The Importance of Good Preparation & Tips for Finding Healthier Dessert Options 

The holidays are a very exciting time, celebrating with friends, families, and of course, food. The holidays can also prove to be a stressful time, so we’re sharing some tips that can help everyone stay on track by bringing some of our “Food is Medicine” philosophy home for the holidays.

Seeing family and friends is not always as frequent as we would like, and our children and their needs change quickly. If you are not hosting, call or email the host to inform them of any updates since the last time they saw your child. If it makes you feel more comfortable, offer to host the meal so you can have more control of both the environment and food choices. Here are some other helpful preparation tips:

  • Preparing a social story for your loved one is helpful, regardless of their functioning level. (A social story is a description of an event or activity that includes information and what to expect in a given situation and why.) Social stories take away the anticipation and stress of what comes next, reducing any unnecessary anxiety. Print the social story so it can be referred back to as much as necessary.
  • Plan on arriving ahead so that the noise level builds up slowly. In addition, bring a bag filled with your loved one’s favorite toys, an iPad, or other sensory objects. Identify a quiet place at your destination in case you need to move away from the action of the gathering.

The Meal:
Here are some helpful tips of the main event – the meal.

  • When you speak to the host, make sure to let them know of any dietary concerns your loved one might have. Depending on the level of dietary restrictions, you may want to consider bringing your own food with you, as the holidays are no time to alter a diet or work on trying new foods.
  • Prep family and friends before the meal so that food is spoken about positively. Be reasonable. If your child has never sat through a meal at home, don’t expect it to happen during the holidays. Set expectations ahead of time and work on mealtime behavior well in advance, the payoff is worth it.
  • Keep structure and have food ready to eat on a typical schedule (in case the turkey takes longer to cook than expected).
  • Provide balanced choices. Holidays can be full of carbohydrates and sweets, so make sure you load the plate with vegetables and protein first, incorporating the carbohydrates last– only a quarter of the plate.

We all know that dessert is typically everyone’s favorite part of a meal. However, how do you handle this best?

  • Introducing refined sugars and highly processed carbohydrates during an already stressful holiday can be problematic and potentially increase behaviors. If possible, make special arrangements to provide desserts that minimize sugar and have a good amount of protein and fat.
  • Below, we’re sharing a great option from our YUM Book – our famous Coconut Cookies!

Holidays can be a nerve-wracking time for families due to all the added pressures, expectations, and sensory challenges. Don’t let others dictate your decisions, and do what you need to do to make it as comfortable as possible for you and your family. Planning ahead and sharing information with family and friends can make the holidays enjoyable for all involved. Use these tips to help you stay on track and keep your holidays stress-free and enjoyable for everyone.

DNA’s Famous Coconut Cookies:

  • Yield: 20 cookies
  • Portion: 2 cookies


  • ¼ cup coconut oil (or butter if not casein-free), softened
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 cups almond meal flour
  • 1 cup shredded coconut


  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all ingredients, adding almond flour and coconut last. Using the paddle attachment, mix until evenly combined.
  • Form dough into 1” balls. Place on greased baking sheet and flatten.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until golden around edges.

Nutrition Info:

  • Calories: 324
  • Carbohydrate: 16g
  • Protein: 8g

Serving Suggestions & Additional Variations:

  • Chocolate Chip: Add 2/3 cup chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon Spice: Add ½ tsp of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and ¼ tsp clove
  • Walnut Raisin: Add 2/3 cup raisins and walnuts

Written by Trevor Hipp, Dietitian at The Center for Discovery®. 

For more information about supporting our Food is Medicine philosophy, please contact Richard Humleker, Vice President of Development, at