Healthy Holiday Desserts
Desserts are not off-limits when you make these lightened versions of holiday favorites.
Chai Carrot Pie
With a sweet cream cheese layer on the bottom and spiced carrot filling on top, this luscious dessert feels like a cross between pumpkin pie and carrot cake. A combination of butter and shortening in the crust is ideal--butter for its rich flavor, and shortening to create a flaky texture. We recommend seeking out Earth Balance shortening because, unlike most other shortenings, it contains no trans fats.
Iced Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies
Whole-wheat flour adds a layer of complexity to these cookies that all-purpose flour can't achieve; the wheat in the whole grain actually enhances the flavors of butter and vanilla. Unlike classic royal icing, which starts with a pound of powdered sugar, we use just 1/2 cup and thicken it with Greek yogurt. Looking for festive colors without the chemicals? Try naturally colored sparkling sugars (such as those from India Tree), which use colorants derived from plants.
Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes
We had the greatest success using a pan with 2 1/2-ounce cups, such as Chicago Metallic's 12-Well Mini Cheesecake Pan ($25, chicagometallicbakeware.com). This pan has removable bottoms (similar to a tart pan) so that you simply push each cheesecake up to remove it. You can also bake them in a standard muffin tin; line it with foil liners for easier removal.
Think of these tasty little tassies as your own personal pecan pie. They're both salty and sweet, with a hit of oaky bourbon. Whole-grain rye flour adds the perfect touch of sour to the shortbread-like crust, while toasted pecans do double duty in the crust and in the maple-splashed filling. As if that weren't enough to jingle your bell, we drizzle warm bittersweet chocolate over each bite to ensure maximum satisfaction.
Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes
Beet adds natural color and sweet earthiness to these cupcakes.
Fresh Gingerbread Squares
Teff flour is a soft, almost-fluffy whole-grain flour with an intense nuttiness that makes it excellent for baking. But the beauty of fresh gingerbread is finding the perfect texture--delicate yet dense--so we add a bit of hearty whole-wheat flour to give this treat a heftier, more winter-worthy base. Stout beer adds a pleasantly earthy bitterness that complements the molasses, fresh ginger, and cinnamon; any frothy leftovers will pair nicely with a still-warm baked square. If you don't have any stout on hand, simply use 1/4 cup additional buttermilk instead.
Miso Caramel-Apple Pie
You've no doubt heard of--and enjoyed--salted caramel. Miso caramel takes that concept one step further, offering depth and richness that's unparalleled. Even though this pie is rather decadent, it still comes in with 12g less sugar than a popular online version of caramel-apple pie.
Bourbon-Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle
Indulge in this lightened take on traditional pecan pie. The crust is thin and flakey leaving more room for the sweeneted pecans and rich chocolate drizzle.
Chocolate Walnut Tart
A riff on the classic pecan pie, this dessert is rich, chocolaty, and a little fancier with its freestanding fluted sides. Of course, you can use a 9-inch pie plate if you don't have a tart pan with a removable bottom.
Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream
This is the pie you remember from many Thanksgivings, made better for you. Instead of using a can of regular evaporated milk, we swapped in a fat-free version.
Pumpkin Pie Cake
If you like pumpkin pie, you'll love this cake's subtle spice flavors and velvety cream cheese frosting.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
For friends or family, a gift of Red Velvet Cupcakes is always a welcomed treat. Don't pass on the signature red food coloring to attain that unmistakable red cake color of this classic dessert.
Caramel Apple Pie
Make an old-fashioned apple pie special for the holidays by topping it with a streusel topping and drizzling with a fat- free caramel sauce.
Pumpkin Pound Cake with Buttermilk Glaze
Make pound cake both seasonal and healthier by adding mashed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice to the batter and topping with a buttermilk glaze.
Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake
Impress your guests with a stunning cranberry cheesecake. The secret of the rich but reduced-fat filling is the combination of reduced-fat and fat-free cream cheese and Greek yogurt.
This classic holiday cake is lower in fat than a traditional coconut cake because the frosting is made with egg whites instead of cream cheese and butter. And although real butter is used in the cake batter, it's only 1/3 cup because light coconut milk is added to help make the dessert rich and moist.
Light 'n' Creamy Chocolate Cake Roll
Impress your holiday guests with rolled chocolate cake filled with a fluffy chocolate-cream cheese filling. This recipe features the convenience of an angel food cake mix, and because the filling calls for 1/3-less-fat cream cheese and fat-free whipped topping, you won't have to feel guilty about having a slice.
This classic holiday dessert is traditionally made with sponge cake or ladyfingers brushed with sherry and layered with jam, custard, and whipped cream. Our lightened version uses pound cake and a lower-fat pastry cream made with reduced-fat milk, eggs, sugar, and cornstarch. For the fruit mixture, fresh cranberries are cooked with a small amount of sugar and orange juice. It's a great dessert for the holidays because you can make it a day ahead.
Tropical Gingerbread Cake
Gingerbread is always welcome during the holidays, and here it's spruced up with light coconut milk and fresh ginger. The tropical theme is also maintained in the creamy frosting with range marmalade and toasted coconut. Don't worry about splurging because each slice of this two-layer cake has only 253 calories.
Cinnamon-Orange Crème Brûlée
Nothing is more elegant and impressive to serve during the holidays than a créme brûlée, especially one that boasts favorite holiday flavors like cinnamon and orange. Because the custard is made with reduced-fat milk, nonfat dry milk, and fewer eggs, it has about two-thirds less fat than a traditional brûlée.
Vanilla Cheesecake with Cherry Topping
Using fat-free cream cheese and fat-free sour cream in the batter and decreasing the amount of butter in the crust helps keep the fat content down in this holiday cheesecake. The rich flavor comes from fresh vanilla bean seeds and red wine-simmered cherries.
Classic Pumpkin Pie
With less than 250 calories per slice and antioxidant-rich pumpkin, this pie is a must for your holiday menu. Even with a refrigerated pie crust and real whipping cream, the fat content is still only 7.4 grams per serving.
Peppermint Brownie à la Mode
This is a fun way to use all the candy canes that come your way this time of year. If you really like mint, substitute mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Oatmeal Pecan Pie
Using oats in the filling allows you to keep crunchy nuttiness but use fewer pecans than you would use in a traditional pie. The pecans do add heart-health monounsaturated fat, and the oats help increase the fiber.
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
A few easy additions to store-bought ice cream create a custom flavor that simply tastes like Thanksgiving.
Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake
Make this cake a day ahead, and refrigerate. Large crystals of raw brown Demerara sugar look and taste lovely, but the cake is still delicious without it.
Buttermilk Bundt Cakes
Here we offer three garnishing options for these adorable, delicious cakes: Simply dust with powdered sugar, pipe a bit of glaze over the top, or completely dunk the cakes for a heavier coating.
Lemon Rosemary Button Shortbreads
Rich, buttery shortbread gets a subtle, savory twist from the rosemary.
Easy Almond Cakes
This recipe is perfect for a large crowd since it's so easy and makes two cakes.
Frosted Ginger Cookies
We love these 100 calorie frosted ginger cookies' soft texture and bright spice flavor. Frosted ginger cookies are perfect for gifts and Christmas cookie swaps.
Magic Cookie Bars
These are also known as seven-layer or Hello Dolly bars. They take 30 minutes of hands-on prep and call for just eight ingredients, making them the perfect dessert for taking, well, just about anywhere!
These adorable gingerbread people are only 124 calories per cookie! If you want to dress up the cookies, use red hot candies for buttons and currants for eyes; press those into the dough cut-outs before they're baked
Make up to two days ahead, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. The chocolate and hazelnut coating adds textural interest to these airy, sweet treats.
Pistachio and Pine Nut Brittle
Pistachio and Pine Nut Brittle is a sweet spin on the traditional peanut brittle. This nut candy also includes dried cranberries, giving the brittle a festive color of red and green (from the pistachios) for the holidays.
At only 97 calories per serving, you can absolutely enjoy more than one of these delicious doughnuts, but if you want, save room because they are often washed down with small glasses of Alicante Muscat or another sweet white wine.