The holiday season sneaks up fast, and before you know it, we’ve gone from fruity smoothies to pumpkin spice everything to green-and-red goodies galore. But don’t resign yourself to the inevitable holiday weight gain — instead, use these recipes to stay mostly within your healthy eating program (it is the holidays after all!) and enjoy some reduced-guilt holiday cheer.
Though some recipes contain some less-healthy ingredients (e.g., butter), the quantities are minimal and are overshadowed by benefits from items like nuts, seeds, berries and omegas. What’s more, the grams of sugar per serving is in the single digits, the carbs are less than 16 grams and each recipe is 270 calories or less per serving. So go on — have your cake, then have some more cake!
Pistachio Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Bark
Makes: 8 servings
INGREDIENTS1/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts¾ cup pitted dates¾ cup melted coconut oil1/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder¼ tsp salt1 tsp vanilla extract1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
DIRECTIONSAdd dates to a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak 10 minutes.Drain dates and place in a food processor or blender container. Add coconut oil, salt, vanilla extract and cocoa powder and process until smooth.In a large bowl, combine date mixture with nuts and pomegranate seeds.Spread mixture over a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and freeze to set, about 4 hours. Once set, chop into bite-size pieces. Store in the fridge.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = ¼ cup): calories 270, fat 24 g, protein 2 g, sodium 74 mg, carbs 16 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 9 g
Mixed Berry Sorbet
Makes: 4 servings
INGREDIENTS1 (5.3-oz) container plain whole-milk Greek yogurt2 cups frozen mixed berries 4 tbsp milk of choice (more if needed)¾ tsp vanilla extract
DIRECTIONSAdd yogurt, berries and vanilla to a blender cup.Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time until well-combined. Continue until mixture is thick and creamy. Serve immediately or store in the freezer for later.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2/3 cup): calories 93, fat 3 g, protein 6 g, sodium 209 mg, carbs 12 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 9 g
Maple-Walnut Chocolate Truffles
Makes: 15 chocolates*
INGREDIENTS¼ cup cacao butter¼ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder2 tbsp maple syrup¼ tsp vanilla extract1 tbsp raw walnut pieces
DIRECTIONSMelt cacao butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup and vanilla extract. Then mix in cocoa powder.Pour mixture into silicon molds or cups. Place a few walnut pieces in the center of each chocolate. Allow to cool, then place in the freezer or fridge to set.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 chocolate): calories 46, fat 4 g, protein 0 g, sodium 1 mg, carbs 3 g, fiber 0 g, sugar 1 g
*Number of candies may vary according to the mold.
Chewy Grain-Free Gingerbread Granola
Makes: 20 servings
INGREDIENTS½ cup raw almonds½ cup raw pecans½ cup raw hazelnuts1/3 cup raw pepitas/pumpkin seeds1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut¼ cup ground flaxseed meal¼ cup coconut oil1/3 cup maple syrup2 tbsp molasses¼ tsp sea salt½ tsp ground cinnamon½ tsp ground ginger1/8 tsp ground cloves½ tsp vanilla extract
DIRECTIONSPreheat oven to 275 F.In a food processor or blender, pulse almonds, pecans, coconut and hazelnuts into small pieces. Do not over-blend.Heat coconut oil, maple syrup, molasses, spices and salt over medium heat in a large saucepan, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.Place processed nuts in a large bowl and pour warm coconut oil mixture over top. Add pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseed meal and stir to combine. Spread mixture evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool and harden.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 tablespoons): calories 159, fat 14 g, protein 3 g, sodium 33 mg, carbs 9 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 5 g
Cranberry Walnut Biscotti
Makes: 24 cookies
INGREDIENTS2 cups whole-wheat all-purpose flour*1/3 cup granulated sugar1/3 cup packed brown sugar1 tsp baking soda½ tsp baking powder½ tsp salt2 egg whites, room temperature1 whole egg, room temperature3 tbsp butter, room temperature¼ cup dried cranberries¼ cup chopped walnuts1 tsp vanilla extract
DIRECTIONSPreheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and butter and mix with a stand or hand mixer on medium, 1 minute.Stir in cranberries and walnuts by hand until well-combined.Form dough into 2 long, flat logs and place on baking sheet. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until slightly browned and firm. Remove from oven and allow to cool, 10 minutes.Cut logs into ¼-inch slices to make cookies. Arrange cookies on 2 baking sheets and return to oven. Bake another 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 cookie): calories 85, fat 3 g, protein 2 g, sodium
103 mg, carbs 14 g, fiber 1 g, sugar 7 g
Makes: 12 servings
INGREDIENTS4 cups Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and diced 1 cup walnuts, chopped¾ cup rolled oats ¼ cup whole-wheat all-purpose flour*2 tbsp brown sugar1 tbsp granulated sugar2 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil3 tbsp butter diced into small pats1 tbsp cornstarch2 tsp lemon juice1 tsp ground cinnamon¼ tsp salt
DIRECTIONSPreheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.To make the crisp topping, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, sugar, melted butter, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Set aside.Toss apples in cornstarch and spread evenly in baking dish. Top with walnuts and crisp topping. Spread butter pats evenly on the very top.Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until apples are fork-tender and topping is lightly browned. Allow to cool before serving.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1/3 cup): calories 167, fat 12 g, protein 3 g, sodium 87 mg, carbs 15 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 7g
Chocolate-Covered Fudge Brownies
Makes: 15 servings
INGREDIENTS (Brownie)½ cup sweet potato, mashed½ cup chocolate protein powder of choice½ cup smooth nut butter of choice¼ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
INGREDIENTS (Topping)¼ cup cacao butter nibs or chips¼ cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder2 tbsp maple syrup
DIRECTIONSPreheat oven to 350 F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or coat with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.In a blender or food processor, combine brownie ingredients until smooth. Should form a thick batter.Pour batter into loaf pan and bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Note: The brownies won’t rise much. Allow to cool completely in pan.Once brownies are cool, combine all topping ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.Immediately pour melted chocolate over brownies. Place in the fridge to set, then cut into 9 squares. Store in fridge or freezer.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 brownie): calories 128, fat 8 g, protein 8 g, sodium 31 mg, carbs 6 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 2 g
Flip your fave holiday recipe on its head by trading some questionably healthy ingredients for more goal-friendly ones.Mix 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons water in place of one whole egg. This makes a recipe vegan-friendly and adds a boost of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Works well in muffins, cakes and breads.Swap regular butter and oil for your favorite nut butter (in the same quantity) to ramp up the healthy fats and dial down the trans and saturated fats. Try this in cookies, cakes, muffins and sweet breads.Use plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream to slash calories and fat while increasing protein. Think: coffee cakes and cupcakes.Try almond flour and coconut flour in place of white or wheat flour to go gluten-free, increase fiber and slash carbs. Great for breads, cookies, pastries and crusts.Blend pitted dates or ripe bananas into batters to add sweetness and fiber without the added sugar. Try this in cakes, cookies, breads and brownies.