Stay healthy this holiday season


Natalie Landes

These vegan gingerbread men are made with blackstrap molasses, applesauce and coconut oil. See the recipe below.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, the month of December is full of family, friends and lots of great food. Due to the bounty of sweet and savory treats placed seemingly everywhere, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle around this time. 

As CNN Health explained, “The average person gains one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and those who are overweight often gain more, including children.”

Of course, gaining a few pounds is not a big deal, but this weight can add up over the years and cause a myriad of health problems. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, cancers and diabetes are all risks. On the bright side, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays while also feeling great and staying fit.

Fill your plate with color

And no, Christmas cookies and candies don’t count. Go for salads, roasted vegetables and fruit before you reach for the salty and sugary dishes. These unhealthy foods are fine in moderation, but filling up on nutrient dense food first will keep your body satisfied without overeating. Plus, many vegetables such as sweet potatoes, corn, carrots and peas have a low glycemic index, which according to Harvard Health, curbs the drowsiness experienced after consuming the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in many animal products. So, next time you’re filling up a holiday plate, go for the greens and feel more energized.

Get Moving

With your newfound energy, get outside and get a little exercise. Whether it’s taking a walk down to the beach, going on a hike or playing a game of football in the backyard, staying active will improve your holiday in more ways than one. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier, more relaxed and less anxious.”

This mood boost will help you keep the festivities going and allow you to spend more quality time with friends and family. In addition, going for a short walk after a holiday meal can help with digestion. With Carlsbad’s fantastic weather, there’s no excuse not to get some fresh air. 

Make a Recipe Swap

Although many traditional recipes are on the unhealthy side, there are many ways to swap a few ingredients to create a healthier version. As a varsity athlete, junior Aiden Sayin sees the benefits of eating cleaner over the holidays.

“I’d be willing to adopt healthier alternatives because whatever makes you feel better is smarter to eat,” Sayin said. 

These vegan gingerbread men contain coconut oil and applesauce in place of butter and eggs. Also, blackstrap molasses is rich in calcium, iron, vitamin B6 and selenium. Even with these swaps, these cookies are a perfect holiday treat to bring to parties or to enjoy alongside a cup of hot cocoa. 

Vegan Gingerbread Men

Prep time: 1 hour 2o minutes

Cook time: 8-10minutes

Yield: 16 small cookies


  • 1 cup of flour plus 6 tbsp for dusting
  • ¾ tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup (60mL) blackstrap molasses
  • ¼ cup organic cane sugar

For icing

  • 10 tsp confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp almond milk


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. 

In a separate, large bowl, combine coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla, molasses, and sugar.

Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Wrap dough in parchment paper and chill for at least an hour.

Roll dough out on a floured surface until ⅛” thick and cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters.

Transfer onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 8-10 minutes.

To make icing, combine confectioners sugar and almond milk and transfer into a ziplock bag with a snipped corner.

The month of December doesn’t have to be a time to feel anxious about weight gain. With these tips in mind, jump into the holiday season feeling energized, relaxed and refreshed.