How to Make 2 Favorite Fall Treats Healthier

Hot chocolate
Traditional hot chocolate may not be good for our waistlines, but there are ways of making it in a more healthy manner. (iStock photo)

Fall is absolutely my favorite season. What's not to love about crisp colorful leaves, cozy sweaters, excessively furry boots, and friendly orange pumpkins ready to be custom-carved to be as cute or creepy as you wish?

And when it comes to the seasonal foods, what's not to love about cinnamon spice and everything else that's nice, like hot chocolate and apple pie? Put quite simply: Fall, ironically enough, lifts our spirits!

There's a popular meme featuring The Lord of the Rings character Boromir that reads, "Brace yourselves. Pumpkin-flavored everything is coming." This is wise counsel, because as you may have noticed, much of the pumpkin- and cinnamon-flavored food and drinks we enjoy this time of year can become menacing, Orc-like enemies of our waistlines if we're not careful.

In this article, I'm going to highlight one beloved fall beverage and one dessert, each of which possess a high "Orc Potential," if you will; I'll discuss how we can make them friendlier and more peace-loving. More like Hobbits, in other words. (Just watch out for those second breakfast helpings!)

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Hot Chocolate

First up on our soon-to-be upgraded autumn menu is the poster child for cold-weather beverages. Hot chocolate is to brisk afternoons what ice cream is to sweltering ones; it's delicious, invigorating, comforting, and for us older folks, it can be downright sentimental. But hot chocolate, like its refreshing summertime counterpart, is full of not-so-appealing ingredients, such as loads of sugar and hydrogenated oils.

Just a 16-ounce serving at Starbucks contains 370 calories, 43 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of fat! And many fat-free, low-calorie, "diet-friendly" varieties sold in coffee shops and grocery stores are far from healthy due to artificial sweeteners and thickeners like the carcinogen carrageenan.

To healthify your hot chocolate: Try making your own at home using organic milk or a carrageenan and artificial sweetener-free nut milk. Use unsweetened cacao powder instead of store-bought packets.

Naturally sweeten your hot chocolate using minimally processed natural cane sugar or another sweetener such as stevia, honey, agave nectar, or maple sugar. Top off your marvelous mug with cinnamon or another spice of your choice, such as cardamom—an energy booster—or ginger, which is great for digestion.

Fit Fact: According to a study conducted at Cornell University, the antioxidant concentration in hot cocoa is almost twice as strong as red wine. Cocoa's concentration was two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea.

Here's a wonderful recipe I found for organic hot chocolate that uses whole and coconut milk, dark chocolate, and vanilla extract. Oh, and there's a recipe for optional whipped cream as well!

Apple Pie

Apple pie is arguably the ultimate comfort food. Its tantalizing aroma alone can turn a heated family feud into a tranquil Thanksgiving meal worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting. But apple pie can also be an ugly, brutish Orc ...

Starting from its outside in, an apple pie's crust is often butter-laden or full of shortening. The traditional all-purpose flour used is heavily refined and thus nutritionally void. Then, aside from the antioxidant-rich apples and spices, the filling is comprised of more flour and butter and heaps of sugar. According to, a single serving contains 411 calories, 19 grams of fat and 58 grams of carbohydrates.

As promised by Uglúk the Orc, apple pie can be a part of a fit fall menu with these easy tweaks:

Use a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Or, for a gluten-free version, try a chia and almond flour blend instead.

Use a one-to-one ratio of coconut oil instead of butter.

Use raw honey or stevia in the filling instead of sugar.

Fit Fact: Coconut oil does not have a coconut flavor and can be substituted for butter, vegetable shortening, or any solid fat without dramatically changing the flavor of the recipe. Coconut oil offers a host of benefits, including lowering cholesterol, restoring normal thyroid function, aiding in weight loss, keeping weight balanced, boosting the immune system, and improving the texture of skin and hair.

Here's a Paleo apple pie recipe that is totally grain-free!

For a healthified recipe that includes flour and features stevia as its sweetener of choice, check out this one from the Sugar-Free Mom:

Fit Fact: Apple pie is not American at's English! Before the Revolutionary War, apple pies were made with unsweetened apples and surrounded by an inedible pie crust or shell. Its first mention in literature appeared in the year 1589 in "Menaphon" by dramatist Robert Greene: "Thy breath is like the steam of apple pies."

I hope these tips will come in handy for you this season! Here's to a healthy, happy fall, y'all!

Stay fit, stay faithful!

Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of Creation House's Fit for Faith: A Christian Woman's Guide to Total Fitness and her latest book, Perfect Fit: Weekly Wisdom and Workouts for Women of Faith and Fitness. Her popular website can be found at dianaandersontyler.comand she is the owner and a coach at CrossFit 925. Diana can be reached on Twitter.

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