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It's Time for a Holiday Dessert Makeover

November 01, 2013

Women's Center Class Focuses on Transforming High-Calorie Treats

Leftover Halloween candy. Extra treats around the office. A few brownies from a batch you're baking for a party... It's hard to avoid treats when they're everywhere. Then Thanksgiving comes around, and according to statistics, it's downhill until it's time for New Year's resolutions.

The point is: holiday desserts add up. A study cited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asserts that most annual weight gain - an average of 0.8 lb - occurs during the six-week interval between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. The worst part is that people generally don't lose this weight in the coming year, which adds up to almost a pound of weight gain annually. This means five years can equal five extra pounds.

You don't have to sacrifice taste

So, is the only solution to give up the holiday desserts that you enjoy sharing with loved ones? Definitely not, according to Maggie Villagomez, R.D., a Registered Dietitian at Washington Hospital.

On Monday, Nov. 11, Villagomez will be teaching a "Healthy Holiday Cookies" class at the Washington Women's Center to help transform traditional cookies into tasty treats that won't sabotage waistlines. Her goal, she says, is to focus on simple ways to make items healthier without sacrificing taste.

"The purpose of this class is to teach people that it is possible to eat the foods you love at the holidays, but made in healthier ways that slash the calories and fat without limiting taste," she explains.

Villagomez says that for most people there's an inextricable link between food and enjoying the holidays, which can be a challenge for those of us trying to keep an eye on our weight.

"The holidays are about family and memories, and most people's memories of the holidays center around food, particularly desserts," she says. "Cookies are also many times easier to make than entrees or more complicated desserts like cakes or pies, so they are often enjoyed throughout the holiday season, like at church functions or work parties and potlucks leading up to those special days."

The downside?


"The pounds can pack on fairly quickly if you're participating in all these different food-centered activities," she says.

This is why it's important to incorporate healthy alternatives that can help you take in fewer calories and less fat while still enjoying the special holiday foods you love, according to Villagomez. During her class on the 11th, she will show participants how to do this.

Tasting is believing


But Villagomez doesn't expect people to take her word for it.

"We plan on doing an interactive class where participants can taste some healthier alternatives to traditional cookies, along with sampling some new cookies that they can add to their Christmas favorites. We will also steer away from the cookie theme for part of the class and make some unexpected dessert gift samples that they could easily re-create at home and surprise their friends and family with, providing a new alternative to the traditional cookie, cake or fudge gift”.
Villagomez says it's all about modifying your favorite foods, not cutting them out of your diet completely. She also points out that deprivation often leads to splurges.

"Modifying your recipes to make them healthier allows for the enjoyment of them without the weight gain - or too much weight gain," she says. "When people feel deprived of their favorite foods, especially during the holidays, they eventually break and go crazy, eating three slices of pie instead of one, for example. But allowing yourself the things you like in a healthier version and in moderation helps keep your cravings in check and your weight stable."

Make over your holiday desserts

The "Healthy Holiday Cookies" class, part of the Washington Women's Center's Lunch and Learn program, will be held from 12 Noon to 1 p.m. at the Washington Women's Center conference room, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 150, in Fremont.

To register, call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070. The fee for this class is $5, and seating is limited.

Maggie's Top Three Holiday Tips to Avoid Weight Gain

  1. Eat only the foods you love (and can get) at this time of year - don't waste calories on foods you can get any time of year (i.e., chips, chocolate chip cookies, etc).
  2. Never go to a party hungry; you're more likely to overeat. Eat a sensible meal or snack before the function.
  3. Exercise! Fit in 30 to 60 minutes of activity daily, as appropriate.

 


 

Recipe: Maple-Walnut Spice Cookies

                                   
Store these frosted cookies between layers of parchment paper or wax paper to keep them from sticking together. You can bake and freeze the cookies up to a month in advance; bring the cookies to room temperature before frosting them.
  
Yield: 30 cookies (serving size: 1 cookie)

Ingredients

Cookies:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 large egg

Frosting:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon fat-free milk
2 teaspoons butter, softened
Remaining ingredient:
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare cookies, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through cloves) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  3. Place brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add 2 tablespoons syrup and egg; beat until well blended. Beating at low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined.
  4. Spoon batter evenly into 30 mounds (about 1 tablespoon) 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
  5. To prepare frosting, combine powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons syrup, milk, and 2 teaspoons butter, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Spread frosting evenly over cooled cookies. Working quickly, sprinkle cookies with nuts.

Nutritional Information, Amount per serving

  • Calories: 98
  • Fat: 3.3g
  • Protein: 1.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 16.3g
  • Fiber: 0.3g
  • Cholesterol: 12mg
  • Sodium: 58mg


For more healthy recipes approved and tested by Washington Hospital registered dietitians, please visit www.whhs.com/nutrition.