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Healthy Holiday Desserts!


Healthy Holiday Desserts

by Carolyn Burris

Whether we are cooking for the holidays or celebrating with family and friends, we can continue to stay on the healthy eating track without compromise. In theory, your holiday dinner does not have to be a dietary disaster!

When eating out with family and friends, keep your portions small and look for the healthiest options including fruits, whole grains and vegetables. Go easy on the high carb foods such as bread, potatoes, and stuffing. One area that can be challenging are desserts which typically are loaded with sugar and bad fats and can lead to undesirable weight gain. Keep away from rich desserts, which can add as many as 400-600 calories per serving.

Here’s a few ideas for healthier holiday dessert planning:

  • A simple fruit salad using winter fruits topped with granola
  • A naturally light dessert choice like baked or poached fruit or an apple crisp using organic ingredients
  • Make some healthy ingredient substitutions such as applesauce or prune puree for up to half the amount of fat or oil required in baked goods like cakes and cookies
  • Use healthier fats such as cold-pressed canola, high oleic safflower or sunflower oil
  • Use grassfed omega rich organic butter in moderation
  • Add freshly ground flaxseed with water as an egg substitute
  • Add omega 3 fiber rich addition to the dessert
  • Use wholegrain flour instead of refined white flour
  • Replace three tablespoons of cocoa powder for one ounce of bar chocolate
  • Reduce the sugar by up to a third without really noticing the difference and/or replace sugar with other healthy options such as organic sugar, honey, agave, or pure maple syrup
  • Vanilla extract, almond extract or other flavorings can enhance the sweetness without the sugar
  • Use cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to add spice

These are just a few suggestions to help combat compromised health during the holiday festivities. Here is a healthy and fun dessert to try!



Makes about 20 treats. Combine cocoa, oats, dates, nut butter, cinnamon and other ingredients to make these naturally sweet treats a better option for dessert. Enjoy!

Ingredients :

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoon(s) agave, honey, or maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Crushed nuts, coconut, or organic sugar (optional)

Preparation :

  1. Place oats in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground.
  2. Add dates, 3 tablespoons cocoa, nut butter, sweetener, vanilla, and cinnamon and process until finely ground and sticking together.
  3. Place remaining cocoa powder in a shallow bowl. Form into balls about 2 teaspoons each, pressing firmly for mixture to stick together.
  4. Roll balls in cocoa powder, crushed nuts, coconut, or organic sugar and chill until ready to serve.

This Nutrition Update is brought to you by Forum Health Knoxville. For more information about the Forum Health Knoxville’s approach to wellness, call 865-675-9355.

Carolyn Burris, an east Tennessee native, earned her Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her passion for helping those with nutritional needs brought her to Forum Health Knoxville. Carolyn particularly loves encouraging those struggling with food intolerance, obesity, fibromyalgia, and fatigue.

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