Family making cookies

Holiday Cookies: The Healthy Way

With the holiday season in full swing, it can seem like never-ending opportunities for food, food and more food. A lot of the traditional holiday foods are full of extra calories and fat, including those cookies that find their way onto tables throughout the holidays. If you still want to indulge in the cookie baking (and eating) traditions, you can do it without worrying so much about how it will impact your health and fitness goals.

Staying on track with your health and wellness goals this holiday season doesn’t mean you have to cut out all your favorite holiday treats and traditions.

If you have a recipe you love and make every year, check out the tips below to see if you can make some healthy substitutions and still enjoy your holiday favorites. There are also several cookie recipes if you want to try a new, healthier option this year.

Six Ways to Make Your Favorite Holiday Cookies Healthier

  1. Swap out some of your all-purpose flour with a healthier option. For example, whole wheat flour adds more fiber to the recipe, which will help to keep your blood sugar down. You can also try almond flour. The nuts will add healthy fat and protein to the recipe.
  2. Replace your eggs with mashed bananas or applesauce. This is a great substitution if you want to make your recipe vegan or if you’re worried about your cholesterol.

    Healthy energy balls made of dried fruits and nuts

  3. Add ingredients to your recipe to provide additional nutrients, fiber and healthy fats.
  • Add flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp seeds for additional healthy omega-3 fats.
  • Add oatmeal for fiber. Fiber is filling and may keep you from eating too many cookies.
  • Add nuts. Pecans, almonds, peanuts, cashews—any nuts you have around can be chopped up and added to your cookie batter for added healthy fat, fiber and protein.
  • Add dark chocolate to reduce the amount of milk chocolate you use.
  1. Find a healthier sweetener than white sugar. Almost anything you use will give you more nutrition than the empty calories of white sugar. You can try honey or natural maple syrup—both of which contain some nutritional value, as well as agave nectar or pureed prunes. You can also just cut the amount of sugar you use. Try cutting it by a quarter or a third to start and see if you can tell the difference.
  2. Replace some of the butter with Greek yogurt or olive oil. You can cut down on the fat and calories this way and add some nutritional value and good fat to the recipe.
  3. Make your cookies smaller. Easy, right? If we allow ourselves one cookie and it’s half the size it normally is, that’s half the calories and fat, but we still get to enjoy a holiday treat. One or two bites might be all you need!

Healthier Cookie Recipes to Try

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers several cookie recipes through its Healthy Teaching Kitchen program. Here are a few to try this holiday season:

Cookies and milk

  • Flourless almond butter cookies — This recipe uses almond butter, which is high in protein, and with no flour, it’s low in carbohydrates too.
  • No-bake gingerbread energy bites — This recipe calls for oats and almond flour, as well as natural sweeteners like dates and honey. It includes all of the holiday spices too.
  • Crunchy oat nut cookies — This recipe is full of good stuff, including chopped nuts, dried fruit, chia seeds and maple syrup. There is no butter or sugar in this recipe.

The Food Network also has a lot of great cookie recipes for you to try, including these two:

  • Kitchen sink cookies — This recipe substitutes some of the oil and butter with applesauce, uses whole wheat flour and dark chocolate, and adds dried fruit and nuts too.
  • Triple chocolate cookies — This recipe still uses butter and sugar but finds other ways to make it healthier. It includes whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, dark chocolate and nuts to add some nutrition to a super sweet treat.

Staying on track with your health and wellness goals this holiday season doesn’t mean you have to cut out all your favorite holiday treats and traditions. Try some of these small changes to make a big difference!

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