Cookies and the holidays go together like sleigh bells and reindeer, a fireplace and stockings, or mistletoe and kisses. Unfortunately, these sugary treats can also go together with overindulgence and an expanding waistline. But they don’t need to. Whether frosting cutouts of trees, bringing a dessert to a party, or making that special batch you’ll leave for Santa Christmas Eve, here are some tips for how to make your holiday cookies as healthy as possible.
Cut the sugar. In addition to sweetness, sugar contributes moisture, fluffiness, and that golden brown outside as well. You can usually get away with reducing sugar by ¼ to ½ in most recipes, however. If making cookies, like sugar cookies, which rely almost entirely on sugar for their flavor, consider switching to cookies that also use cinnamon, unsweetened chocolate, pumpkin, molasses or other ingredients to enhance their flavor.
Swap the fat. Butter or vegetable shortenings are higher in saturated fats. Using unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat is a great way to support your cardiovascular health. You can substitute oils like canola or grape seed for half the butter in most recipes with no change in the final product. Applesauce is also a common fat replacement but at ½ the calories, 3x the fiber, and 6x the protein, I prefer pumpkin puree. You’ll only need ¾ the amount of pumpkin as you would butter.
Boost the vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Sugar, refined flours, oil…there’s one thing missing in these key ingredients for cookies and that’s the nutrients your body needs most – vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Look for recipes that use fruits and vegetables (applesauce, apricot puree, raisins, carrot, zucchini, pumpkin…) along with whole grains and nuts (whole wheat, oats, quinoa, walnuts, almond flour, chia…) to boost the nutritional value of your cookies.
Reduce your portions. Now that your cookies are lower in sugar, have healthy fats, and are richer in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, you’re allowed to eat as many of them as you like, right? Not exactly. Keeping your total daily calories within healthy bounds will still require some restraint. Cut the recipe in half, make your cookies smaller, and eat them only after your meal so they don’t take the place of other healthier foods.
Cookies can be a great way to enhance the holiday season. Use these tips in your next batch to ensure that they also support your health and wellbeing.