COVID-19 Update: Vaccine notifications will go through MyScripps and email — please do not call your doctor. Learn more.

Classic Holiday Recipes, Lightened Up

Scripps offers healthified versions of two tasty holiday treats

A mother and her two daughters baking a healthy version of gingerbread cookies for the holidays.

Scripps offers healthified versions of two tasty holiday treats

Nothing says holidays like a batch of freshly baked gingerbread cookies. Though it’s unrealistic to eschew every sweet treat or high-calorie cocktail, healthier ingredients can help keep even the most festive foodies on track into the New Year.


It’s possible to enjoy holiday food traditions and still look for ways to be health conscious. Easy swaps like substituting some or all of the all-purpose flour in a dish with whole wheat flour can help, and adding spice can compensate for using less salt, says Alexander Meilan, DO, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines.


“It’s important to adhere to holiday traditions,” he adds. “There’s always a risk for going overboard, but people should keep in mind that diet averages out and small fluctuations here and there shouldn’t be something to discourage them or set them back.”


Self-quarantine has given us time to do a little introspection and self-evaluation in regard to health. It’s definitely a good time to start doing what you need to do to help achieve your goals, Dr. Meilan says.


Need some inspiration? Try these two healthy twists on classic holiday recipes.

Healthy Gingerbread Cookies

2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup sifted whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses


  1. In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose and whole wheat flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to blend the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg and molasses. Then, gradually add the flour mixture.
  3. Divide the dough into thirds and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for two hours or until firm.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Dust a rolling pin lightly with flour and roll out each piece of dough on wax paper until it’s about 1/8-inch thick. Dip a cookie cutter in flour and use it to shape cookies.
  5. Transfer cookies onto a baking sheet. Bake for 8–10 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.


Serving size: 1 cookie Calories: 87 Fat: 2g Saturated fat: 2g Cholesterol: 18mg Sodium: 104mg  Carbohydrates: 16g Fiber: 1g Protein: 2g

Pomegranate Cocktail

Pomegranate juice gives this twist on a mimosa an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost. Plus, choosing prosecco over champagne is friendlier on the wallet, too.


16 ounces unsweetened pomegranate juice (look for 100% pomegranate)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 navel orange

1 bottle (760 milliliters) prosecco or cava (for a mocktail, substitute sparkling water)


  1. In a saucepan, heat pomegranate juice over medium-high heat until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup, approximately 10–12 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon sugar until dissolved. Transfer mixture to a glass measuring cup and refrigerate until chilled, about six hours.
  2. Over a small plate, zest the orange and squeeze the juice over the zest. On another plate, add the remaining sugar.
  3. Dip the rim of a champagne flute in the orange mixture, then in sugar. Repeat with remaining glasses.
  4. Add half an ounce of the pomegranate syrup to each champagne flute, then fill to two-thirds full with prosecco, cava, or sparkling water.


Serving size: 1/2 cup Calories: 120 Fat: 0g Saturated fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 0mg Carbohydrates: 16g Fiber: 0g Protein: 0g

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.