8 Healthy (-ish) Holiday Treats

Instead of crying yourself to sleep every night of December because your tummy hurts, why not make healthier treats in the first place? You might be pleasantly surprised how little you (and your persnickety family) notice the omission of the naughty stuff.

Instead of crying yourself to sleep every night of December because your tummy hurts, why not make healthier treats in the first place? You might be pleasantly surprised how little you (and your persnickety family) notice the omission of the naughty stuff.


I don't know about you guys, but throughout the holidays, I oscillate between "Who cares? It's Christmas! I'll eat whatever I damn-well please!" and "Ugh, I feel disgusting, why did I eat an entire tin of stale ginger snaps?" 

Instead of crying yourself to sleep every night of December (and the first half of January) because your tummy hurts, why not make healthier treats in the first place? Grain-free (or dairy-free or gluten-free or free-of-unrefined-sugars) is not code for "tastes like cardboard-y crap." You might be pleasantly surprised how little you (and your persnickety family) notice the omission of the naughty stuff.


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Chewy Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies by Fit Foodie Finds

Chewy. Chocolate. Ginger AND Molasses. What's not to like?

Chewy. Chocolate. Ginger AND Molasses. What's not to like?

Lee at Fit Foodie Finds likes to torture me from across the Internet. What did I ever do to her?! She makes treats that look like they'd pile on the freshman 15 (or in my case, the 33 thirty-three), but somehow makes them healthy(ish). This woman is a miracle worker, and god bless her and these chewy chocolate ginger molasses cookies. PS she shows you how to arrange the dry ingredients in a mason jar, perfect for gifting. 
 

Healthy Thumbprint Chocolate Pistachio Cookies by Fit Foodie Finds

If you squint, they look like Christmas wreaths. 

If you squint, they look like Christmas wreaths. 

Again, these don't look healthy(ish), but they totally are and not juts because they look like a gut bomb topped with "healthy" pistachios. Au contraire! They're grain-free, gluten-free, AND dairy-free, but not taste-free. Also, doesn't Lee take some really nice food photos? 
 

Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies by Against All Grain

Shortbread, minus the naughty stuff. Kinda. 

Shortbread, minus the naughty stuff. Kinda. 

I don't know if anyone else remembers this, but for a time, Northwest Airlines handed out Walkers shortbread cookies to everyone on the plane. I remember especially well because my mom was a flight attendant for them at the time and would bring loads home. Danielle at Against All Grain loves those suckers too, and even figured out how to make them grain and egg free. Sounds impossible, but I assure you, this woman could somehow turn a cronut into grain-free deliciousness. 


Apple Cider Gluten-Free Brioche Doughnuts by Zoe Francois

Gluten-Free doughnuts can be delicious (if Zoe Francois is behind the recipe). Photo by Stephen Scott Gross

Gluten-Free doughnuts can be delicious (if Zoe Francois is behind the recipe). Photo by Stephen Scott Gross

I would say pastry chef & cookbook maven Zoe Francois has the best job in the world, but honestly, I think that honor actually goes to her husband and two sons who get to eat all the fabulous things she whips up in her stunning kitchen (you may remember we baked super-fancy wedding desserts together last winter). 

Anyhow, Zoe is half of the team behind the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes cookbook series, and her gluten-free apple cider doughnuts are ridiculous. It's what Santa wants sitting on the hearth, right next to a cold glass of milk and a few carrots for the reindeer. PS If these ended up in my stocking, I'd dump them directly into my mouth. No shame.
 

Grain-Free Peanut Butter Blossoms by Fit Foodie Finds

A classic, for people with gluten issues. 

A classic, for people with gluten issues. 

Aren't peanut butter blossoms everyone's favorite Christmas guilty pleasure? Make them a little less guilty (but no less pleasure) with this grain-free version. You'll be amazed at what you can do sans flour. 


Coco Nutty Dark Bark by Michelle Tam

Coco Nutty Dark Bark: Eat some, and give some as a gift.

Coco Nutty Dark Bark: Eat some, and give some as a gift.

If you're looking to dip your toe into the paleo pool, Nom Nom Paleo is a great place to start. Michelle Tam is a busy mom of two who's obsessed with food and loves to cook... but not so crazy that she wants to spend all day making dinner. Michelle's site has lots of practical tips for making healthy, quick(ish) meals packed with tons of flavor. 

This coco nutty dark bark recipe is no different-- fairly simple to execute, but texturally interesting, flavorful AND absolutely stunning (Michelle suggests packaging it up as a gift!).

PS if you're looking for a great food-centric podcast, check out the Nom Nom Paleo Podcast. Great cooking tips, plus Michelle's two kids (big O & little O) are so dang cute, you might end up with a mild case of baby fever. You've been warned.


Grain-Free Apple Cake by Melissa Joulwan

Damn, that's some good-looking apple cake. 

Damn, that's some good-looking apple cake. 

Last year, I went through a massive "crap" purge. I got rid of bags of clothes, a meeeellion kitchen utensils and nearly all my cookbooks. One of the only ones I kept is Melissa's Well Fed. I use it all the time, and love her approach to food & cooking: it's all about creating the dishes you loved growing up (or came to love as an adult!), just a little healthier. Plus, she has cooking down to a system, so eating clean doesn't become your full-time job.

Like me, Mel J doesn't really consider herself much of a baker, and calls this grain-free apple cake recipe "not a light, airy, supermodel of a cake. It’s the reliable friend who’s always there for you." Unless you omit an ingredients entirely, this one is pretty hard to eff up. And for that, I am grateful.


Healthy Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies by Ivy Larson

Couldn't be Christmas-ier!

Couldn't be Christmas-ier!

My friend Brianne recently introduced me to Ivy Larson's Clean Cuisine and I am all about the message: healing your body through good nutrition. Ivy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 and has spent the subsequent years figuring out how to make herself feel better through food. What I love is that "eating clean" doesn't mean you can't enjoy fun foods and treats. You just need to make them a little differently. Take these cranberry oatmeal cookies: free of refined sugars, trans fats, animal fats, dairy & more. And yet, they're fantastic. And festive. 


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What's your favorite Christmas treat? This one is mine, by far. Not healthy at all, but I only make it once a year :). 

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