Enjoy the Holidays Without Gaining Weight: Plus a Healthier Carrot Cake Recipe

November 17, 2017

Healthier Carrot Cake recipe by Providence Healthy Living

By Registered Dietitian Kay MacInnis

Click here for a printable version

Have you ever thought about all the extra calories we take in during the holidays?  Studies show most Americans will gain a few pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year.  For many of us, this will amount to less than three pounds, the problem is that it gets to be an issue year after year if we don’t control the numbers. 

With just a few changes here and there, you can enjoy healthy traditional holiday meals.

So vanish the thought of giving up all your favorite holiday recipes.  Focus on how you can enjoy your holiday favorite recipes with a few minor changes to limit the fat, salt and sugar.

Keep in mind that it is as much the amount you eat during the holidays as what you eat that adds the extra calories.  Be mindful about the portion sizes and make a few minor changes to your favorite traditional recipes.

Before you know it, you will be sailing through the holiday season with no additional pounds at the waist line.  Strive for moderation, not perfection! Here are a few minor tweaks that can add up to major nutritional savings. 

Choose This Over That for Thanksgiving

Instead of this... Choose this...
Roast Turkey (white and dark) - 6 ounces: 289 calories Roast Turkey (white only) - 6 ounces: 266 calories
Candied Sweet Potatoes - ¾ cup: 236 calories Spiced Apple Sweet Potatoes - ¾ cup: 105 calories
Cranberry sauce - ½ cup: 210 calories Fruity Cranberry Sauce - ½ cup: 94 calories
Dinner roll with butter - 1 roll: 192 calories Whole Wheat Roll - 1 roll: 90 calories

A good place to start is this healthier version of a favorite traditional dessert.

Healthier Carrot Cake Recipe


  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 1 ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt, optional
  • ½ c golden raisins
  • ½ c olive or canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 11oz can mandarin oranges, undrained
  • 5 egg whites 


Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine in large bowl carrots, raisin, oil, vanilla, mandarin oranges and egg whites, mix together.  In another large mixing bowl, sift together flours, baking soda, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add to carrot mixture to dry ingredients and beat until well blended. Pour into two 9-inchlightly oiled cake pans.  Bake 40  minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool.

To make the icing blend Neufchatel or light cream cheese, vanilla confections’ sugar.  Frost only the middle and top layers.

Nutrition Information: 312 calories, 8.9 grams, fat, 5.6 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium


This is another in a weekly series of healthy recipes from Kay MacInnis, registered dietitian at Providence Health in Columbia, S.C.

Kay promotes health and wellness, helping cardiac and diabetes patients eat their way to healthier lives. She works in consultation with the trained chefs at Providence, combining her nutrition knowledge with their food prep know-how to create delicious, healthy dishes for patients and the public. She also conducts a number of health and wellness events for the public, including the monthly Providence Cooks! classes.

"She doesn't just give you the fish, she teaches you how to cook it."

 – a Kay MacInnis fan and Providence Cooks! regular.