Holiday Indulgence

By Charlyn Fargo

October 1, 2020 5 min read

Oh, that holiday weight gain. It's tough to balance all the holiday parties and luscious food with the morning scale. Can you really have your cake and eat it, too, over the holidays -- without adding pounds on the scale?

With the right ingredient swaps, you can. Think yogurt for sour cream, high fiber cereal for graham crackers.

"I succeeded in making a healthier cheesecake that was a rich and creamy dessert that pleased even the most discerning taste buds," said Libby Mills, registered dietitian in Philadelphia, and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "I swapped plain low-fat yogurt for the sour cream. I made the crust by crushing equal parts high-fiber cereal and graham crackers and substituted the butter for lemon juice to bind the crumbs together. My family loved it."

We all know we need to eat less added sugars and fat, but the holidays make that more challenging. When you can make or bring a dessert that lowers calories from added sugars and fat, it helps you stay on track and have fewer pounds to shed in January.

Here are some other ideas for minimizing your added sugars:

Make it mini. Watch your portion sizes. Make minicupcakes or minicookies using just 1 tablespoon of dough. Most of us satisfy our sweet tooth with a bite or two but end up finishing the entire dessert anyway. Start with just a bite or two.

Make it lighter. Substitute applesauce for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads such as banana bread. Use two egg whites in place of one egg to reduce dietary cholesterol. Some cake mixes even offer an applesauce alternative on the side of the box. Don't be afraid to try it.

Make it frozen. Make frozen treats by using 100% fruit juice. Dip some bananas into your favorite low-fat yogurt, and roll them in coarsely chopped, unsalted nuts, crunchy whole-grain cereal, granola or shaved coconut before freezing. Substitute a fruit sorbet instead of ice cream for a satisfying dessert.

Make it sweet, but use less sugar. You can reduce the sugar in many desserts by 25% without even noticing it. Try using 3 tablespoons of sugar instead of 4.

The bottom line is eating healthfully over the holidays doesn't mean you have to give up dessert; just give that traditional dessert a healthier twist.

*Q and A

Q: Are there benefits to consuming honey?

A: Honey is a source of antioxidants, helpful compounds that can prevent or delay damage to cells. And honey can also help curb a cough, which is why honey is often a main ingredient in cough drops and cough syrups. Just remember, it's also a sugar -- equal in calories. Use it sparingly, just like you would sugar.


Here's a great side dish to help add a few more antioxidants, from pomegranate seeds and pears, to your holiday meals. December is National Pear Month -- a great time to try a new variety.


4 ounces bacon or turkey bacon

3 cups fresh baby spinach

3 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 pear, thinly sliced

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese,

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup chopped walnuts


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon sugar-free strawberry preserves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Sea salt and pepper

Cook the bacon according to package directions. Once cool, cut or crumble into bite-size pieces. In a large salad bowl, combine the rest of the salad ingredients and toss. To make the dressing, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, yogurt, preserves, olive oil, mustard, garlic and cinnamon. Add salt and pepper to taste. If eating right away, toss about half the dressing with the salad. Serve salad with leftover dressing on the side. Serves 4.

Per serving: 268 calories; 19.3 grams protein; 12.4 grams carbohydrates; 15.4 grams fat; 52 milligrams cholesterol; 3.8 grams fiber; 676 milligrams sodium.

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