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Wednesday Wonders: Healthy Holiday Cookie Swap

December 10, 2009

Q: Help! I am invited to an annual holiday cookie swap and need to bring enough treats for each guest. This event has gotten so big that the amount of junk & treats is overbearing. I would love to find a recipe that is delicious yet secretly nutritious so that I don’t feel as guilty! Do you have any suggestions? — Cookie Lover

A: Hi Cookie Lover,

Mmm…a cookie swap sounds delicious! But it’s definitely not the most nutritious way to celebrate the holidays. Everything in moderation is certainly the key here — you should definitely enjoy some of those cookies you’ll be getting, but you’re best bet is to put some away (try freezing them) for another day…or holiday.

As for making a nutritioulicious™ cookie, here are some tips to help you out:

  • Cut the fat. You can reduce the source of fat (butter, sour cream, oil) by half and still bake a great cookie. But you must replace the fat with another moist ingredient. I recommend low-fat Greek or plain yogurt, natural, unsweetened applesauce or other fruit purees, light cream cheese, or low-fat sour cream.
  • Swap in whole-wheat flour. Replace half the white flour with whole-wheat pastry flour. You’ll increase the fiber content without changing much of the taste.
  • Reduce the sugar. Use 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of sugar the recipe calls for or substitute a no-calorie sweetener (like Splenda) for half the sugar. Most cookies are sweeter than they need to be, so this reduction shouldn’t make too much of a taste difference.
  • Use dark chocolate. If the recipe calls for cocoa powder, chocolate chips, or chocolate squares, use dark chocolate varieties. You won’t need as much (a little bit goes a long way here) and you’ll get the antioxidant benefits.
  • Make egg substitutes. One whole egg can be replaced with 1/4 cup of an egg substitute, or you can cut the number of whole eggs in half and use egg whites only in place. Just be sure the volume of egg whites equals that of the whole eggs.
  • Decrease the portion size. If a recipe calls for a dozen cookies, make two dozen using the same amount of batter. Each cookie will be smaller, but you won’t feel deprived with so many cookies going around this holiday season!
  • Use all natural ingredients. If you’re making a peanut butter based cookie, use natural peanut butter to avoid having trans fats in your cookies. If fruit is called for, don’t skimp on the real thing or use unsweetened dried fruit.

A few things to keep in mind: Be sure to do a test-run ahead of time to make sure the cookies come out to your liking. Don’t try all the modifications at once — try a few and see how you like them; no one will ever know! Most of all, enjoy the cookies and the holidays!

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