Holiday Dessert Guide

By Katie Nowacki

Katie is currently in her second year of the coordinated dietetic internship and Masters of Science program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. This post is the twelfth installment of the new Student Series here on the CAND blog, which features Chicago-area dietetic interns every Thursday. Katie is passionate about many areas of nutrition and enjoys helping other people navigate the field of nutrition. Keep reading for her tips on how to successfully navigate all the desserts that take center stage during the holiday season. For Katie’s full bio, please see below.

Holiday Dessert Guide


That time of year has snuck up on us once again… and possibly the number on the scale.  Ah yes, it is the Holiday Season, that special time of year where family and friends gather to eat. And then eat. Then eat.  And then have dessert!  However, by the time dessert rolls around, you may have done as much damage to your waist line as you care for. But what about that sweet tooth? Good thing there are easy, healthy treats that still take care of those pesky taste buds. Just because the holidays are here doesn’t mean you have to gain the 10 pounds the average American gains around this time of year. Here are some tips on how to make a delicious dessert that won’t break the calorie bank (since your actual bank account may take a hit):

  1. USE FRUIT, BUT NOT IN CAKE FORM:  Fruit is naturally sweet and doesn’t require adding much extra sugar, especially if cooking it down. Try topping a small shortbread cookie with some homemade low-sugar (or no sugar added) strawberry compote. By cooking the strawberries, the natural sugars from the fruit become even sweeter.
  2. CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN…:  Roasting various nuts (like cashews, almonds, walnuts) brings out an oaky, warm flavor.  Pair them with a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon to make a great after-dinner treat.  Although nuts are known for housing the “good” monounsaturated fats, it is still important to watch your portion sizes, especially since they are so easily poppable into your mouth.  You may not have an open fire, but roasting nuts is just as easy on your stovetop!
  3. HOats HOats HOats!:  Adding oats to your cookie recipe replaces some of the flour and sugar that can rack up the calories.  The fiber from the oats also contributes some nutritional value to your baking. Try having a cookie exchange with your family and friends and blow them away with these Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies that pack around 80 calories per cookie!
  4. SPICY AND ICY AND EVERYTHING NICEY: Who says you can’t enjoy some cool treats during this time of year?  Try pairing the classic holiday flavor of cranberries with a kick of jalapeno.  These contrasting flavors in a cool granita are definitely a different take on the classic cranberry sauce.  Find the recipe here!

Indulging during the holidays doesn’t have to equal feeling guilty…just indulge sensibly! You’ll be as merry as a Christmas elf when trying these tips and sharing them with family and friends. Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday!


KatieKatie is originally from Ohio and earned her B.S. in Dietetics from The Ohio State University. Currently, she lives in Chicago and is working on her Masters of Science Degree in Clinical Nutrition while completing her dietetic internship at Rush University Medical Center. While volunteering as a Student Liaison and mentor for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she has been able to reach out to future nutrition students and enjoys helping people along their career paths.  She is currently a member of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and enjoys attending meetings that focus on current issues and topics in the field of dietetics.

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Nicci Brown


Nicci Brown, MS, RD works as a nutrition communications specialist for FoodMinds, LLC in Chicago. She serves as the Assistant Blog Editor for CAND and has been a blog contributor since 2012. Nicci is a graduate of Rush University Medical Center’s combined Masters of Nutrition and Dietetic Internship and is also a proud graduate of The Ohio State University. Connect with Nicci on Twitter and Instagram (@NicciBrownRD) or, if you have any questions or comments or would like to be a student contributor to the CAND blog, feel free to contact her at
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