Stuffed with goodness: Healthy Holiday Dessert Recipes

Stuffed with goodness: Healthy Holiday Dessert Recipes

Elena Gonzales, Staff Writer

Eating healthy isn’t about cutting all of your favorite foods and desserts out of your diet or cheat days where you eat everything you didn’t eat the week before. Eating healthy may require cutting some foods out, but mostly, it’s about finding a balanced diet that works best for you (moderation is key!).

With this in mind, the three Thanksgiving (or any day) dessert options below  focus on moderation and balance. First off, the dishes have minimal saturated fats, which are the type of fats that can raise cholesterol levels as well as increase one’s risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes if consumed in excess over a period of time. Secondly, they use healthier ingredient alternatives such as unsalted butter (so you’re not consuming unnecessary amounts of salt) and fruits whose natural sugar the human body can more easily break down and use properly. Finally, the three desserts are low in artificial sugars and in serving sizes that encourage moderation.

The recipes below provide step by step instructions on how to properly make each dish. So follow the steps and enjoy your own healthy desserts!

*Recipes obtained from, and, respectively*

Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


PREP: 0:20



  • 1 3/4 c. All-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Cooking directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two mini-muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. You will only use half of the 2nd pan for this recipe. I do not recommend using cupcake liners.
  2. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together. Set aside. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, melted butter, vanilla, and milk together until combined. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stir a few times, then add mini chocolate chips. Fold everything together gently just until combined.
  3. Fill muffin cups around 3/4—all the way full. Go for about 1 tablespoon of batter per muffin. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove pans from oven. Allow muffins to slightly cool before serving.

Mini Caramel Apples


  • 2 Apples (granny smith suggested)
  • Melon baller or other circular scooping tool
  • Caramel pieces or caramel dip
  • Cake pop sticks
  • Parchment paper

Cooking Directions

  1. Scoop out apple spheres using a melon baller or other circular scoop
  2. Place cake pop sticks in the center of the apple pieces
  3. Melt caramel if necessary, or prepare any alternative you may be using
  4. Dip apple pieces into caramel dip or melted caramel pieces, while holding onto the attached cake pop stick
  5. Place finished mini caramel apples on a clean sheet of parchment paper for drying
  6. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Apple Coffee Cake



  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped peeled tart apple, such as Granny Smith (about 1 large)
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail, orange juice or apple juice
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen, thawed, chopped (see Tip)


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
  2. To prepare topping: Whisk brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a medium nonreactive saucepan (see Note) until combined. Stir in cranberries, apple and juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and the berries soften, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. To prepare cake: Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Beat oil, butter and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, first on medium speed, then on medium-high, until well combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, beating until the mixture is light in color and well blended. Add egg and beat until the batter is smooth, about 1 minute longer. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half the flour mixture until just incorporated. Gradually beat in milk and vanilla until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until a smooth batter forms, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the edges. Spread the topping in an even layer over the batter; do not stir.
  4. Bake the cake on the middle rack until the top is puffed in places and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (the fruit topping will still be moist), 40 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over the top. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; let stand until cooled to warm, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan sides and cut the cake into wedges.


  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. | Equipment: 9-inch springform pan
  • Tip: To make quick work of chopping cranberries, place whole berries in a food processor and pulse a few times until the berries are coarsely chopped.
  • Note: A nonreactive pan—stainless steel, enamel-coated or glass—is necessary when cooking acidic foods, such as tomato or lemon, to prevent the food from reacting with the pan. Reactive pans, such as aluminum and cast-iron, can impart an off color and/or off flavor in acidic foods.