Cookies and the holiday season are almost synonymous. Whether you’re baking them or receiving them — or both — chances are cookies are an integral part of celebrating the season. But it’s no secret that cookies are more of an indulgence than a healthy treat — that’s what makes them so delicious, right? That’s why we spoke with Denice Taylor, a dietitian at Texas Health Arlington who says with the right twists, you can bake up festive cookies and feel good about it this season.
What Makes a Healthier Cookie?
As the saying goes, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” and that rings true if you want a healthier cookie. Taylor says to focus on carbohydrates first.
A low-carbohydrate cookie is one that is made with little or no flour or grains. Some commercial low-carbohydrate cookies are Nilla vanilla wafers which have 2.6 grams of carbohydrates per cookie and 1.3 grams sugar. They’re also just 17 calories each. Lorna Doone shortbread cookies have 4.8 grams of carbohydrates and 1.3 grams sugar, at 35 calories each. While these cookies are a traditional shortbread, they are made with less sugar than other shortbread cookies.
“Both of these cookies are versatile and can be eaten alone or used in various recipes such as vanilla wafers with banana sugar-free pudding,” Taylor adds.
She also points out the rise in popularity of what are called “Keto Cookies.” Although these cookies tend to be high in fat, they are low in carbohydrates, which is the basis behind the Keto diet.
Making a Healthier Cookie
If you enjoy baking up holiday cookies versus buying them, Taylor says there are many ways to make even traditional family cookie recipes healthier without drastically altering taste or texture.
“Sugar can be decreased in a recipe by about a third without having negative side effects,” she explains. “It’s important to remember that some sugar is needed in a cookie recipe for texture, browning and taste. Other ingredients such as applesauce, honey or agave nectar can be substituted for the sugar to provide moisture and flavor.”
She also adds that swapping out traditional all-purpose baking flour with almond flour results in a cookie with the least amount of carbs without altering the integrity of the cookie.
So what’s a go-to heathier cookie recipe she recommends? She recommends the following peanut butter cookies that get their sweetness from natural ingredients.
Naturally Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies
½ cup of whole-wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup of unsalted butter, softened
½ cup of all-natural creamy or chunky peanut butter
8 packets Stevia Extract in the Raw™
½ cup Sugar in The Raw™
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F. Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and peanut butter using an electric mixer until blended. Add the egg and vanilla extra and blend. Beat in flour mixture until fully blended.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie, pressing a crisscross pattern into the cookie with a fork.
- Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Store in a tightly covered container.
“Peanut butter is high in protein and an easy way to add protein to a snack or dessert,” Taylor says. “Three of these cookies equal only 70 calories and 6 grams of carbs, and the total fat for three cookies is 4.5 grams!”
As with all cookies, Taylor adds that portion control is very important! Even the healthiest of cookies can increase added calories, carbs and fat in your diet, making them not-so-healthy. Try incorporating these cookies, and these added tips, into your round of holiday baking this year for a healthier treat.