Calories Are Coming to Town

Is your holiday eating already in full swing? Have you sampled the foil-wrapped chocolate at the bank, dunked the office Christmas cookies in your morning coffee, or taken your famous dessert to the neighborhood gathering?

Among the most cherished of holiday traditions is sharing special foods—especially desserts and sweets. While many of these favorites are heavy on sugar and fat, you don’t have to feel guilty about splurging. You can still enjoy those special dessert recipes by following these tips.

Healthy Holiday Substitutions:
  • Use canned applesauce or plums in cake and pie recipes as a healthier alternative to butter, margarine, or oil.
  • When muffin and quick bread recipes call for fat (such as oil), try reducing it by one-third to one-half. You won’t even miss it.
  • In ice cream desserts, use ice milk or low-fat frozen yogurt.
  • Save the fat by using cocoa powder instead of chocolate. Substitute three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder for each ounce of unsweetened chocolate in baked goods such as cakes or cookies. For chocolate fillings, you may need to add one or two teaspoons of oil in addition to the cocoa.
  • Replace heavy cream in puddings, cheesecakes, and cream pies with evaporated skim milk.
  • Use nonfat yogurt as a substitute for sour cream. Two egg whites can be substituted for each whole egg in many baked recipes.
  • Since much of the fat in cake comes from the frosting, try topping cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar.
  • Use Splenda brand sweetener in place of all or part of the sugar in baked goodies. It works great in pie fillings and puddings too. Follow the baking tips on the box and visit for ideas.
  • Decrease the amount of nuts used in a recipe by half, substituting it with Grape-Nuts cereal to keep the crunch and texture.
  • Reduce the amount of chocolate chips or nuts in a recipe by one-fourth. No one will even notice!
  • Use fat-free whipped cream in place of regular whipped cream.
  • Substitute skim milk for regular milk.
Cut Even More Calories by Cutting Down On Size:
  • Cut pies into 10 slices (instead of the standard 6-8 slices).
  • Cut cakes and brownies into bite size pieces.
  • Bake bite-size cookies and muffins.
To savor the flavor of every bite, slow down and enjoy your dessert with a cup of herbal tea, flavored coffee, or low-fat, sugar-free cocoa. Enhance the flavor by using fat-free half and half, fat-free whipped cream, colored sugars, and sugar-free sweeteners. Yummy! Now that’s a taste of heaven!
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Member Comments

Agave is worse then high fructose corn it its got more fructose then HFC Report
I read this article, and when I saw the Splenda my first thought was, "Brace yourself. Here come the experts pronouncing the evils of Splenda." I've done a lot of research and the worst thing (from a valid source) about splenda is that artificial sweeteners make us crave sweet things more and can thus lead to weight gain.
I agree with ZAZUOS74. Report
I use Splenda but this is the first time I heard about it being poison. Would someone please tell me what I've missed. lol Other than that, I thing that the tips were great. Report
When baking quick breads (like zucchini, pumpkin, blueberry, etc.), I ALWAYS use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. Some people say to use part oil and part applesauce, but I have always had excellent results using just applesauce; it makes very moist bread and cuts out a load of fat and calories. Report
Sorry, I do not agree with most of these suggestions. First off Splenda (artificial Sweeteners) are poison. To be healthy we need to stop putting all of these chemicals in our body. Along with all of these so called healthy food containing corn syrup. Just anther form example of chemically altered food! We really all just need to learn moderation and stick to all natural sources. Report
I dont use sugar at all or any substitutes - I rely on cinnamon and vanilla extract for flavour/sweetenin
g - and no longer have a sweet tooth. Cutting into smaller portions is definitely the way to go and so is a bit of accountability. If we overdo it, work it off and compensate for it the next day but stop the guilts which achieve nothing positive Report
Thanks I needed that....good article! Report
While most of the ideas are good, I am getting tired of reading articles recommending Splenda. I would think by now people would know better. I like the comment suggesting the agave--THAT I will try! Report
I was quite pleased to see someone ask about using an alternative sweetener other than Splenda. That stuff is practically poison, ya know...

Here is a link to a webpage to answer the aagave/sugar conversion question. I've used Madhava before, but I'm sure this will work with other kinds of agave nectar. (BTW - I LOVE agave in my herbal tea in the mornings!)

Conversion.aspx Report
These are some great tips. Does anyone know the conversion of agave to sugar when cooking or baking? its good and even diabetic safe. Em Report
Great article! Slightly off topic question - the picture with the article of the star shaped cookies (?) - are they a Spark recipe? If anyone knows where I could get the recipe to make them I'd be really grateful, they are so cute! Report
Grape Nut Cereal in baked goods. Thanks for that tip. Report
These are all great ideas! I particularly like the idea of using grapenuts cereal instead of nuts. I'm wondering if that would work for my grandson who has a peanut allergy and as a result avoids all nuts.
I was a little confused about Inqy's comment about substituting chocolate for oil? I re-read the article, and didn't see any mention of that. Was the article re-written after she made the comment? I had heard before that you could use applesauce instead of oil (I think at a WW meeting) but have never tried it - possibly she mis-read that sentence? Report
Thanks for all the suggestions! Every little change helps a bit right? I have a question on the egg whites in place of eggs - I tried this once a while back on chocolate chip cookies and they came out harder than rocks - when do you do this without sacrificing the goods? Thanks! Report


About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.
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