Twas’ the holiday season. And just when you’re nestled all snug in your bed, you’ve got visions of sugarplums (and eggnog…and cookies…and peppermint cheesecake) dancing through your head. With less than a month to go until New Year’s, you’ve likely indulged in a few of these sweet treats. And more will taunt you on every menu you meet.
Because when it comes limited time only creations, let’s face it, we all have the same mindset. Must. Eat. Now.
A widely cited study from the reputable New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the average person gains about a pound over the course of the holiday season. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but here’s the problem: The 165 study participants didn’t lose that weight after the study was over. Plus, all of the study participants believed they had probably gained at least four times as much weight than they did. (In other words, they felt gross.)
To avoid stubborn extra pounds that will stick with you all year long, swap out these holiday mega splurges for the lighter versions we’ve uncovered.
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7 Guilt-Inducing Holiday Desserts (and Healthier Swaps!)
1. The CheeseCake Factory’s Peppermint Bark Cheesecake
Nutrition Facts: One serving contains 1,390 calories, 102 g fat. Grams of saturated fat, sugar and protein not available.
Split this mega-sized slice with three (or four?) friends and maybe you can justify it, but keep this cheesecake to yourself and you’re adding nearly an entire day’s worth of empty calories to your diet. With nearly 10 times more fat than other cheesecakes, this dessert is practically the definition of indulgence.
Make It Healthier: Get all the same chocolate-and-mint deliciousness with these Skinny Chocolate Peppermint Cake Pops. By using Greek yogurt instead of traditional fat-laden fillers, you’ll get all the texture of cake, without the guilt. Grab one when you need a sweet treat on-the-go.
RELATED: 12 Holiday Cookie Recipes Under 100 Calories
2. Arby’s Crème Brûlée Shake
Nutrition Facts: One approximately 18-ounce shake contains 750 calories, 21 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 102 g sugar and 16 g protein.
Crème brûlée on it’s own is little more than heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and egg yolks. But add in the custard, caramel swirl and whipped cream to make it a shake, and this French dessert reaches a whole new level of sinful.
Make It Healthier: Get all of the vanilla taste you’re looking for, plus the milky satisfaction of a shake for only 120 calories and 2.5 grams of fat in this Sugar Cookie Milkshake. The key to lightening this concoction: Swap out ice cream for a frozen banana.
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3. IHOP’s Holiday Caramel BonBon Pancakes
Nutrition Facts: Four pancakes contain 1,300 calories, 58 g fat (31 g saturated fat), 83 g sugar and 23 g protein.
Can we say holy fat attack? A person on a 1,600 calorie-a-day diet should only be consuming 53 total grams of fat in an entire day, according to Health.gov. These four flapjacks also contain almost an entire day’s worth of calories (and that’s assuming you don’t get a side of bacon).
Make It Healthier: If pancakes for breakfast are your thing, whip up this Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes Recipe at home for a tasty treat that will power you up for CrossFit (rather than put you in a food coma). Applesauce acts as a natural sweetener, and the abundance of pumpkin spices in this mix gives this you all the great taste of your favorite seasonal pie.
RELATED: 10 Delicious Protein Pancake Recipes
4. Steak ‘n Shake EggNog Milkshake
Nutrition Facts: In a regular size shake, there are 630 calories, 21 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 97 g sugar and 16 g protein.
Nothing says, “It’s the holidays!” like a glass of eggnog (spiked or not). But Steak n’ Shake’s creation puts this Christmas beverage on the naughty list. Made with eggnog “syrup” and topped with whipped cream, you’ll be sucking 70 percent of your daily saturated fat a straw.
Make It Healthier: You don’t have to forgo ‘nog altogether if you’re trying to stay healthy over the holiday season. This Low-Fat Eggnog Recipe uses skim milk, fat-free sweetened condensed milk and real natural flavorings like vanilla bean and nutmeg to get its rich taste.
RELATED: 10 Healthy Holiday Cocktail Recipes
5. Friendly’s Peppermint Stick Brownie Sundae
Nutrition Facts: One sundae contains 1,160 calories, 52 g fat (28 g saturated fat), 108 g sugar and 14 g protein.
If you wouldn’t drink an entire liter of regular Coca Cola, you probably shouldn’t order this sundae either — they both contain the same amount of sugar. Plus, this not-so-friendly creation contains almost as many grams of fat as two Big Macs — and even more than the infamous KFC Double Down.
Make It Healthier: Luckily, you can DIY this treat without consuming a terrifying amount of calories, sugar and fat. One serving of these Peppermint Drizzled Chocolate Fudge Brownies is only 89 calories. Whole-wheat or gluten-free flour, maple syrup and nonfat Greek yogurt give these squares their rich taste while keeping them waistline-friendly. And they’re so low-cal you can scoop on a serving of your favorite ice cream to turn this into a verified sundae.
6. Dairy Queen’s Berry Merry Holidays Triple Berry Julius
Nutrition Facts: A large approximately 29-ounce beverage contains 710 calories, 9 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 142 g sugar and 3 g protein.
The maximum amount of sugar you should eat in an entire day is only 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women, according to the American Heart Association. That means for women, this drink practically fulfills your sugar allotment for nearly six full days. Considering that consuming too much sugar can elevate your risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, obesity and diabetes it might be a good idea to steer clear.
Make It Healthier: This berry-flavored Mango Blueberry Protein Smoothie Recipe gives you the same sweet taste, for only 344 calories — plus 29 grams of protein. You’ll only have to put in five minutes of prep time, and you’ll stay full for far longer than that.
RELATED: 8 Drool-Worthy Cookbooks for Healthy Holiday Recipes
7. Starbucks Gingerbread Loaf
Nutrition Facts: One slice contains 430 calories, 13 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 53 g sugar and 5 g protein.
This slab of cake topped with vanilla icing isn’t the worst thing you could get at this coffee chain, but you can do better when it comes to gingerbread. After all, 13 grams of fat makes up one-fifth of the fat you’re allotted in a day. And with 53 grams of sugar, we can practically feel the cavities forming.
Make It Healthier: Enjoy a Low-Fat Gingerbread Cookie with icing for only 66 calories and 8.5 grams of sugar with this recipe in which most of the butter is swapped out for applesauce.
Originally published December 8, 2014. Updated December 27, 2015.