The holiday season is quickly approaching and one thing on most people’s mind is how they’ll avoid gaining weight and avoid all those tempting treats. The holidays are notoriously dangerous for any health initiative and can break many people’s resolve to eat healthier. Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on food is the worst!
But there is a way to enjoy Thanksgiving meals, and this includes desserts! I previously wrote about how to create a healthier Thanksgiving overall, but you can also absolutely make the dessert part of Thanksgiving even healthier with just a few simple adjustments. You won’t feel like you’re sacrificing your health or missing out on the tasty goodness!
How to Make Thanksgiving Desserts a Healthier Choice
A few things you can do overall…
There are a few ways you can make Thanksgiving desserts healthier. The first is to overhaul the way in which you present and serve them.
First, try limiting the desserts to two varieties. People are much more likely to overindulge if there are several options. Many people like to “try” all of the different kinds.
This results in everyone taking several more servings than they would have had their only been two to choose from. I’ve actually witnessed a relative pile the dessert on his plate higher than the actual food had been, because it “all looked so good” and he “had to try it all!”
Second, put away the dinner plates and offer special, smaller dessert plates. Many people are unlikely to go back to the table to get a second or third helping, so they’ll be limited to whatever they can fit onto their plate the first time around.
A third option is to have desserts individually plated or served to avoid people taking larger portions than necessary. Pre-cutting pies and cakes is helpful as well. Even if they take two pieces, it’s still smaller than what many people would cut themselves as a serving.
Despite the pieces being much smaller, most people will not take five pieces to equal the larger piece they would have cut for themselves. It’s a big mental hurdle to jump over to tell yourself it’s okay to have five slices of pie, no matter how small they are!
A few options for healthier thanksgiving desserts
The other way to make healthier thanksgiving desserts is to physically make healthier Thanksgiving desserts. Groundbreaking, right?
This can mean making changes to current recipes, or finding new recipes that are just a little healthier. Here are a few ideas.
First, try swaps in current favorite recipes. In lots of my regular recipes I’m able to successfully make simple swaps to get a little bit of a healthier outcome. It’s not always guaranteed as baking is a science, but most of the time the final product is almost identical to the original.
Try swapping out eggs for mashed banana or applesauce. Typically, you can substitute each egg for half of a medium banana or 1/4 cup of applesauce. If you happen to have ground flax seed, you can make a “flax egg” of 1 tablespoon of flax and 3 tablespoons of water to substitute each egg. Just mix it and then let it sit for a few minutes before incorporating into the recipe.
You can also use applesauce to substitute in place of oil in the desserts. Generally, this is a 1 to 1 swap. If the recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of oil, substitute with a 1/2 cup of applesauce!
Finally, you can eliminate butter by subbing in applesauce instead with a 1 to 1 ratio. Pumpkin puree is also an option, which would be great for any pumpkin recipes; just increase the pumpkin puree amount!
A quick note about substitutions: If you are substituting all of the above, be sure to mix up what you’re substituting for. For example, you probably don’t want to replace butter, eggs, and oil all with applesauce. I mean, I’ve done it and it was fine, but depending on what you’re making, it could be too much liquid, or shift the flavor to apple. There are also tons of other substitutions if you check online! Avocado, coconut oil, even aquafaba (the liquid found in a can of garbanzo beans) or black beans can be substitutes!
One last great swap is a complete recipe swap. Try sweetened, cinnamon apples with small dollop of whipped topping instead of apple pie. It has the same flavors but less fat and calories and no crust, for those who may need gluten free or avoid grains altogether. Delicious!
If the baked cinnamon apples just won’t do it, you can try out a healthier apple pie alternative. These delicious looking Apple Crumble Mini Pies would be perfect!
If pumpkin pie is more your thing, try this fun Pumpkin Pie alternative. This Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding uses dates for sweetness instead of sugar. It’s also a great option as it can be made vegan with a non-dairy milk if you need it to be.
Another delicious looking pumpkin pie alternative is this Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Dip.
If you’re really looking for a more traditional pumpkin pie give these healthier, mini pumpkin pies a try! They use minimal ingredients and are vegan and grain-free as well, in case that’s something you need to consider.
Healthier Thanksgiving desserts are possible!
I have a major sweet tooth. So I totally get the difficulty that comes along with trying to avoid “bad food” in the pursuit of healthier habits. Not to mention the sheer willpower sometimes needed to accomplish it. This is even harder when you’re trying to stick to the new habits around Thanksgiving!
That’s why it’s so great to know that with just a few small tweaks, you can enjoy some amazing sweets and not feel deprived! As a bonus, you’re able to help everyone else enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving as well!
Give it a try this year. I think you’ll see that having healthier Thanksgiving desserts can be super easy and well worth it!