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Celebrate with healthier treats

POSTED: December 29, 2013 7:30 p.m.
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Gingerbread cookies don't have to be loaded with lots of fat and calories.

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Hi, my name is Emily and I am a Christmas-aholic! I love Christmas and the whole holiday season; it is far and away my favorite time of year.
My husband will tell you that I am obsessed with Santa, and that probably has some truth to it. Between the copious decorations, lights and food of the season, I just can’t get enough and even keep my decorations up well past New Year’s Day.
I sometimes get a little too into the holiday spirit, like when I have nothing but Christmas cookies for lunch more than once a week and several hot-cocoa nightcaps before bed. In a moment of clarity, I came to the realization that perhaps I needed to lay off the “Santa” diet of cocoa and cookies this holiday or else my belly also will start shaking like a bowl full of jelly. Hopefully, you all didn't overindulge on Christmas day like I did this year. I now am finding healthier ways to indulge through the new year.
My mother recently shared her recipe for homemade hot-cocoa mix. I am used to the prepackaged individual-serving packets that come either with or without marshmallows because they are so easy and cheaper than “gourmet” cocoa varieties.  
When I actually looked at the nutritional label on the package, I was surprised to find that making the hot chocolate packet with 2 percent milk yielded 180 calories and 50 calories from fat. Even though this homemade recipe would be mostly fat-free (if made without chocolate chips) and about half the calories, I was skeptical at first. Powdered milk and creamer don’t sound like they would make great creamy cocoa — but I was wrong.
This recipe makes quite a bit of cocoa mix, which makes it perfect for making  large batches or bunches of individual batches over the season. Be sure to stick to nonfat powdered milk and creamer or else the calories and fat really add up.
If you want to take your cocoa up a notch, you can customize it by adding drops of your favorite extract — such as vanilla, almond, raspberry, rum, etc. — after you add the mix to water and stir well. A few drops of Baileys Irish Creme can be pretty tasty as well.
You have to pair hot cocoa with a great holiday cookie. I found a fat-free cookie recipe that is great all throughout the holidays. This gingerbread cookie recipe was taken from Sonja and William Conner's “The New American Diet” (p. 365).

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