Food & Drink

How to keep healthy while still enjoying holiday treats

White chocolate bark is a healthier option for a holiday dessert.
White chocolate bark is a healthier option for a holiday dessert. Getty Images

As the seasons change and the temperature begins to drop, friends and families come together to celebrate life typically, around a dinner table. For many people, the best part of dinner is dessert, and there is no better time of year to indulge in sweets than the month of December. Baking cookies, pies and cakes are one of many ways we share our love with others. Below are a list of ways we can keep our loved ones healthy over the holiday season while still enjoying traditional baked goods.

▪ Swap out butter with applesauce, egg whites, plain yogurt or olive oil

▪ Replace cream with equal parts of evaporated skim milk

▪ Replace cream cheese with equal parts of reduced-fat cottage or ricotta cheese

▪ Add fresh fruits and vegetables like shredded carrots or a pureed banana to boost nutrients

▪ Try whole-grain flour in place of all-purpose flour

▪ Sugar in recipes can be reduced by 25 percent without a noticeable difference (instead of 4 tablespoons, reduce to 3 tablespoons and slightly increase the amount of liquid use in the recipe).

Teh’lyn Haufler is a Penn State senior studying biobehavioral health. This column is coordinated by the Penn State Healthy Bodies Project, directed by Lori A. Francis, Ph.D., associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State.

White Chocolate Holiday Bark

1 cup sliced almonds (or pistachios)

 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut

1 cup oven-toasted rice cereal

1 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 pounds good quality white chocolate, chopped

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Spread the sliced almonds and unsweetened coconut in an even layer on the baking sheet. Toast 5-8 minutes or until coconut just begins to brown. Remove baking sheet from the oven, and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine almonds, coconut, rice cereal and dried cranberries. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the mixture, and set aside.

Place chopped white chocolate and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large bowl, and set over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is completely melted.

Remove the chocolate form heat, and fold in the almond mixture. Spread mixture evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle on the reserved ¼ cup topping.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until the chocolate has set. Break the bark into small pieces, and serve.