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Published on November 14, 2018

candy cane sugar cookies

Do’s and Don’ts for Holiday Desserts

The exact nutritional content of a dessert, made by two or more home cooks, or bought in a store, can vary widely. But we can make comparisons and learn from them.

Keep these facts in mind during your next walk to a holiday dessert table. In these comparisons, we’re referring to “better” as in better for you.

Homemade Caramels or Homemade Chocolate Fudge

Which is better? It’s a tie.

The details: Coming in with around 50 calories, 2 grams of fat and about 8 grams of carbohydrate per square-inch, both of these tasty treats have similar combinations of sugar, butter and dairy. The main difference is the temperature to which the ingredients are cooked; that affects the way they’re digested in the body. However, that fudge typically contains cocoa in some form, giving it a tiny bit of good among the not-so-good. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie or Fresh Strawberry Pie

Which is better? Fresh strawberry pie.

The details: The true difference is in the crust. Most fruit pies are about six cups of fruit, one cup of sugar, a thickener like cornstarch and spices and extracts as recipes require.

But a slice of graham-cracker crust, like you often find in a fresh fruit pie, has half the fat found in a slice of traditional pastry crust. Let’s not forget that baked fruit pies often have two crusts, so now we’re going to be looking at four times the fat.

If someone in the family still makes homemade pie crust with lard, the fat content is even higher. So yes, the crust made with crackers is a better pick.

Custard Pie or Coconut Cream Pie

Which is better? Surprisingly it’s the custard pie.

The details: When you look at the light, fluffy cream of one pie, compared to the dense sugary custard of the other, the answer seems obvious. But it’s not.

A single slice of a coconut cream pie, made with pudding mix, milk, whipped topping and sweetened coconut flakes packs a 358-calorie punch, along with 20 grams of fat and 43 grams of carbohydrate.

Meanwhile, the thick custard pie, made with eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk and nutmeg comes with just 250 calories, 10 grams of fat and 33 grams of carbohydrate per slice.

The clincher is the sweetened coconut, which is surprisingly high in fat and sugar; there’s nearly 5 grams of fat and 7 grams of carbohydrate in every two tablespoons, so be cautious with any coconut-containing treats.

Chocolate Cream Pie or Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Which is better? Chocolate cream.

The details: In this case, even the most-decadent slice of chocolate cream pie made with heavy whipping cream and melted chocolate offers just 305 calories, 19 grams of fat and 30 grams of carbohydrate. I use the word “just” there because in comparison, chocolate peanut butter pie has a staggering 520 calories, 38 fat grams and 36 grams of carbohydrate in each slice.

Although the combination of chocolate, peanut butter and cream cheese is delicious, it’ll quickly take a toll on our waistline.

Shortbread or Iced Sugar Cookies

Which is better? Another surprise: iced sugar cookies!

The details: Yes, iced sugar cookies come out ahead in terms of fat/calories, but you need to use the smaller cookie cutters.

A small iced sugar cookie has about 150 calories, 5 grams of fat and 20 grams of carbohydrate, while shortbread cookies bring more than 225 calories to each crispy treat, along with 13 grams of fat and a giant 25 carb-load of 25 grams.

All that butter might taste good, but it is not helping with the calorie content of the cookies.

In closing, remember that celebrating the season is a time of enjoyment, but do so with a touch of moderation to avoid regrets in the New Year.

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