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Healthy Holiday Desserts by Dietitians

December 15, 2019 by Ginger Hultin MS RDN

It’s the holidays which means one thing: gatherings with co-workers, friends, and family. Constantly. I realized today, early in the month, that I’ve got events every, single day through New Years. That’s a LOT of baking and bringing treats to parties. Gingerbread and sugar cookies anyone? This dietitian says that desserts definitely fit into a part of a healthy diet. It’s all about finding balance so I am sharing healthy holiday desserts by dietitians. Inspiration right here for you. 

Many of the holiday recipes in my family have been around a long time, and while I loved them growing up, I’ve found new recipes that pack a little more nutrition and flavor. If there are recipes in your family you don’t particularly enjoy, it’s time to get creative and start new traditions with some recipes of your own. Dietitians are amazing at adapting classics to be just a little bit healthier. These creative holiday desserts are perfect for any gathering you’ve got. 

Tips for Adding More Nutrition to Your Baking

There are many ways to make holiday baked goods a little bit healthier. Not that you need to, necessarily, but I do enjoy trying. Below are swaps I often use in my recipes on the blog:

  1. Black beans for flour – beans are the best way to pack fiber and protein in baked goods, you won’t even notice them…my black bean peanut butter and jelly brownies will prove it! 
  2. Whole wheat flour – use this in place of white flour, or go half and half to add a bit more fiber to your baked goods.
  3. Applesauce – this is a great way to add sweetness and take the place of oil to reduce fat. 
  4. Banana – another awesome way to add your sweet flavor and moisture. I cook with banana for natural sweetness a lot. 
  5. Greek yogurt – this will bulk up the protein and add moisture to many recipes. It’s a great swap for sour cream if you are looking for a little tanginess. 
  6. Flax egg – used in a lot of vegan baking in place of eggs and omega-3s to your baked goods is such a bonus. All you do is mix ground flax-seed with some water and mix it until it creates some of the baking properties that will help replace a normal ‘egg’. 
  7. Non-dairy milk – this swaps perfectly for regular milk and is a wonderful non-dairy alternative. 
  8. Vegan butter – an easy swap for dairy butter and vegan friendly!
  9. Maple syrup/honey – I use a lot of this in my recipes because it is a little less refined than white sugars. If you are someone watching your sugar intake, this will absolutely impact your blood sugars the same, so be mindful of portions. 
  10. Tofu or avocado – delicious options that can both be whipped into pudding and will add protein and heart-healthy fat to your desserts, with all of the creaminess you’d expect in a mousse!


27 Recipes: Healthy Holiday Desserts by Dietitians

I love getting new ideas for baking and have asked my expert nutrition friends to share some of their favorite healthy holiday desserts. Ready, set, bake!

The Classics – Crisps, Pies, and Breads

Crustless Mini Pumpkin Pies by Nutrition Starring You who tells me  they are “a guiltless way to enjoy a tasty treat without added sugars. These are gluten free, diabetes-friendly and contain only 60 calories each.” These pies are so cute and individually portioned – perfect for serving at a party.

Gluten and Dairy Free Mini Pumpkin Pies by Colleen Christensen Nutrition who says “these gluten & dairy free mini pumpkin pies are a lighter, healthier twist on the classic.” YUM.

Gluten-Free Pie Crust and Mini Jam Tarts by nutri savvy Health who tells me “for these cuties I used my favorite mixed berry jam. But any jam will do. What’s healthy-ish is the tart crust made with equal parts almond meal, raw oats and gluten-free flour. My girls enjoyed making these and, of course, eating them too!” I love how festive this recipe is and perfect for this time of year and how you can involve kids in the cooking. 

The Best Gluten Free Apple Crisp by Bucket List Tummy. She has put a healthy twist on an apple crisp by using “quinoa to increase the protein and fiber content. It doesn’t sacrifice any flavor but adds more nutrition.” This recipe also has chocolate chips…bring on the chocolate. 

Easy 5 Ingredient Apple Crisp by Mandy Enright. She recommends serving up “an apple crisp in place of pie, which slashes calories, carbs, and fat due to no crust being used. This apple crisp provides fiber thanks to the apples and whole whole grain oats topping, plus a dollop of Greek yogurt for added protein and calcium. Who says dessert can’t be good for you???” 

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins by Kelly Jones Nutrition. She says “these gingerbread muffins are as fluffy and delicious as you’d want, but they’re made with a base of chickpea flour, pumpkin purée, and flax and sweetened just with nutrient rich molasses and pure maple. There’s no substitute that will be as delicious as a classic frosting on top, though!” Chickpea flour=awesome. 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes by Champagne Nutrition. These Gluten-Free Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes are my favorite dessert on my whole blog. This recipe was an absolute must when I was thinking of which healthy holiday desserts by dietitians to share. Believe me, once you have chocolate gingerbread, you’ll never go back.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes

Lemon-Vanilla Glazed Gingerbread by Champagne Nutrition. This recipe is seriously SO good. The gingerbread is packed with spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and even black pepper. These warming flavors pair really nicely with the lemon-vanilla glaze that lightens the flavor up a bit (not to mention a super easy topping).

Creative Desserts

Cookie Dough Hummus by Snacking in Sneakers who says “This cookie dough hummus is the perfect holiday sweet treat! Make the base and then mix in any festive ingredients you’d like, from sprinkles to peppermint. This hummus is made with just a few simple ingredients, and you’ll get a little fiber and protein with each serving.” This recipe looks so fun; I love the creativity here. 

Easy Coconut Strawberry Mousse by Desi-Licious RD. She says this recipe is “dessert magic. Made with only four ingredients, and no added sugar – it’s the perfect creamy, fluffy mousse dessert that you’ve been waiting for. Just don’t forget the spoon! “ Have you heard of aquafaba? If not, this recipe is a must-try.

Pumpkin Pie Dessert Hummus by Cashews and Quinoa who says “only 6 wholesome, pantry-staple ingredients this vegan dessert hummus is a must for the holidays.” This recipe looks amazing served with pretzels for dipping if you are a fan of sweet and salty. I love how simple it is! 

Bars and Cookies- Perfect for the Holidays (and really anytime of year)

Creamy Orange Bars by Your Choice Nutrition. She says “a base of a simple graham cracker crust topped with a lighter yogurt and cream cheese filling. With less sugar and fat added than traditional cream cheese bars, Each bar is only 160 calories.” Citrus is so fresh during the winter and refreshing for holiday desserts. 

Perfect Vegan Date Squares by Lettuce Veg Out who says this recipe is “a classic holiday dessert in my family and they can also pack in some good nutrition with whole wheat flour, oats and dates!” I love using dates as a natural sweetener. 

Fudgy Beet Brownies by It’s a Veg World After All. She says “these homemade brownies get a pop of color and fiber from puréed beets. They’re fudgy and delicious, while still providing some added nutrition from a vegetable.” Beets are a great way to add vibrant color to dishes this time of year, even desserts. 

No Flour Brownies (Fudgy and Moist!) by KeyVion Miller Nutrition. “These are decadent fudgy brownies with a lot less calories and saturated fat but the same great taste of a traditional brownie! Made with pinto beans instead of flour so you get a boost of 3 grams of fiber per brownie. The best part is throwing all the ingredients in a blender then transferring to a pan.” Pinto beans?! Amazing. 

Black Bean Brownies by Rebecca Bitzer and Associates. She says “These Black Bean Brownies are rich and chocolatey but full of fiber which makes them heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly.” Beans are one of my favorite things to sneak into baking, and literally nobody can ever guess. 

Vegan Gem Thumbprint Cookies by Champagne Nutrition. Whether you’re entertaining vegan company this holiday season or you have friends or family with food allergies that require vegan baking, I hope these tips make it a little more easy and a little more fun for you.

No Bake Vegan Haystack Cookie Bites by Champagne Nutrition. The good news about No Bake Vegan Chocolate Haystack Cookie Bites is that though they are dense in calories, they are quite small – bite-sized – so if you can stick to just 1-2, they can fit easily into a healthy diet.

Savory Desserts

Cheese Appetizer Prune Jam by Amy Gorin. She loves “having cheese and jam for dessert! This jam is homemade so controls the added sugar–a minimal amount.” This would be so fun to take to a party. 

Boozy Baking and Desserts

Port Poached Pears by My Millennial Kitchen. She nailed it when she said “it’s easy to enjoy whole pears when they’re full of bold port wine flavors and spices. Don’t forget to top with ice cream.”

Cucumber Gin Gimlet Cake by Champagne Nutrition. This cake combines fresh flavors that you’re going to want to serve at holidays and the gin adds a fun kick too. I also used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour which works so well as a substitution for regular wheat flour.

Tequila Glazed Lemony Olive Oil Cake by Champagne Nutrition. This tequila glazed lemony olive oil cake is SO delicious with its fresh citrus flavors. And let’s be honest – tequila in a cake is pretty awesome.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Cabernet Frosting by Champagne Nutrition. This isn’t a cake that can make you tipsy. But it is incredibly tasty and the color is perfect for your next holiday gathering.

Rosé Poached Berries with Vanilla and Honey by Champagne Nutrition. This lovely dessert is very easy to make and since it uses just 2 cups of rosé, you’ll have some left for sipping. The acidity of the wine adds a complexity here to the sweet berries and real vanilla beans make it seem even more decadent.

It’s that time of year to celebrate and I hope you found my healthy holiday desserts by dietitians helpful. What are your favorite recipes to bake this time of year? Cheers to December and I’ll see you next month for my dry January challenge.


  1. deepak on May 12, 2020 at 2:11 am

    I hope you will continue to give your recipe in the same way in future also

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Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO

Integrative nutrition specialist helping clients navigate complex health conditions to reduce inflammation and feel better.

Thanks for visiting! If you're struggling with a cancer diagnosis, autoimmune condition, gut health problems, or even a medical mystery, nutrition can make a HUGE difference in your day-to-day life. I run a virtual, concierge private practice where I partner with my clients over time to help them improve their health through nutrition. Be sure to visit the blog for easy, plant-based, anti-inflammatory recipes and our "Resources" page for a variety of self-paced programs, books, e-books, and nutrition podcast episodes.

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