Did you know that you can take almost any classic recipe and make it lighter and healthier? Just substitute a few ingredients and voilà!

  • For example, you can lower sugar content by replacing granulated sugar with dry sweeteners, and using fruit juice or molasses instead of heavy syrup.
  • To ensure moistness while lowering the fat content, opt for mashed avocado or banana instead of oil or shortening as an ingredient.
  • Spices also add plenty of flavor without adding sugar or fat.
  • And don’t forget to max out fiber levels with berries, oats, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Here are five healthier versions of delicious, festive holiday sweets (one is gluten-free and vegan), courtesy of the Food Network. We’ve added some cooking tips along the way to help make preparation virtually foolproof.

P.S. If you’re really not a kitchen whiz, two of these recipes are no-bake treats!

Flu-Fighter Cookies (makes 30)

Ingredients
  • 2-¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 1-¼ cups golden raisins
  • 1-¼ cups dried cranberries
  • 1-¼ cups roughly chopped walnuts, toasted
Instructions
  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger, and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats and half of the raisins, cranberries, and walnuts. Mix the remaining dried fruit and nuts in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Top each with some of the reserved dried-fruit-and-nut mixture and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.*
  4. Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Oatmeal Cookies (makes 24)

Ingredients
  • Boiling water
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup apple butter
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, add raisins and cover with boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes. Once plumped, drain the raisins and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Arrange oven racks in the lower and upper thirds; preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the apple butter, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined; stir in the oats and raisins. Cooking tip: An electric hand mixer and separate bowl can be used instead of an all-in-one mixer.
  5. Using a rounded tablespoon, drop the cookies onto parchment-lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart (12 per sheet). Bake until the cookies are no longer wet-looking in the center, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Almond Snowballs (makes 9 to 18, depending on size preference)

Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • Pinch coarse salt
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1-½ cup coconut, shredded (approx. 6 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, grated or ground
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 9 candied red cherries, halved
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and salt to soft peaks, then add sugar and beat again until peaks are stiff. Beat in almond extract. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in half of the coconut. Sprinkle in the nutmeg and flour, stir, then fold in the remaining coconut.
  3. Using a melon baller or other small scoop, or working with 2 spoons, form 9 “snowballs” about 2 inches apart on 2 cookie sheets. Bake snowballs 12 to 15 minutes until lightly golden.
  4. Remove from oven and garnish each snowball with half a cherry and a couple of slivered almonds. Transfer to a rack or serving plate to cool.

No-Bake Truffles (makes 24)

Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried pitted dates, chopped (4 oz.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat or no-stir natural chunky peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 full sheets whole wheat graham crackers, finely ground (about 1-¼ cups)
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats, not instant
  • Cooking spray
  • For coating: unsweetened coconut flakes, crushed graham crackers, finely chopped peanuts, low-fat granola, about 1/2 cup of each, optional
Instructions
  1. Combine the dates, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, breaking up any large pieces of dates with a spoon, until the mixture resembles a thick paste, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Stir in the honey, peanut butter, cocoa powder, butter, and salt until evenly combined. Stir in the graham crackers and oats. Remove from heat.
  3. Lightly mist a baking sheet with cooking spray. Drop level tablespoons of the cookie mixture onto the prepared sheet. Refrigerate until just chilled and set, about 20 minutes.
  4. Put desired optional toppings in small bowls. Roll each cookie in desired topping and flatten slightly into a plump disk. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.

No-Bake Cherry Almond Chocolate Clusters (makes 12)

Note: This recipe is gluten-free and vegan-friendly.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the almonds and cherries together. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
  2. Melt half the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over slightly simmering water, over the lowest possible heat, stirring frequently. Cooking tip: Make sure the water is not touching the top pan.
  3. Remove the double boiler from the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate. Remove the top pan with the chocolate in it, gently wipe the bottom of it, and set it aside for a moment.
  4. Replace the simmering water in the bottom pan with warm tap water. Put the pan of melted chocolate on top of the warm water. Cooking tip: This will keep the chocolate at the right temperature while you make the clusters.
  5. Stir the fruit-nut mixture into the chocolate. Spoon heaping tablespoon-sized clusters of the chocolate mixture onto the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Put them in the refrigerator to set for 15 minutes. Store and serve at room temperature.

Bonus shopping tip: To avoid the hassle of crowded stores and parking lots this time of year, you might want to shop for groceries online and then simply schedule a convenient time to drive up and have the bags loaded into your car. Some grocers will even deliver to your door, produce and all!

‘Tis the season to have fun in the kitchen. Before you start stirring and whirring, go ahead and download the Teladoc app so we’ll always be close at hand to help keep you safe and well during the holidays. Our board-certified doctors are available 24/7 anywhere you are to help diagnose and treat non-emergency conditions such as flu, allergies, sinus and upper respiratory infections, upset stomach, and digestive issues. Have a great holiday!

References

*All oven temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit.
Source: Food Network

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