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Healthier Holiday Desserts for Seniors

Sweet, tempting treats are everywhere during the holidays. While the occasional rich dessert can be part of a healthy lifestyle, it's also possible to make guilt-free, crave-worthy confections. We've curated some delicious dessert ideas that add nutrition without taking away flavor, so you can enjoy the festive season healthfully in our Independent Living community.

1. Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Elegant yet simple, chocolate-covered strawberries are a popular addition to any dessert table. Combining the sweetness of fruit with a touch of velvety chocolate, they're a relatively healthy dessert compared to more sugar-packed options.

This treat starts with nutritious fruit. According to WebMD, eight strawberries — which count as one of your daily servings of fruit — provide more vitamin C than an orange. Strawberries also contain fiber, potassium, calcium, and a variety of antioxidants.

The dark chocolate, which makes this treat so enticing, also has health benefits. The cocoa in chocolate contains flavanols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Research suggests flavanols can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, although the sugar and fat content of the chocolate means you should consume it in moderation.

For the most flavanol benefits, use dark chocolate, which contains up to three times more cocoa than milk chocolate. By definition, dark chocolate contains 50% to 90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, while milk chocolate contains 10% to 50% of the same ingredients.

Make these goodies with fresh strawberries that are similar in size for a more cohesive look when serving. Medium-sized berries work best. These bite-sized desserts look beautiful served on a white platter to provide a striking color contrast. Showcase the berries symmetrically in neat rows or concentric circles for a visually appealing display. You can also use a tiered stand for an elegant look. Tuck mint leaves or edible flowers around the berries for a finishing touch.

2. 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Flourless 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies deliver sweet and salty notes and are a simple, satisfying treat for all ages. All you need to whip up these nostalgic goodies are peanut butter, sugar, and an egg.

Nutrition-wise, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 7 grams of protein. You'll also get a relatively low amount of carbohydrates, most of which are complex and break down more slowly. Most fats in peanut butter are healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, but check the label to make sure there aren't unhealthy hydrogenated oils added. Peanut butter also includes an array of nutrients including iron, folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and several B vitamins.

Loved year-round, peanut butter cookies are often recognized by the familiar crisscross design on the top of the cookie. This recipe suggests giving the cookies some holiday spirit by making imprints with small cookie cutters. Once the dough has been rolled into balls and flattened, decorate them with the outline of a snowflake, bell, angel, or Christmas tree before baking. To serve, pile the cookies generously on a holiday-themed plate or alongside fruit and other goodies on a charcuterie board.

3. Caramelized Spiced Pears

This recipe for Caramelized Spiced Pears transforms a simple fruit into a luscious dessert with only a small amount of butter and brown sugar. It gets its light decadence from the caramelization process, which brings out the natural sweetness of the pears.

Low in calories and high in fiber, pears can help you meet your daily servings of fruit and vegetables. They're also rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and antioxidants. Research suggests the flavonoids in pears can help support heart and gut health and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

This juicy dessert is fairly easy to whip up. Simply toss peeled, sliced pears with lemon juice and cook in melted butter for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt, and simmer until the pears are soft. As they cook, the sugars turn into a nutty, buttery glaze that adds warmth and depth to the dish.

Caramelized pears are a light yet satisfying way to end a holiday meal. Serve the dessert warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. It also pairs nicely with a cheese plate to offset the sweetness.

4. Healthy Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is a favorite dessert during the winter months, providing comfort in every warm, gooey spoonful. The sweet, tender apples are perfectly complemented by a satisfying and crunchy oat topping.

Apples, which are the star of this dish, are packed with vitamin C, as well as a naturally occurring chemical known as quercetin that provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Apples are also rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that can help lower the harmful cholesterol in your body.

Most apple crisp recipes contain large amounts of butter and sugar, but this Healthy Apple Crisp draws its sweetness from a splash of maple syrup. It also swaps out butter for healthier coconut oil, although you can use avocado or olive oil. The white flour used in many crisp recipes is omitted, making this gluten-free. Instead, the topping combines oats and chopped pecans for extra crunch.

Serve the apple crisp warm with a dollop of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or vanilla yogurt.

Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

Balance and routine are important parts of maintaining health during the busy holiday season. Balance out the extra “treats” by ensuring that each meal contains a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Maintain as much of the same routine each day as possible; continue to exercise each day, even if the busy season means shorter workouts, don’t skip them! Try to eat the same healthy breakfast each day, no matter what the afternoon/evening entails. A healthy breakfast and regular workout helps to keep metabolism functioning at its best, which becomes even more important with the extra calories this time of year.

Enjoy Seasonal Dining Year-Round at Our Independent Living Community

Fleet Landing offers an array of enticing dining experiences, from casual lunches to special occasion dinners. Our dining services team incorporates fresh, local ingredients into seasonal menus to create meals with your health in mind, and even provides WELLInspiredTM selections to help you make balanced, healthy choices. Schedule a visit to learn more about our Independent Living amenities.