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Senior Nutrition: The Healthy Way to Have Your Holiday Desserts
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on December 8th, 2020

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Senior Nutrition: The Healthy Way to Have Your Holiday Desserts

Independent Senior Living  |  senior living homes  |  Aging & Caregiving  |  dependent senior living

With holiday spirits and festivities in full force, there’s a great deal of focus on the sweets and treats that make the season bright. It can be tempting to overindulge in the many tasty desserts that typically grace our tables this time of year. Although it’s often a challenge to keep one’s health and nutrition in mind while enjoying the tasty pleasures of the holidays, it’s especially important for seniors to prioritize healthy habits and manage appropriate levels of sugar, salt and fat

Luckily, we’ve got some tried-and-true tips (not to mention a few mouth-watering recipes) to help you or the senior in your life partake in the joy of holiday desserts without abandoning your commitment to nutrition. Use these insights to sweeten your approach, minus the excess sugar!   

Good Advice to Avoid Going Overboard 

Here are a few quick ideas to get you thinking about your holiday desserts in a slightly different way. 

  • Make smart swaps and substitutions: Every now and then, consider swapping out some sweet options that are high in added sugar with selections that contain sugar naturally (think: fruit). Or take advantage of healthier substitutions in your favorite recipes, such as unsweetened applesauce in place of refined sugar, or Greek yogurt in place of butter or shortening.  

  • Look at labels carefully: Be sure to read the labels on packaged foods and ingredients to ensure you’re not overdoing it on items that are high in sugar, salt or fat. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate daily intakes to help support your health.  

  • Pick your personal favorites: It doesn’t make sense to waste calories or counts on holiday dessert options you don’t absolutely love. Opt for the ones that you really crave and ditch those that don’t completely do it for you.

  • Get involved in non-food-related holiday activities: Take the focus off food as much as possible. It’s easier to stick with a nutrition plan when you’re not surrounded by food-related temptations. So pack your day with fun alternatives like holiday crafting, decorating, movie watching, outdoor light-seeing, gift shopping and wrapping.   


ABC Ebook


Festive Dessert Recipes for the Healthy Senior 

As you plan your dessert making and partaking, check out these delicious recipes for nutrition-conscious eating over the holidays.



  • 3 large Red or Golden Delicious apples (about 2 pounds), unpeeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries


  • ½ cup walnuts, very finely chopped
  • ½ cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
  • Place the apples, brown sugar, flour, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl and toss to coat. Gently stir in the blueberries.
  • Place the apple mixture in an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish and set aside.
  • To make the topping, place the walnuts, oats, brown sugar, flour, flaxseed, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the oil and stir until the oat mixture is well coated. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit mixture.
  • Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden brown (cover with foil about halfway through if the topping browns too quickly). 
  • Tip: Top each serving with low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt or a dollop of light whipped cream.



  • ⅔ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 eaches large eggs
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar or 1/3 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
  • ¾ cup canned unseasoned pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup raisins


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 3 baking sheets with cooking spray.
  • Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, brown sugar (or Splenda), pumpkin, oil and molasses in a second bowl until well combined. Stir the wet ingredients and raisins into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  • Drop the batter by level tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 1½ inches apart. 
  • Bake the cookies until firm to the touch and lightly golden on top, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.



2 cups fresh blackberries (can use frozen if thawed and drained)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup water

12 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)

¼ cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream for low carb)

1 teaspoon vanilla

⅓ cup sugar substitute to taste, divided


For the filling:

  • In a food processor, drop in the room-temperature cream cheese and Greek yogurt. Pulse several times until smooth.
  • Add ¼ cup sugar substitute and the vanilla. Pulse until smooth.
  • Scrape down the bowl sides and pulse until smooth and creamy.
  • Spoon the filling into 6 oz. cups or ramekins leaving ½ inch of space or more at top. 
  • Set in fridge.

For the topping:

    • Mix together the cornstarch and water. Set aside.
    • Pour the rinsed and drained blackberries in a pot on the stove over medium high heat.
    • Pour the cornstarch/water mixture over the berries and stir together.
    • When the berry mixture boils gently, stir for two minutes until the berry sauce turns clear and thickens. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
    • Add 1 tablespoon sugar substitute (to taste) to berry sauce and mix together.
    • Pour the hot berries over the cooled cream cheese filling and chill. 
    • Soft set at an hour. The topping will continue to firm up and become jellied with further chilling.

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.