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4 Healthy Holiday Desserts Done Right

Indulge your taste buds with these healthy holiday desserts that pack full-on flavor with an assist from nutrient-packed superfoods.


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Listen, it’s been a long year with lots of hard work – the offseason is the time to rest, relax, and – most importantly – indulge. Dessert is one of the most comforting parts of the holidays, but comforting doesn’t have to mean ruining your nutrition plan. Create new traditions with these four flavorful ingredients, while making some healthy recipe swaps.  Using the same four ingredients makes recipes more familiar and also cuts down on ingredient waste.

The Healthy Holiday Main Ingredients (And Why We Chose Them)

Cinnamon This antioxidant has anti-inflammatory properties that help repair tissue damage.
Vanilla bean High magnesium content helps regulate the nervous system for better brain and mood health.
Almonds Healthy fats help boost energy, immunity, and maintain blood pressure and cholesterol.
Dark Chocolate It’s loaded with minerals and antioxidants; may improve blood flow.
Photo: Sam Wells
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Healthy Holiday Dessert: Cacao Almond Banana Ice Cream

This creamy and delicious dairy-free ice cream is easy to make and even easier to devour. Plus, the added benefits of the superfood cacao are known to support heart and skin health.

Ingredients

3 large bananas, sliced
2 T coconut oil
1⁄2 vanilla bean (cut widthwise)
2 T pure maple syrup
2 T cacao powder
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
16-ounce can coconut milk
1⁄4 cup almond butter
1⁄4 cup toasted almond slices
Optional: cacao nibs

Directions

In a large pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the bananas, and sauté until all sides are golden.

Cut the vanilla bean in half length- wise, use the knife to scrape the vanilla beans from each side of the pod into the bananas, and stir to combine.

Add the maple syrup, cacao powder, cinnamon, and salt, and stir to coat the bananas. Turn off the heat and stir for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a parchment or wax paper-lined dish and freeze bananas.

Remove bananas from the freezer, and place in a food processor. Let sit for 2-3 minutes to thaw slightly. Process bananas until smooth, stirring occasionally.

Remove the solid “cream” from the coconut milk, and add to the banana puree, processing until smooth.

Add the almond butter, and process until well combined.

Remove mixture to a plastic container, and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Serve with almond slices and cacao nibs over the top.

Photo: Sam Wells
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Healthy Holiday Dessert: Berry Chocolate Crumble

Berries and chocolate were meant to be together. Plus, berries add fiber, natural sweetness, and a dose of antioxidants to this dessert. Topped with a crumble of oats, almonds, and sparkles of melty chocolate chunks, they’ll become a holiday fave.

Ingredients

3 large bananas, sliced
2 T coconut oil
1⁄2 vanilla bean
(cut widthwise)
2 T pure maple syrup
2 T cacao powder
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
16-ounce can coconut milk
1⁄4 cup almond butter
1⁄4 cup toasted almond slices
Optional: cacao nibs

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large, deep pie dish or 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.

Add the berries, cornstarch, and cinnamon to the dish, and stir to combine. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, use the knife to scrape the vanilla beans from each side of the pod, and stir into the berries.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, butter, and canola oil until crumbles form.

Spread the crumbles over the berries. Then scatter the chocolate pieces over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the sides bubble and the crumble is golden. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Photo: Sam Wells
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Healthy Holiday Dessert: Candied Ginger, Roasted Almond & Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These cookies burst with flavor and also provide some health benefits. They’re filled with crunchy roasted almonds, rich dark chocolate, and zesty candied ginger (known for it’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties) plus nutrient and fiber-dense whole-wheat flour, so you can feel good about holiday snacking.

Ingredients

1/3 cup almonds
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3⁄4 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
2 ounces of 60 percent (or greater) dark chocolate bar, finely chopped
1/3 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup turbinado sugar
1⁄4 cup molasses
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk*
1⁄2 vanilla bean (cut widthwise)
*Tip: Save the white for your breakfast scramble!

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the almonds onto a baking sheet, and roast for 7-8 minutes. Remove from sheet to let cool, and chop into fine pieces.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and sea salt.

Stir in the reserved almond pieces, chocolate, and candied ginger.

In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, sugar, molasses, and eggs.

Cut the vanilla bean in half length-wise, use the knife to scrape the vanilla beans from each side of the pod, and whisk this into the wet ingredients.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients in. Gently stir to combine.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and place at least 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are flat and set. Remove from sheet, and let cool on a wire rack.

Photo: Sam Wells
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Healthy Holiday Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Pie with Almond Crust

Silky, rich chocolate mousse, as luxurious as the real thing, but made with healthy twists for serious savings on fat and calories. Rustic almond crust adds the perfect touch for this sin-less dessert. 

Crust

Ingredients

1 1⁄2 cup Belvita oat cookie crumbs
2/3 cup almonds
2 T butter
1 egg white

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie pan with non-stick spray.

Combine the ingredients in a food processor until they begin to stick together.

Press the mixture into the pie dish to form a crust. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool completely.

Mousse

Ingredients

3 ounces of 60 percent bitter-sweet baking chocolate
1⁄4 cup vanilla almond milk
3 T maple syrup
1⁄2 vanilla bean (cut widthwise) 2 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1⁄2 T cornstarch
16-ounce can of coconut milk

Directions

Put the chocolate in a small bowl, and microwave in 30-second increments, until just melted.

Whisk in the almond milk and maple syrup. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, use the knife to scrape the vanilla beans from each side of the pod, and whisk into the chocolate. Let cool.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cornstarch, and whisk until stiff peaks form.

In another small bowl, remove the solid “cream” from the coconut milk, and whisk for 20-30 seconds (do not whisk longer or the cream will break).

Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, then stir in the coconut cream. Add this mixture to the egg whites, and gently fold it together with a spatula until thoroughly combined.

Put the mousse into the pie shell, and let sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours before serving.

*This article originally appeared in the December 2017 print issue of Triathlete magazine.