The holidays are a time for joy and laughter, family and friends. Yet, as we all know too well, gathering around the table usually means a few more pounds and inches gathering around your waistline. The delicious sights and smells are tempting to stuff your face with stuffing, fight for the last piece of fruitcake and bask in dishes drowning in butter. Go ahead, enjoy the holidays in all their glory, but do it wisely. The key is balance. It’s not a new concept, we hear it preached in many aspects of life. Don’t punish yourself for partaking, just learn to choose healthier indulgences.

This holiday season think about cooking with dark chocolate, choosing red wines and ditching the ice cream.

Dark chocolate is full of organic compounds that function as an antioxidant. Dark chocolate may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure – Be sure the chocolate is 70% cocoa or more.
Wine can actually provide health benefits. The flavonoids have heart-healthy benefits and red wine antioxidants can help protect the lining of the heart’s blood vessels.
The ice cream aisle has desserts such as frozen yogurt or a frozen fruit bars that may satisfy the craving similar to ice cream. Try combining nutrient-rich breakfast foods into a dessert form like swapping yogurt for ice cream in a banana split.

Low-calorie party hits

Turkey bacon deviled eggs
This take on a classic appetizer replaces the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt and mustard, and a dash of Cayenne will help kick-start your metabolism.

Makes: 12 servings – Serving size: 1 whole egg

• 12 hard-boiled eggs
• ½ cup Greek yogurt
• 4 strips of turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
• 1 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese
• 1 Tbsp. honey mustard
• ¼ tsp. of salt
• ¼ tsp. of cayenne

Per serving: 100 calories, 6g fat, 191mg cholesterol, 1g carbohydrates, 8g protein

1. Slice eggs in half, lengthwise; remove yolks and set aside whites.
2. In a bowl, mash yolks. Stir in Greek yogurt, turkey bacon, cheese, honey mustard and salt.
3. Spoon yolk mixture into each egg white half.
4. Sprinkle the tops with cayenne pepper.
5. Refrigerate until serving.
Note: Pepper and regular mustard can be substituted or added if preferred.

Zesty Greek samplers
This bite size appetizer is simple, quick and tangy.

Makes: 24 servings – Serving includes one toothpick

• 24 pitted olives, Kalamata or mixed Greek
• 8 ounces reduced-fat feta cheese, diced
• 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• 2 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
• Pinch of crushed red pepper
• Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Combine balsamic vinegar, garlic, red pepper and pepper in a bowl.
2. Slide one piece of feta and an olive on a toothpick. Repeat until all the olives are used.
3. Using a spoon, drizzle the vinegar mixture over the olives and cheese, making sure all are decently coated.
4. Sprinkle the rosemary over the top to garnish.

Per serving: 54 calories, 4g fat, 7mg cholesterol, 3.4g protein, 2g carbs
Note: A slice of pepperoni can also be added to the toothpick. (This will add 10 calories per toothpick)

Sparkling gelatin bites
Refreshing and light, this dessert packs flavor without the fat.

Makes: 10-15 servings, depending on shape size

• 1 cup cold water
• 2 cups cran-apple juice
• 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
• ¼ cup sugar
• 1 cup sparkling red-grape juice
• 2 ½ cups fresh raspberries

1. In a small pot, bring the cran-apple juice to a boil.
2. Mix the cold water and gelatin packages, let it absorb for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the juice to the water and gelatin mix, stir.
4. Stir in sugar until dissolved.
5. Whisk in the sparkling juice.
6. Once all is mixed, place the bowl in the refrigerator until it begins to set around the edges, 1-2 hours.
7. After the gelatin is semi-set, stir in the raspberries.
8. To finish, take a paper towel and dab it with a little olive oil then wipe the pan’s sides and bottom, this will allow for the completed gelatin to remove easily.
9. Finally, pour the mixed gelatin into a pan and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.
To give it a little holiday twist use fun cookie cutter shapes and make party bites!

We want to hear from you! Share with us your favorite holiday recipes by commenting below or sharing on social media with hash tag #HLMSholidayrecipes.