Diet & Nutrition
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5 Sneaky Autumn Swaps That Slash Calories

Don’t miss out on your favorite fall treats—just make them skinnier.

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By Taylor Lupo

As the leaves change and the autumn breeze begins to blow, you may have noticed the produce and grocery aisles plentiful with some of fall’s favorite flavors. From apples to pumpkins to pecans and more, the season’s treats are rich in color, spicy flavors and, unfortunately, calories.   

A sugared doughnut and steamy glass of apple cider are a must during a trip to the pumpkin patch, and a slice of warm apple pie—with ice cream, of course—the perfect way to end your Thanksgiving feast.

But you don’t have to forfeit your favorites to avoid going up a pant or dress size. Kris Kinney, RD, a registered dietitian with Swedish Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, reveals some better-for-you versions of your seasonal favorites.  

Sip Guilt-Free Hot Chocolate

2 / 6 Sip Guilt-Free Hot Chocolate

As you settle in for the night, a mug of hot cocoa is the perfect companion.

It’s hard to believe something so comforting is so unkind to your waistline. Two tablespoons of the leading powdered mix whisked with 8 ounces of whole milk and topped with two tablespoons of whipped cream will run you 240 calories—and an unhealthy dose of saturated fat.

Kinney recommends replacing whole milk with nonfat or almond milk, making half of a serving and skipping the whip. One tablespoon of mix with 4 ounces of unsweetened almond milk creates a nightcap with just 55 calories.

Better yet: In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine one cup of unsweetened almond milk, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. When the milk is warm, pour into your favorite mug and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon. This healthier version—free of added sugars and low in saturated fat—contains about 65 calories.

Skip The Crust on Your Pumpkin Pie

3 / 6 Skip The Crust on Your Pumpkin Pie

What’s autumn without a piece—or two—of pumpkin pie? Unfortunately, a single slice, one-eighth of the pie, contains about 325 calories. And believe it or not, “pumpkin pie isn't as high in calories as apple pie or other fruit pies,” Kinney says.  

It’s possible to get your pumpkin fix without sabotaging your healthy eating efforts: just ditch the crust, the most calorie-dense portion of the pie. Eliminating the crust alone saves 100 calories and 6 grams of fat per slice.

But why stop there? Many recipes call for two or three eggs. Kinney recommends replacing each egg with two egg whites; that shaves off another 40 calories. 

Opt for Apple Crumble

4 / 6 Opt for Apple Crumble

Apple pie is the all-American dessert, and the centerpiece on many Thanksgiving Day tables. Unfortunately, this classic contains about 410 calories per slice. Baked with a second layer of buttery crust covering the fruit, 200 of these calories come from the crust alone.

Whip up this recipe without the crazy fat, calories and sugar. Slice five of your favorite baking apples, like fuji, before adding them to a mixing bowl. Add a bit of cornstarch, a pinch of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Coat your fruit in these healthful ingredients before placing them in a baking casserole.

In a small bowl, combine one cup of rolled oats, a dash of ground cinnamon, one teaspoon of vanilla extract and a drizzle of maple syrup. Crumble the mixture atop the apples. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes, until the apples are soft and the crumb topping is golden brown. Dish up a half-cup serving for a treat with just 125 calories. The recipe makes about eight servings.              

Go Nuts for Healthy Pecan Bars

5 / 6 Go Nuts for Healthy Pecan Bars

Nuts are dense with calories, so portion control is important. They’re also loaded with heart healthy fats and good-for-you nutrients. A single serving of pecans, about 19 halves, contains 195 calories, and boasts a healthy dose of manganese—essential for the health of your bones, liver and organs.   

Pecans are good for you, but once folded into a classic pecan pie, they can quickly become a calorie bomb at more than 500 calories per slice. Instead, whip up healthier pecan bars. The best part? You don’t have to bake them!

In a food processor, blend 2 cups of pitted dates with 2 cups of raw pecans until they form a thick, sticky dough. Press the mixture into an 8 x 8 inch parchment-lined pan and let set in the fridge for two hours. Slice into eight pieces and enjoy right away or store in an airtight container. Each of these two-ingredient treats contains just 305 calories.    

Savor a "Skinny" Pumpkin Spice Latte

6 / 6 Savor a "Skinny" Pumpkin Spice Latte

As the seasons change, many wait for the return of pumpkin spice lattes. Unfortunately, a 16-ounce PSL from a leading coffee vendor, made with whole milk and topped with whipped cream, contains 420 calories.

If you’re out and about when cravings strike, Kinney offers a few tricks to sip fewer calories:

  • Order an 8-ounce latte to save 200 calories
  • Ask for nonfat milk and cut 50 calories per 8-ounce serving
  • If available, choose sugar-free syrup

You could also save some cash and whip up low-calorie lattes at home. Brew a shot (or two) of espresso and mix in a sauce pan with one cup of nonfat milk. Add a heaping tablespoon of pumpkin puree, a splash of vanilla extract and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Whisk over medium heat until combined and ladle into your favorite mug. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and another sprinkle of pie spice for a guiltless autumn treat with just 105 calories.