We all tend to indulge during the holiday season. A party on a work night, an extra drink when you’re out with friends, overspending on just one more gift. And then there are the meals and sweets. Who hasn’t left the table during the holidays wishing you were wearing elastic-waist pants?

The average American eats a lot of extra calories during a holiday dinner.

Between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, it’s not uncommon to see a 10-pound weight gain. If an individual is not careful, what’s gained during the holidays could stick around all year.1

Luckily, it’s possible to add a dash of health and lighten up desserts. Keep the flavor without missing calories or fat. Try these healthy hacks:

Less sugar

You can lower sugar content in recipes by replacing granulated sugar with dry sweeteners like sucralose or stevia. Both are much sweeter than sugar. Before making the substitution, try using them in coffee, tea or cereal to determine how much you want to use. In the case of corn syrup, try using fruit juice or molasses instead.

Less fat

Fat from butter and oil adds moisture and flavor and makes us feel full. To keep your baked goods dense and delicious, try these substitutes:

  • Use mashed avocado or banana instead of the butter or oil in a one-for-one substitution.
  • Use half of the butter required with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce.2
  • Replace ⅓ cup of oil with 1 cup of milled flaxseed.3

Add flavor

Spices add plenty of flavor without adding sugar or fat. Add flavor to your recipes by adding apices. You can also add nutritious and delicious ingredients like dark chocolate, maple syrup, almond flour, walnuts, citrus zest and berries to enhance your flavors.

More fiber

In some cases, fiber helps offset carbohydrate counts. Try using oat flour in place of regular white flour or adding unflavored fiber powders, finely ground flaxseed or chia seeds. As a bonus, this could reduce calories.

Try out these new tactics on your favorite recipes or try some of ours below.

almond snowballs prepared on parchment paper

Almond snowballs

The combination of fruits, almonds and spice is nice.

Makes 18 servings

Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 12-15 minutes


  • 2 egg whites
  • Pinch coarse salt
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1½ cup coconut, shredded (approx 6 oz.)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, grated or ground
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 9 candied red cherries, halved
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites and salt to soft peaks. 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.
  • Using a melon baller or other small scoop, or working with 2 spoons, form 18 “snowballs.” Place them about 2 inches apart on 2 cookie sheets. Bake snowballs 12 to 15 minutes until lightly golden.
  • Remove from oven. Garnish each snowball with half a cherry and a couple of slivered almonds. Transfer to a rack or serving plate to cool.


(serving size: 1 snowball)

Calories: 60; total fat: 3 g; saturated fat: 2 g; sodium: 16 mg; cholesterol 0 mg; total carbs: 7 g; fiber: 1 g; sugars: 6 g; protein: 1 g; potassium 83 mg

a bowl of fresh berries with a spoonful of chocolate yogurt mousse

Chocolate yogurt mousse & berries

Sweet berries complement the bitter flavor of chocolate.

Makes: 1 serving

Prep: 5 minutes


  • 1 (5 oz) container low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp honey
  • ¼ cup berries


  • Combine yogurt, cocoa powder and honey.
  • Serve with berries.

Nutrition information

(serving size 5 oz)

Calories: 180; total fat: 4 g; saturated fat: 2 g; sodium: 96 mg; cholesterol: 23 mg; total carbs: 26 g; fiber: 2 g; sugars: 19 g; protein: 16 g; potassium: 94 mg


A plate filled with chocolate truffles

No-bake truffles

Makes: 24 servings

Prep: 20 minutes


  • 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 1¼ 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)


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the dates, water and lemon.
  • Simmer over medium heat, breaking up any large pieces of dates with a spoon. The mixture will resemble a thick paste after about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the honey, peanut butter, cocoa powder, butter and salt. Combine thoroughly. Stir in the graham crackers and oats. Remove from heat.
  • Lightly mist a baking sheet with cooking spray. Drop level tablespoons of the truffle mixture onto prepared sheet. Refrigerate until just chilled and set, about 20 minutes.
  • Put desired optional toppings in small bowls. Roll each truffle in desired topping and flatten slightly into a plump disk. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.


(serving size: 1 truffle)

Calories: 59; total carbs: 12 g; total fat: 2 g; saturated fat: 1 g; protein: 1 g; sodium: 56 mg; fiber: 1 g; sugars: 6 g, cholesterol 1 mg, potassium 74 mg

Healthy desserts are not too good to be true. These tips may help you stick to your health goals and give you a healthier start to the new year.

Get your personal meal plan today

Traveling for the holidays? You need to pack more than just clothes and gifts. Check out our necessities for healthy holiday travel here.

Published November 8, 2023



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