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40 Lightened-Up Holiday Desserts

While there's no end to delicious food to eat around the holidays, it doesn't all have to be heavy and calorie-laden! These lighter, festive desserts will satisfy your sweet tooth without weighing you down.

Cranberry Swirl Biscotti

A friend of mine, who is known for her excellent cookies, shared this recipe with me. The mix of cranberries and cherry preserves is so refreshing. —Lisa Kilcup, Gig Harbor, Washington

Citrus Cornmeal Cake

Citrus Cornmeal Cake

Cornmeal adds a rustic quality to this delicate dessert flavored with citrus and almond. It’s sure to be a staple in your Christmas desserts collection and also makes a great holiday party hostess gift. —Roxanne Chan, Albany, California

Eggnog Mousse

Eggnog Mousse

Guests will always find room for this light, fluffy, mouthwatering mousse. It makes an elegant, refreshing finish for heavier holiday meals—and it’s also a great way to use up any extra eggnog in the fridge. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen

Winter Fruit with Prosecco Sabayon

Winter Fruit with Prosecco Sabayon

This recipe is special to me because it allows me to treat my dinner guests to a special, unusual dessert. The bright, vivid colors are perfect for the holidays. Omit the Prosecco when serving to children. —Jerry Gulley, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

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Gingerbread Meringue Bars

The best of both worlds, I combined my grandmother’s gingerbread recipe with my aunt’s special brown sugar meringue to make these lovable dessert bars. —Eden Dranger, Los Angeles, California

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Chocolate Peppermint Log

What a great make-ahead dessert! This cake log is perfect for the holidays because you can make it when you have time, store it in the freezer and scratch dessert off of your to-do list. —Brenda Sinclair, Princeton, Missouri.

Hungry for more? Try these chocolate Christmas desserts.

Peppermint Kisses

Peppermint Kisses

These are fun, refreshing and low in fat! —Lynn Bernstetter, Lake Elmo, Minnesota.

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Apple-Spice Angel Food Cake

I dressed up an angel food cake mix with some nuts, spice and applesauce to make an easy and light dessert. I serve it with a dollop of whipped topping mixed with a half cup of sour cream. —Joan Buehnerkemper, Teutopolis, Illinois

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Poached Pears with Orange Cream

End the meal with a flourish with this easy and elegant dessert. A hint of orange lends just enough sweetness to temper the wine’s bold taste. —Julianne Schnuck, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Warm Chocolate Melting Cups

These little cakes have become a favorite of our guests. They are always surprised that such chocolaty desserts are so light­—less than 200 calories apiece! —Kissa Vaughn, Troy, Texas

Cranberry Pear Tart

Cranberry Pear Tart

Our test cooks came up with this lighter pear tart with dried cranberries. While it’s delicious as is, it would also be good served warm with ice cream. — Taste of Home Test Kitchen

Pumpkin Pecan Frozen Yogurt

Pumpkin Pecan Frozen Yogurt

I always keep fat-free frozen yogurt on hand. By combining it with just four other ingredients, I can quickly whip up this great-tasting treat.—Anne Smithson, Cary, North Carolina

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Must-Have Tiramisu

This is the perfect guilt-free version of a classic Christmas dessert. My friends even say that they prefer my lighter recipe over other tiramisu.—Ale Gambini, Beverly Hills, California

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Triple-Ginger Gingersnaps

Ginger cookies are holiday hits. To package these Christmas cookies, tuck them into clean, recycled coffee cans wrapped in decorative paper. With a glue gun, add ribbon or trim. —Jessica Follen, Waunakee, Wisconsin

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Sour Cream Bavarian

Are you ‘sweet on’ someone who’s counting calories? Show them you care with this light and refreshing dessert. It’s sinfully creamy and so pretty with the tart raspberry sauce. No one would ever guess that it’s fat-free! —Judi Janczewski, Berwyn, Illinois

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Candy Cane Sugar Cubes

These fanciful sugar cubes are sure to make a splash at your next holiday tea. They’re sweet additions to your table and are also fabulous holiday food gifts.—Kara Cashion, Ottawa, Ontario

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Cinnamon Nut Bars

Classic dessert bar meets good-for-you ingredients in this updated recipe. If you have the patience, after the bars are cool, store them in a tin for a day to allow the flavors to meld…I think they taste even better the next day. — Heidi Lindsey, Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin

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Chocolate Cannoli Cake

Hints of orange and coffee lend standout flavor to this elegant cannoli-inspired cake. A variation of this cake was a finalist in the Best Cake in Michigan contest. —Mary Bilyeu, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Coconut Christmas Mice

Coconut Christmas Mice

Off-the-charts cuteness makes it nearly impossible for guests to resist these fluffy, coconutty treats. Luckily, they’re really easy to make—no oven needed. Merry Christ-mouse to you! —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Makeover Cranberry Trifle

You’d never guess that this showstopper fruit trifle recipe has been lightened up because it boasts all of the original’s festive flavor, but only half the fat and way fewer calories! —Sonya Labbe, Santa Monica, California

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Orange Ricotta Cake Roll

I come from a big Italian family where my mom cooked and baked many delicious meals and desserts from scratch. Now I like to do the same for my family. This cake is my finale to our Italian Christmas Eve dinner. —Cathy Banks, Encinitas, California

Ginger Apple-Pear Crisp

Ginger Apple-Pear Crisp

Taste autumn aromas—apples, cinnamon and spices—in this delicious recipe. It’s even better with a scoop of vanilla or homemade pumpkin ice cream! Whipped cream is always an option. —Holly Battiste, Barrington, New Jersey

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Sweet Potato Cranberry Cake

This convenient recipe uses items you have in your pantry, like sweet potatoes, cranberries, coconut and chocolate chips. Everyone will enjoy this delicious dessert! —Amie Valpone, New York, New York

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Pumpkin Pie Custard

Instead of traditional pumpkin pie, try this flavorful light holiday dessert. My husband’s aunt shared the recipe after she brought this treat to a family party. —Nancy Zimmerman, Cape May Court House, New Jersey

Makeover Sweet Kugel

Makeover Sweet Kugel

This is a traditional recipe I make for the holidays. My close friend and I used to bake together until she moved 1,300 miles away. Now when I make this dish, I’m reminded of our time together. —Eileen Wolf, Abington, Pennsylvania

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Vanilla Meringue Cookies

Want to learn how to make meringues? This meringue cookie is light, airy morsels and the perfect fat-free treat to really beat a sweets craving. —Jenni Sharp, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Light & Creamy Chocolate Pudding

This pudding is exactly what its name promises—light and creamy. Because it uses soy milk, it’s a smart dairy-free milk alternative if you’re lactose intolerant. —Deborah Williams, Peoria, Arizona

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Mocha Cheesecake Bars

The creamy filling in these dessert bars will surely please! So many cheesecake recipes can be hard to make, but this recipe is easy and doesn’t require many ingredients. —Mary Wilhelm, Sparta, Wisconsin

Making cheesecake doesn’t have to be hard. Check out our ultimate guide for making cheesecake.

Makeover White Fruitcake

Makeover White Fruitcake

A beloved fruitcake recipe has been passed down through the generations, and I’ve made it lighter and brighter. I remember my mother making this every December—it just wouldn’t be Christmas in our home without it. —Judy Grebetz, Racine, Wisconsin

Gingersnap Cream Cookie Cups

Gingersnap Cream Cookie Cups

Whole wheat flour gives a rustic look to little tassies that are big on flavor. The velvety, rich filling is a delectable contrast to the cookie cup.—Rebekah Radewahn, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Pumpkin-Citrus Tube Cake

Pumpkin-Citrus Tube Cake

I was determined to make a healthier version of this pumpkin and spice-laden cake. Judging by the compliments, it worked. Even a picky 4-year-old eater asked for more. —Krista Frank, Rhododendron, Oregon

Chewy Cranberry Pecan Bars

Chewy Cranberry Pecan Bars

I’ve been making these for several years as I really enjoy the combination of flavors and the relative ease of preparations. They’re not only great for the holidays, but year round if you have cranberries in your freezer. —Virginia Anthony, Blowing Rock, North Carolina

These individual pudding pies would be irresistible to Santa himself! An excellent light dessert, and an adorable food gift in a jar. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen

Orange Spritz Cookies

Orange Spritz Cookies

Brown sugar gives these spritz cookies a lovely light caramel tint. This variation has a rich buttery shortbread taste and texture with a hint of orange flavor. They are a delightful addition to my holiday cookie tray. —Sean Fleming, St. Charles, Illinois

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Hot Cocoa Souffle

A friend invited me to go to a cooking demo at her church years ago, and one of the recipes prepared was this luscious souffle. It was so easy—and absolutely delicious. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas

Pear Bundt Cake

Pear Bundt Cake

Next time you make cake from a mix, try my easy and delicious recipe. The pears and syrup add sweet flavor and prevent the cake from drying out. And since there’s no oil added to the batter, this tender fall-perfect cake is surprisingly low in fat. —Veronica Ross, Columbia Heights, Minnesota

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Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Enjoy this holiday dessert without worrying about calories. Plus it is so luscious that no one will guess that it is light! —Jean Ecos, Hartland, Wisconsin

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Chocolate Angel Cake

When I was married in 1944, I could barely boil water. My dear mother-in-law taught me her specialty—making the lightest angel food cakes ever. This chocolate version is an easy, impressive treat. —Joyce Shiffler, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Baked Pumpkin Pudding

Even after your favorite turkey dinner, you’ll find room for this perfect pudding dessert—a treat served hot or cold. Mildly spiced, it will leave you sweetly satisfied, but not overly full, assures Gerri Saylor from Graniteville, South Carolina.

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Cran-Apple Praline Gingerbread

Start with a spice-rich batter poured atop apples and cranberries in a creamy caramel sauce, then invert when done baking for a topsy-turvy dessert that’s a real beauty. The old-time holiday taste will delight family and friends! —Jeanne Holt, Mendota Heights, Minnesota

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Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.