10 holiday treats that won’t wreak havoc on your health


Read on for recipes from simple snacks to tasty appetizers and tempting desserts that provide a new twist on classic holiday flavors. Giving yourself health alternatives will help keep you on track this holiday season!

Welcome to the holiday season! Everywhere you turn, you will be faced with tempting treats – lattes and mochas when you are out shopping, cookies and chocolates at the office and holiday parties full of decadent treats. Now I am a big proponent of the 80:20 principle. If you stick to your healthy path/habits 80% of the time, you get a little wiggle room. However, it can still be a good idea to have some healthy snack substitutes that satisfy without totally derailing your health journey. 

  1. Make your own healthy peppermint cocoa – This recipe substitutes heavy cream or milk for skim milk and coconut milk. When I make homemade hot cocoa, I will use unsweetened almond milk instead. The recipe linked uses honey as a sweetener but another easy option is to use half maple syrup or honey and half stevia to cut the sugar in half and still get a little sweetness. Utilizing almond milk also makes it dairy-free for anyone who is lactose intolerant. Peppermint is a great holiday taste but also helps to sooth gas and bloating. If you do not have peppermint extract at home, you can add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to the finished recipe. You only need 1-3 drops as essential oils are highly concentrated. 
  2. Maple Gingerbread popcorn – These are some classic holiday flavors delivered on a light, airy snack of popcorn. Popcorn is easy to prepare in an air fryer or with a special silicone bowl designed for the task. It is low calorie but adding coconut oil makes it more filling. One easy hack is to use premade pumpkin pie spice mix instead of measuring each individual spice. If you do not like the flavor of coconut, you can substitute some ghee or organic butter instead. 
  3. Healthy holiday snack mix! Where I come from, this is also called “Chex mix” but call it what you like, it is a great treat to have around during the holidays. Adding some additional nuts and seeds makes this snack healthier and more filling. Using bran Chex or wheat Cheerios will also increase the fiber content. I personally don’t mix dried fruit into my Chex mix but feel free to make it your own way! 
  4. Christmas fruit kabobs: This is a great recipe if you have children as they are cute, delicious and simple. Make Santa hat kabobs with banana, strawberry and marshmallow or grinch kabobs with green grapes, strawberry and marshmallow. Sometimes if you make something cute, people forget it’s healthy!  
  5. Celery Reindeer: Here is another simple and tasty snack great for kids but suitable for all ages.  These cute reindeer can be made with peanut butter, almond butter or Nutella depending on the tastes in your house. Pretzels can be swapped out for gluten free pretzels for those with food restrictions/allergies and the nose can be a red candy or a cranberry. Cute and Christmas-y. 
  6. Butternut squash pizza: This delicious recipe will satisfy all your sophisticated friends and still highlight the flavors of fall. Butternut squash is a favorite fall flavor of mine and I find many ways to incorporate it this season. This pizza can be made with goat cheese for dairy sensitive individuals, feta or gorgonzola for a bolder flavor or mozzarella for a more classic pizza. Opt for a cauliflower crust for gluten-free friends. 
  7. Miso Deviled Eggs: It’s not Christmas or Thanksgiving in our house without deviled eggs. Whether you are looking for a more adult version of this holiday classic or you just want to mix up the flavors, adding some miso (fermented soybean paste) gives it a more complex flavor and adds some additional protein and minerals. Give it a try to change up your holiday appetizers. 
  8. Cinnamon apple chips: – possibly one of the easiest ways to indulge in a bit of fall flavors with a hint of natural sweetness and healthy fiber to boot! This recipe does not require special equipment like a dehydrator – you can just use a low-temperature oven (200°F). Sprinkle apples with plain cinnamon or use a pumpkin pie spice mix to add more flavors. These crispy treats are an easy snack to take with you and you may even have you-pick apple farms nearby. Bonus points for picking your own apples to use!  
  9. Vegan spiced speculoos cookies: This recipe adds seasonal flavors in the form of speculoos (a spiced shortbread cookie). I had never heard of this strange food until I saw some speculoos products at our local Trader Joe’s one year. And now I think they are a unique and delicious flavor! Gluten free flour can be used for anyone with gluten restrictions and vegan guests will appreciate having a dessert that they can safely enjoy! 
  10. Healthier peppermint bark: I included this because peppermint bark is one of my personal favorite Christmastime treats. It is a little tricky to make a “healthier” version and this recipe cleverly adds some shredded coconut to add fiber. You can always experiment with alternative sweeteners – agave syrup, maple syrup, honey or natural zero-calorie sweeteners like Swerve, Zylitol, stevia and monk fruit. Another way to lessen the negative impact of sweet treats is to eat them at the end of a fiber-rich snack – like celery reindeer! Fiber slows the absorption of sugar so it has less of an effect on our mood and energy levels. Also, try portion control – break the bark into 1X1 inch squares and pre-package two squares into snack bags or saran wrap. Pre-packaging foods into portions can help with cravings and holiday indulgences.  

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Dr. Jessica Keating
Owner & Physician , Willow Clinic of Natural Medicine
Jessica Lodal Keating graduated with her doctorate in chiropractic medicine from National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in Lombard, IL in December of 2016. She graduated summa cum laude and salutatorian of her class. She completed a primary care internship at the in-house clinic in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in downtown Chicago. There she was able to provide natural approaches to health and wellness to an under-served population. She also led efforts to solicit supplement donations from local doctors in order to provide these supplements to patients free of charge. During her time at NUHS, Dr. Keating also studied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and became certified to perform acupuncture, moxabustion and fire cupping. She uses the wisdom of eastern medicine to complement her holistic approach to assessing each individual patient and treating the whole person. She participated in various other seminars and trainings over the course of her studies including MPI’s full-spine adjusting seminar and Apex’s Fundamentals of Functional Blood Chemistry. Dr. Keating also completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic medicine in 2018, graduating valedictorian and summa cum laude. Dr. Keating has worked in several natural primary care offices in the greater Chicagoland area. She is also a full-time naturopathic clinician at National University of Health Sciences. There she is able to help shape the next generation of naturopathic doctors. She has a home-call practice where she treats patients in the comfort of their own homes all around Chicagoland. Dr. Keating loves balancing private practice with teaching and clinical supervision. Dr. Jessica Keating received her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon before deciding to attend NUHS. After her undergrad degree, she grew frustrated with the field of political science and sought a new career path. Her own health had been dramatically improved through diet, yoga and herbal medicine. Because of these experiences, she decided to deepen her understanding of natural medicine by pursuing a higher degree. Dr. Keating remains committed to her own health journey on a personal and professional level. She aims to help others thrive and maintain optimal health by guiding them down the same path and educating her patients by empowering them to take their health into their own hands. Dr. Keating practices holistic, natural primary care. She treats GI conditions, autoimmune disorders, women’s health, sleep issues, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, back pain as well as working with patients on weight loss and general wellness promotion. She treats pediatric, adult and geriatric patients using diet, lifestyle modification, herbal medicine, physical medicine and acupuncture. In her free time, Dr. Keating loves reading, biking, cooking and playing with her cats. Dr. Keating also enjoys yoga, tennis, rollerblading, going to the movies and travelling with her husband. She has been to 28 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
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