Healthy Cookies for the Holidays
Written by Caroline Casetti –
Pulling out the butter sticks and sugar bags are part of the holiday spirit and add to your overall holiday décor, and it makes the season feel more festive in and of itself. It’s no hidden truth that Christmas baking livens up a room. Many times a nice spread or arrangement of holiday themed foods can really spruce things up, add spirit, and even serve as a decorative piece. But don’t forget as you plan ahead for the holidays, be mindful of those empty calories which can easily add up!
Believe it or not, there are several tricks to creating healthy cookies around the holidays without sacrificing taste!
Substitute Honey or Stevia for Sugar
Sugar is a staple for most cookie recipes, but some people prefer to use synthetic sugar substitutes. Although this is a viable option, these manufactured sugars do not agree with everyone’s digestive system. Try using honey as a sugar substitute. As a natural sugar, honey is easier on sensitive stomachs and still provides the sweet taste necessary for good cookies.
Cut Fat by Adding Oatmeal
If coconut macaroons are on the baking list, try to dial down the saturated fat content with oatmeal. For example, reduce the coconut amount by half and substitute instant oatmeal instead. The coconut taste still remains while the fat content decreases considerably. Friends and family may not notice the difference.
To Butter or Not to Butter?
Oil or butter is the key ingredient to hold all the dry cookie ingredients together. Cut down on the fatty butter or oil by using pumpkin puree instead. As a natural vegetable, pumpkin adds critical nutrients to a normally vitamin-free treat. Being a puree, the wet pumpkin consistency binds the flour and other dry ingredients together for a chewy cookie texture.
Another butter substitute is applesauce. Naturally sweet, applesauce also adds some sugar to the recipe, reducing the need for granulated sugar and making the cookies even healthier.
Use Whole Wheat Ingredients
Avoid all-purpose flour and select whole wheat flour. Because this flour type still retains much of the grain’s bran, endosperm and germ, the cookies have a higher fiber value. Fiber helps you digest and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Another heart-healthy alternative is to substitute part of your flour content with multigrain cereal or oatmeal. Found in the health section of most grocery stores, dry cereals and oatmeal provide critical fiber and vitamins to the cookies. Cut the flour amount in half and add the cereal or oatmeal. Once mixed with the wet ingredients and baked, the cereal or oatmeal simply blends into the recipe without much of a taste difference.
Boost Your Antioxidant Content by Using Dark Chocolate
Chocolate chip cookies are delicious and making them healthier only requires a change to the chocolate type. Choose dark chocolate chips for their extra antioxidants. Although they are not low-calorie foods, these chips provide health benefits against high blood pressure and other cardiac issues.
Or, perhaps you want to avoid the chocolate route all together by using raisins. Use both dark and light colored raisins for a colorful cookie that entices visitors and add to your holiday décor. Add in chopped walnuts or almonds to improve the cookie texture and add good vitamins at the same time.
Building a healthy cookie for the holidays takes some attention to nutrient content and vitamin sources. Try to use natural foods rather than manufactured ingredients for the best taste. Pay attention to the fat ingredients and substitute them as much as possible. The digestive system is built to absorb natural vitamins and minerals for a healthy and long life.
Ms. Jensen is a leading advocate for families and children and was the founder and president of ACES, The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.
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