They say there's always room for dessert and unfortunately this is very true. Even if you've eaten more turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing than you can handle, once you see that chocolate cake coming to the table, it seems like your stomach opens up an extra slot to make more room. Thanksgiving is full of all types of food and desserts are no exception. There are ingredients you can use to up the healthiness of of your desserts.
Sugar is a main component of most desserts. There's not much you can do to replace sugar but you can use brown sugar or honey in place of white sugar in your recipes. These 2 substitutes still contain a lot of sugar but they also have a small amount of extra nutrients (keyword, small) . You shouldn't start eating honey or brown sugar by the cup full since they both are basically sugar, but they will slightly improve your desserts.
Flour is also used in almost every dessert. Most recipes call for white flour but an easy alternative is to use whole wheat flour. It contains more vitamins and minerals but most importantly, it contains a lot more fiber which will keep you from eating as much. If you're not comfortable replacing all of the white flour with whole wheat flour, split it up and use 50% of one kind and 50% of the other.
Some recipes, especially the ones for pie crusts call for either lard or shortening. Lard contains a high amount of saturated fat. Shortening is made from vegetable oil but is high in trans fat. If possible, try using vegetable spreads which have a consistency of butter or margarine but is healthier than either, including lard and shortening.
Instead of substituting ingredients, you can also add some to improve the health of your desserts. The main way of doing this is to add fruits. You can top a cake with strawberries, peaches or cherries. When making pies, try using fresh or frozen fruit and avoid the canned variety if possible.
For extra crunchiness, you can add bran which is the outer layer of grain stripped away when making white flours. It's filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Another healthy ingredient you can experiment with is oatmeal. You can make cookies and muffins that are healthier and taste great.
The Bottom Line
Desserts are made from years of recipe development. Starting to replace ingredients after awhile of proven taste can make you feel uneasy about how your guests will accept your new creation. You can alleviate this uneasiness by testing your recipe beforehand. Remember that even a few healthy ingredients can make a difference. Make small changes and eventually you'll have your own healthy holiday recipes.