Healthy holiday cookie tips

By Jenni Wolf

’Tis the season for peanut butter blossoms and sugar cookies, rugelach and rosettes, spritz and gingerbread.

One of my favorite holiday memories and traditions is baking Christmas cookies with my family.

And for many people, the holidays are synonymous with “cookie season.” Enjoying them for desserts and snacks and, sometimes just because, cookies and other sweets are plentiful around the holidays.

While I believe cookies can absolutely be part of a healthy diet, when you’re eating them more often, it can be handy to bump up the nutrition a bit, without sacrificing taste.

Read on for three tips to add in a little “gentle nutrition” to your holiday cookie traditions:

One: Swap in whole grain flour. Most recipes call for all-purpose flour. However, white whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour are excellent substitutions as they retain the tender texture we desire in baked goods and are easy to find at stores like Cub or local markets and co-ops. Feel free to swap 1 to 1 or just start by subbing half of the all-purpose flour and work your way up.

Either way, you are adding some whole-grains and fiber that can help regulate blood sugars and contribute to satisfaction. Regular whole wheat flour can be a bit heavy for baked goods. So, I tend to save this for things like bread baking, but you could try a 50/50 blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flour in cookies or bars if that’s what you have access to.

Two: Make them mini. Cut bars into small bites and drop cookie dough by the tablespoon rather than a full cookie scoop. Smaller portions allow for more variety and make it easier to check in with yourself between bites on whether you are full and satisfied, or if you’d like more.

A smaller portion size also makes it simple to add a gingersnap to your lunch plate or grab one with your cheese stick for a snack. This can help you spread out the desserts throughout the day rather than gorging on them after dinner.

Three: Serve up the cookie platter with sides that can make for a more well-rounded and nutritionally balanced snack. Desserts often contain carbohydrates and fat but tend to lack protein and fiber. A glass of cold milk alongside cookies can provide some protein to balance the carbs and fat in a cookie and is also super satisfying.

In my family, we often serve a spread of Christmas cookies alongside sliced, fresh oranges as they are in season, delicious and provide us fiber, which also helps to balance the carbs and fat found in the cookies.

Adding sides or combining cookies with other food items help keep cookie intake balanced in a way that is still tasty, enjoyable and leaves your body feeling good.

Now, I have a question for you: What’s your favorite cookie? Mine is ginger molasses or the classic peanut butter blossom.  

Jenni Wolf regularly writes about food and nutrition for the Bugle. She is a practicing registered dietitian who is passionate about helping others nourish a positive and balanced relationship with food.

Leave a Reply