5 Guilt-free Holiday Desserts

There’s a reason many of us make a New Year’s resolution to exercise and lose weight: Holiday parties mean consumption of calorie-packed holiday desserts. This year, whether you’re hosting a party or attending a potluck, make a dessert that is both palate- and scale-friendly.

“It’s all about trial and error,” says healthy dessert blogger Chocolate-Covered Katie. “For a healthy flavor boost, I often add spices such as cinnamon or vanilla extract to bring out the natural sweetness in a recipe without relying on sugar.” Katie also recommends natural substitutes such as stevia, xylitol, bananas or dates to replace sugar. We rounded up some of her favorite guilt-free dessert recipes for the holidays -- and beyond.

Black Bean Brownies

Gluten free!

1 1/2 cups black beans

2 tablespoons cocoa powder: Dutch or regular

1/2 cup quick oats

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave (honey will work, but not for strict vegans)

2 NuNaturals Stevia packs or 2 tablespoons sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Blend well. Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Optional: Sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. Makes 9-12 brownies.

Healthy Blueberry Muffins

Great for daytime parties!

2 cups spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup sugar of choice or xylitol

A pinch pure stevia, or 2 tablespoons more sugar of choice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

1 cup milk of choice

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil

1 1/3 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a muffin tin or line with muffin liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine first 6 ingredients very well. In a separate bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients except blueberries. Pour wet into dry, stir until just evenly mixed, and then add the blueberries. Gently stir again, but only until evenly mixed. It’s important to not over-stir and break the berries. Pour into the muffin tins and bake 19 minutes. Muffins should look perfectly domed when you take them out. Allow to sit 10 minutes before removing from the tins. Makes 14-15 muffins.

Avocado Smoothie

Perfect for intimate dinner parties!

1/2 of a large avocado

1 1/2 cups cold milk of choice

scant 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch pure stevia, or 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or sugar of choice

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 ice cubes, optional

Combine all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth, then serve. Makes about 2 cups (1-2 servings). Great to serve in small glasses as an in-between course or light appetizer.

Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

A surefire festive crowd-pleaser!

1/2 cup spelt or all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup xylitol or sugar of choice

Handful mini chocolate chips, optional

1/4 cup mayo-style spread, such as Vegenaise

1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup beet juice

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon natural red food coloring, optional if you want them redder than the ones in the photos

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with 6 liners (or double the recipe for 12). In a large bowl combine first 5 ingredients (and chips, if using). Sift very well. In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients and whisk until the mayo spread is completely smooth. Now pour wet into dry and stir until just combined. Immediately pour the batter into the pan (about 2/3 full each) and bake 14 minutes, after which time cupcakes should have risen and domed. Let sit 10 minutes to cool before removing from the muffin tin.

Hot Chocolate Cookies

Sinfully delicious, with no added sugars!

1 cup spelt flour or all-purpose

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (or hot cocoa mix)

Packed 1/4 cup pitted dates

Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

1 cup chocolate chips

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 to 4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil

In a food processor, blend first five ingredients until dates are finely pulverized. In a separate bowl, combine vanilla, oil, and 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips. Melt (microwave 1 minute, then stir). Pour the dry ingredients, as well as the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, into the wet. Stir until evenly mixed, making sure to break up any big clumps. It will seem dry at first, but keep stirring until it all looks dark and shiny. Bake at 355 F for 7-8 minutes. (Take out when still undercooked, as these continue to cook as they cool.) Note: Sun-Maid dates are softer and less dry than traditional dates you find in health food stores. Your dough might be a little drier if you use other dates. It’s OK: just add a tiny bit more oil to compensate.