How to Make a Healthier Holiday Cookie

holiday-cookies

I love cookies as much as anyone, in fact, maybe more. I really love them. Cookies in general for me are connected to my mom’s affection, to family traditions, to sweet comforting yumminess. But I try to limit them because they trigger my sugar cravings and sugar is bad for cancer potentially coming back. Besides, I’m allergic to dairy (read butter and cream) which is in most holiday treats. On top of that, my kids and husband are gluten-intolerant!

But it’s the holiday season and there are family traditions around baking goodies this time of year. Fortunately, with some experimentation, I’ve figured out how to swap alternative ingredients to keep the treats healthier and for us, allergen free.

1. Use alternative sugars. 
Refined white sugar is arguably the worst thing you can eat for your health so to make holiday cookies healthier, the first step is to use something else to sweeten the batch. Raw honey, maple syrup and stevia are all gentler on your system than refined white sugar (stevia gets bitter fast if you use even a drop too much plus some people don’t like the after taste so experiment with caution there). All of these natural sweeteners may need slight adjustments in their amounts when swapping out with white sugar. You’re also adding more liquid, so the dry ingredients may need to be adjusted accordingly. Experiment! Personally, I’ve found that my taste buds have dialed back on the sweetness meter and I need to reduce the sugar in most recipes substantially.

2. Use alternative flours. 
If you aren’t gluten intolerant like we are, a good healthier flour option to refined white all purpose flour is organic whole wheat pastry flour. You’re at least getting the whole grain and all the fiber and nutrients that come along with it. Plus I’ve found that it swaps out evenly. And please use organic wheat. Glyphosate, the herbicide used in Roundup®, is showing up in grains since it’s used as a desiccant after harvest.

If you are gluten intolerant, you can still make baked goods! There are great gluten free all purpose flour mixes by Bob’s Red Mill as well as King Arthur Flour, which can be found at most grocery stores. You can also make your own in a big batch (much less expensively) to have on hand. There are many recipes online; like those at Gluten Free Girl.

3. Use alternative dairy. 
This is the easiest substitution to make of them all! Earth Balance makes wonderful and healthy alternative “butter” in a tub and a stick version. The sticks bake up beautifully and the flavor is great. You will not be able to tell the difference! Some holiday treats (like fudge) call for milk and I’ve found that almond milk or coconut milk swap out with cow milk well with little difference in taste or texture. By the way, many people are allergic to dairy and don’t know it! Limiting or eliminating it from your diet may provide surprising health benefits and reduced symptoms you didn’t know were a dairy allergy!

We all want to eat more healthfully and we also want to participate in holiday traditions like baking family favorites and giving baked goods as gifts. With these simple swaps, you can enjoy your traditions and have the occasional treat without guilt or health problems.

Happy Holidays!

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