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'Tis the (healthier) season: Lighten up your holiday desserts

The holiday season might be the most wonderful time of the year, but for some, it's a season that wreaks havoc on the waistline. If you're planning to deck the halls this year, you can celebrate the winter holidays without sacrificing your jeans size.

Eat Fruit: Not only is most fruit low in calories and satisfying to your sweet tooth, it can help reduce the potentially harmful effects of overeating during a meal. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition on EatingWell.com, eating fruit after a meal - such as berries, grapes, kiwi and cherries, helps minimize the free-radical damage that occurs after a heavy meal.

If you bite it, write it: Food journaling can be an effective tool for dieters, but it's also a great way to keep your calorie intake in check during a season of cocktail parties, cookie swaps and family feasts. SparkPeople.com is a weight management resource lets you track your food and fitness goals and stay in your skinny jeans through January. 

Make some healthy substitutes: There's no law that says that Christmas cookies need to be chock full of butter and sugar. Use the ingredient substitutions chart on Allrecipes.com to swap eggs for egg whites and butter for cholesterol-free canola oil.

Sugar, spice and everything nice: Use pantry spices to liven up your holiday desserts. Instead of topping sweet treats with a heavy ganache or a dollop of calorie-laden whipped cream, use cinnamon sugar and apple pie spice to add some extra flavor to your classic favorites without adding extra inches to your waistline.

Drink Up: During the holidays, wine and spirits flow freely, but you don't have to abstain just because you're watching your weight. Having one glass of red wine with or after your meal can have positive health benefits. According to a study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in January 2009, antioxidants in red wine, called polyphenols, may reduce the negative impact of high-fat foods. Sip a glass of red wine after dinner - in moderation, of course.

Be creative: If chocolate cake is a standby at your annual holiday soiree, you can look for a new recipe that will satisfy your crowd and provide some bonus nutrition. Try some of these lightened-up holiday dessert recipes that the crowd will love:

Low-Sugar Raspberry Cheesecake with Pecan Crust: From Kalyn's Kitchen, this bright and festive cake will satisfy your sweet tooth and the addition of raspberries offers Vitamin C and healthy fiber.

Gluten-Free Gingerbread: Whether you have Celiac Disease or abstain from eating gluten for other health reasons, you can still indulge in festive holiday cookies or cakes. Nothing says December like this gingerbread from Gluten-Free Girl.

Cranberry Apple Crisp: If you missed out on apple pie on Thanksgiving, you can reinvent it in a lighter-version of this Fall classic from Kitchen Parade over the holidays.

Healthier Ultimate Brownies: If you're a choco-holic, you don't have to give up your vice for your diet. Try these ultimate chocolate brownies from Craftzine. They're so chocolatey that you'll never notice the secret ingredients: wheat germ and greek yogurt.

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