Have you had your first bite of an old-fashioned cut-out sugar cookie or gingerbread man yet? How about rugelach or red velvet cake, seven-layer bars or Aunt Trudy’s famous fudge?

Maybe you’re tasked with whipping up a traditional holiday sweet treat or two this year, but you’d love to cut the sugar – especially if you’re caring for someone with pancreatic cancer or facing dietary challenges.

We posed the question of how to make holiday baking a little healthier to our Fix contributor, Maria Petzel, who is the senior clinical dietitian for the Pancreas Surgery Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

While many of us might be quick to try substituting honey or agave nectar where appropriate, Petzel cautions against going this route if cutting sugar is your goal.

“Remember that syrups, nectars and honey are still refined carbohydrates, or ‘sugar,’” she said.

But, she offered, for many recipes – especially muffins, cakes, no-bake bars, pies and some cookies, you can reduce the amount of sugar listed in the recipe by about one-third and you likely will not notice a difference in taste and texture.

“You can also look for recipes that use dates, mashed banana or applesauce – all of these can be used to reduce the amount of sugar the recipe needs.”

Another trick is to use extra spice or flavoring like cinnamon or vanilla to give the impression of sweetness.

After all this talk of sugar, you may be hungry. In that case, we don’t blame you, and we have a few low-sugar holiday treats to tempt you – or at the very least, delight a lucky friend during this season of giving.

Are you a pancreatic cancer patient or caregiver? You can access comprehensive disease information, including diet and nutrition tips, recipes and a booklet on the subject – all reviewed and approved by renowned leaders in the field, by contacting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s one-on-one Patient Central support service by phone or email.

Come back to our blog each week for more Friday Fix: Your Weekly Nutrition Supplement.