We know what’s on your gift list: Easy holiday desserts that taste great, are good for you (OK, not as sugary or fattening as traditional seasonal treats), and make amazing gifts. You’re welcome!
There’s nothing better than spending a cold winter day inside by the fire, whipping up delicious holiday treats for your friends and family. But all those baked goods you indulge in during the month of December can take a toll on your waistline; according to recent research from Cornell University, the average weight gain for Americans during the Christmas-New Year’s season is 1.3 pounds. (What’s more, it took half the participants in the study five months to shed the weight they’d gained during the holidays.)
The solution: We’ve rounded up some of our favorite healthy holiday treats that contain significantly less sugar and calories than their more fattening counterparts. From whole-wheat sugar cookies to chewy lemon bars to moist holiday cakes, there’s something for everyone on this list. The best part? All of these treats are packed with flavor, thanks to better-for-you ingredients like ground cinnamon, dried cherries, low-fat yogurt, pure pumpkin, and fresh ginger—in other words, no one will notice that they’re actually munching on healthier cookies and cakes. Happy baking!
Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies
Try this recipe: Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
There’s a reason these cookies are a classic——they satisfy your sweet tooth while only costing 126 calories per cookie. Get the family involved by gathering around the kitchen counter to decorate with festive icing and sprinkles!
Ingredients: Flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, baking soda, butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, egg white, pure vanilla extract, pure almond extract, confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice
White-Chocolate Holiday Bark
Try this recipe: White Chocolate Holiday Bark
Everyone will love this white chocolate twist on bark. It’s packed with heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich dried cranberries and almonds.
Ingredients: Almonds, unsweetened coconut, rice cereal, dried cranberries, white chocolate, vegetable oil
Try this recipe: Lemon Bars
Watch the video: How to Zest a Lemon
Try this refreshing citrus dessert when you’ve hit your chocolate and peppermint limit. Just start with basic cookie dough and add some lemon zest. These treats will be gone from the holiday dessert table in no time.
Ingredients: Lemon zest, egg yolks, unsalted butter, fresh lemon juice, powdered sugar
Cranberry-Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Try this recipe: Cranberry-Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies
These holiday cookies taste so decadent Santa will never know they’re packed with whole wheat, fiber-rich oats, and omega-rich walnuts. Don’t forget to leave a glass of milk out as well.
Ingredients: All-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, regular oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, dried cranberries, walnuts, semisweet chocolate mini chips, brown sugar, butter, honey, vanilla extract, eggs, cooking spray
Apple spice cake
Try this recipe: Apple Spice Cake
Traditional recipes often call for more than two sticks of butter. Cut out fat and calories by swapping in low-fat buttermilk and vegetable oil instead. Spices like cinnamon and cloves add flavor and can improve your health without adding calories.
Ingredients: Dark brown sugar, cream cheese, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, buttermilk, Braeburn apple, brandy, cooking spray, powdered sugar
Try this recipe: Buttermilk Pralines
Shhh. Don’t tell anyone our version has a fraction of the fat and calories of a traditional praline. Even better, they last up to two weeks in an airtight container.
Ingredients: Sugar, buttermilk, corn syrup, baking soda, salt, pecans, butter, vanilla extract
Peppermint Ice Cream Cake
Try this recipe: Peppermint Ice Cream Cake
You’ll love starting a new (and guilt-free) holiday tradition with this festive cake. Low-fat ice cream cuts the saturated fat and cholesterol by more than half, making this frozen treat much healthier than you’d expect.
Ingredients: Cooking spray, unsweetened cocoa, butter, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg substitute, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla extract, peppermint ice cream, fat-free whipped topping, peppermint extract, peppermint candies
Quick Baked Pears
Try this recipe: Quick Baked Pears
Top this fruity dessert with cranberries for a low-fat, antioxidant-rich dessert. Use Bosc or Comice varieties—they’re in peak season in the fall and winter.
Ingredients: Bosc pears, sugar, cinnamon, dried cranberries, low-fat granola, apple juice, low-fat frozen yogurt
White Peppermint Snowballs
Try this recipe: White Peppermint Snowballs
These snowballs are easy to make with your favorite brand of packaged sugar cookie dough, or dough you create yourself. Adding in some crushed peppermint candies makes them extra festive for the holiday, and the minty smell may actually help you eat less.
Ingredients: Refrigerated sugar cookie dough, peppermint candies, powdered sugar
Read the full list here at Health.com.