Healthy Baking Tips For Festive Cookies

decorative holiday cookies on a rustic wooden table sprinkled with powdered sugar

By: Carolyn Brown MS, RD

Gingerbread men, classic sugar and chocolate chip, shortbread, snickerdoodles, and biscotti's...and that’s just the beginning! Christmas cookies really bring out the inner cookie-monster in all of us, right? But since this is the year of the healthy holiday season, we have to upgrade that cookie situation too.

First, it’s time to make things from scratch. I’m sure this is a no-brainer for many of you who use secret family recipes passed down through generations. But the rest of us learned how to bake from Cher Horowitz in the timeless movie masterpiece that is Clueless. So while refrigerated cookie logs and boxed cookie mixes make life easy, they are full of absolute junk, including partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat), food dyes (hello ADHD), and nasty preservatives. Serve that to family and friends? As Cher would say, “As IF!”

The basic cookie ingredients are flour, sugar, butter and eggs. If you Google “healthy cookies” you’ll find swaps for all of these. I think you’ll agree, trading applesauce for butter or oil is just not the same (though I have messed with avocado before…). If you’re a baking newbie, you might not want to mess with the basic ingredients too much. But what you do want to do is upgrade those ingredients.

You don’t just need butter and milk on your grocery list, you need organic butter and milk. Same with organic and/or cage-free eggs. I think that organic is a non-negotiable when it comes to dairy and eggs. It’s well worth the price difference to avoid hormones and antibiotics. In addition to what you’re cutting out, you’re also getting more good: both organic milk and eggs have more omega 3’s than conventional. So Simple Truth® Organic milk and eggs are both cookie essentials.

Nuts and dried fruit are the new toppings (but feel free to bake with them too!). Almonds, pecans and pistachios are great in desserts, and add vitamin E. When it comes to dried fruit, I prefer raisins over cranberries (dried cranberries are usually sugar-soaked) but either one will give your cookies an antioxidant and flavor boost. So chop up nuts and/or dried fruit for Simple Truth®-approved “sprinkles.” You can even use organic nut butter as “frosting.” Now THAT sounds like a healthier cookie we can all compromise on!