventing holiday weight gain by eating nutritious alternatives is not only essential in ensuring your health during this time of year -- it’s essential to your health year-round. Not only does a healthy diet ward off chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but it also can help keep your brain active and maintain muscle strength as you age.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, another key component of healthy aging is being proactive about your safety. None of us know when an emergency will strike, but with a medical alert system from Medical Guardian, your safety is guaranteed. Whether you experience a fall, medical emergency, house fire, power outage or even an armed invasion, help is always just the push of a button away.