To reduce the calories in your holiday treats, your best bet is to not tamper with the recipes you love at all. Simply make smaller portions of them!
Since there really is no good substitute for the flavor and mouthfeel of butter -- and if you reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe substantially, it can affect the taste, texture and browning -- you should start by cutting the sizes of your cookies and treats. Just think: 20 years ago, cookies and muffins were about half the size of the ones we think of as normal-sized today.
Another approach is to make treats that are more diet-conscious to begin with. Gingerbread, for instance, is usually lower in fat than sugar cookies -- and meringue cookies have no fat at all. Make apple crisp instead of apple pie and you’ll lose the extra fat and calories in the crust. Pears make an elegant dessert when they’re poached in apple and/or pomegranate juice, with a little sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.
In general, I advise people to emphasize quality over quantity. A small amount of a gourmet chocolate or from-scratch dessert is much more satisfying than handfuls of cheap candy and slice-and-bake cookies that are so popular at this time of year. Ask yourself what you really, really like and eat small portions of that -- you’ll feel like you’ve indulged, but your waistline won’t show it!
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