A happier, healthier you


A happier, healthier you

How to Make Your Holiday Desserts Healthier

by Yes Health Team

The holidays are in full swing! It’s a festive time for joyful celebrations, but along with the cheer comes stress over what to gift, dealing with a socially distanced holiday, and even what to eat.

While holiday desserts like cookies, pies, and cakes are part of all the holiday fun, these sugar-ridden treats can quickly add up. 

But lucky for you, we’ve got some tips and tricks that will allow you to enjoy your holiday desserts and stay healthy too. 

Holiday Baking Substitutions

These healthy swaps will reduce the amount of sugar, fat, and calories in your favorite recipes without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction. Win-win!

Unsweetened applesauce instead of oil

Replace oil with unsweetened applesauce in bread and cake-based desserts like muffins, banana bread, and carrot cake.

Benefits: The applesauce provides the same texture as oil in baking recipes, but with fewer calories. It also adds natural sweetness (so you don’t need as much added sugar), along with moisture, and some nutrients and fiber.

Ratio: For desserts, the substitute ratio is typically 1:1. So if your recipe calls for ¼ cup of oil, swap it for ¼ cup of applesauce. In this scenario, you’ll save a whopping 455 calories and 56 grams of fat!

Tips: It’s also important to make sure you choose unsweetened applesauce, and not sweetened. Since you’ll most likely be adding natural sweeteners like honey, dates, syrup, or stevia to your desserts, you won’t need the additional sugar from the sweetened applesauce. Also, the additional sugars in the sweetened applesauce can impact the texture of your baked desserts.

Mashed avocado instead of butter

Benefits: Avocados contain fiber and potassium, along with healthy fats. Unlike the saturated fats in butter, avocados are high in monounsaturated fats which help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Ratio: Another 1:1 ratio substitution. For example, swap in 1 cup of pureed avocado for every 1 cup of butter.

Tip: Lower the oven temperature by 25% and increase baking time to prevent the cake from rising in the middle, caving in, or browning too quickly.

Whole wheat pastry flour instead of refined flour

Benefits: Unlike refined white flour, whole wheat pastry flour provides more fiber (12 grams per cup) and nutrients, while the texture remains the same. 

Ratio: Sub regular white flour and pastry flour with whole wheat pastry flour in a 1:1 ratio for cookies, cakes, pancakes, muffins, and brownies.

Tip: You’ll get the nutrients of whole grains, but actually less gluten in whole wheat pastry flour than regular whole wheat flour. It’s ground finer, so it results in light and soft baked desserts.

Black beans instead of butter and flour in chocolate desserts

Benefits: Black beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full. They result in a dense, moist texture. But when mixed with cocoa powder (cacao for more antioxidants), you won’t even taste them in the recipe.

Ratio:Substitute equal parts black beans for all or some of the butter and flour needed in a recipe.

Tips: Pulverize black beans in a food processor for the best texture result

Flaxseeds instead of eggs

Benefits: Great for vegan desserts! Flaxseeds mimic the binding effects of eggs in baked recipes, while providing healthy omega-three fats, fiber and protein.

Ratio: To make one flax “egg”, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. You can replace some or all of the eggs called for in a recipe with these “flax eggs.”

Tip: Refrigerate the flax eggs for 15 to 30 minutes to allow it to thicken. Then, once it’s ready, add it to wet ingredients.

Silken tofu instead of eggs or butter

Benefits: Another vegan dessert hack! Tofu provides protein, healthy fats, and calcium to increase the nutrient density in desserts, while remaining undetectable.

Ratio: Use 1/4 cup of pureed tofu for one egg. Use 1/3 cup of pureed silken tofu to replace every 1/2 cup of oil or margarine.

Tip: Blend silken tofu in a food processor until smooth before combining with dry ingredients, then pulse until thoroughly combined.

Healthier Holiday Desserts

To give you some holiday recipe inspo, here are some healthy holiday recipes you can try:

Spiced Almond Cranberry Scones

Coach Becky’s spiced almond cranberry scones are perfect for Christmas morning brunch or as an assortment of desserts for Christmas dinner. They’re gluten free and lower in sugar, but packed with flavor from the festive spices and cranberries.

See the full recipe.

Gingerbread cookie Recipe

These gingerbread cookies by Amy’s Healthy Baking are a great guilt-free recipe, with no refined flours or sugars. 

Guilt Free Brownies

Coach Sara A. ‘s guilt free brownies provide satisfying protein and fiber from the black beans, and sweetened with dates instead of any refined sugars. created this guilt free brownie recipe


  • 1-15 oz. can organic black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 12 Medjool dates
  • 2 eggs (vegan substitute is 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce)
  • 2 Tbsp raw almond butter or natural peanut butter  
  • ½ cup to ¾ cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Blend the black beans, dates, eggs, nut butter, and vanilla extract in a food processor or high powered blender until smooth.
  3. Add the cocoa powder. Taste and add additional cocoa powder, one tablespoon at a time, pureeing and taste testing after each addition, as desired. Taste testing is necessary because dates often vary in sweetness. Mixture should taste deeply fudgy and chocolaty and not taste like black beans, dates, or overly sweet. Mixture should taste like rich dark chocolate but not bitter.
  4. Pour into a very lightly oiled 8 x 8 inch baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Cut and serve.

Recipe is: Vegetarian, gluten free, dairy-free

(flour-less, no added sugar)

Final Thoughts: How to make your holiday treats healthier

If you’d like more tips and tricks to make your desserts and other cooking healthier, try Yes Health free for 14 days, and see what your coaches recommend for you.



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