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It’s okay to splurge on a modestly sinful treat every now and then.

By: Kelsey Henry, RDN

The holidays are right around the corner and we all know what that means — turkey, mashed potatoes and desserts galore. If you’re trying to be mindful of your diet, this time of year will keep you on your toes. The good news? You can have your cake and eat it, too — so to speak.

While desserts may seem like the opposite of healthy eating, they don’t have to be. Even the most decadent of desserts can have a role in a healthy, balanced diet.

The key here is balance. Instead of restricting all sweet treats — which may lead to a handful of harmful behaviors, including bingeing and feeling ashamed — you can enjoy some desserts if you do it right.

Have a plan for holiday meals

If you know you’ll be in a situation where sweets will be available in the afternoon or evening, think about skipping a sugary coffee drink that morning. Making the decision ahead of time about when you will treat yourself to an indulgence will help you avoid feeling guilty later.

Be mindful of portion sizes

Believe it or not, you can feel satisfied with just a couple bites of your favorite dessert — especially if the alternative is skipping it entirely. Most diet plans can be modified to find some wiggle room for a special occasion.

Share the love and spread the spirit of the holidays

When you bake a dessert, don’t feel like you have to eat it all yourself. Share it with your coworkers, neighbors and loved ones.

If you have a condition such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or renal disease, you can schedule an appointment to see a registered dietitian (RDN) to discuss how to fit occasional desserts into your meal plan.

Pumpkin whoopie pies (makes 24 servings)

Cookie ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour for more fiber)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (or ½ cup Splenda and ½ cup sugar)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling ingredients:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted margarine, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions for cookies:

  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add pumpkin puree and mix thoroughly. Add eggs and vanilla until combined.
  4. Mix flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until no flour streaks remain.Use a cookie scoop (1.5- to 2-tablespoon capacity) to drop 24 balls of dough onto baking sheets.
  5. Bake one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine doneness.
  6. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely.

Directions for filling:

  • Beat margarine in a bowl with an electric mixer until no lumps remain. Add cream cheese and beat until combined.
  • Add powdered sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. Beat until smooth (but be careful not to overbeat or filling will be too thin).
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes to thicken.

Assemble:

  1. Once cookies are cooled to room temperature, spread cream cheese mixture onto 12 of them.
  2. Top each with one of the remaining 12 cookies. Press gently until cream cheese reaches the edges of the two cookies.

Nutrition information per 1-pie serving: Calories 301, fat 11.2 g, protein 3 g, carbohydrate 49 g, sodium 210 mg

Next steps:

Looking for more? Explore our dietitian-approved recipes.
Want to meet with a nutritional specialist? Find a nutritionist near you.