One of the best parts of the Christmas season is the food — specifically, Christmas cookies. Most people have a favorite, whether it’s the classic sugar cookie or the peanut butter blossom. Unfortunately, cookies aren’t exactly a diet snack.

It may seem oxymoronic to want healthy Christmas cookies, but it’s possible. At the very least, you can make your annual Christmas cookies healthier so you’re not defeating this year’s New Year’s resolution before it even starts! That’s exactly what we’ll be looking at today — how you can make your Christmas cookies healthier, without compromising on flavor.

Use Less Sugar

The simplest way to cut down on the fattening quality of Christmas cookies is to use less sugar. After all, sugar is the enemy of your diet. Now, for some recipes, this may be difficult. Take sugar cookies for example. (Sugar is in the name!) But with a little creativity, it’s certainly possible to dial back on the sugar. Other cookies, like gingerbread, rely less on sweetness and more on other spices for flavor, allowing you to get away with making this type of change. The trick with cutting down on sugar is to make it so you don’t miss the sweetness of the cookie.

Baking is largely a perfected science, and messing with ingredients too much could ruin the whole batch.

When it comes to removing sugar from ingredients, it helps to do so sparingly. Baking is largely a perfected science, and if you mess with cookie ingredients too much, it could ruin the whole batch. Generally, you can decrease the amount of sugar by a quarter without it effecting the outcome too much. You may need to add additional liquid (e.g. water, milk, or honey) to the recipe to keep the cookies from getting too dry, since sugar helps draw out moisture as well.

Use Healthier Ingredients

Another way to cut back on the calories in a cookie is to replace some of the more fattening ingredients with healthier alternatives. To use an example from earlier, sugar cookies may taste weird if you cut back on the sugar, since the sweetness is such an important component of the flavor. Instead, try a sugar substitute that has fewer calories or honey, which is a natural sweetener. If a recipe calls for peanut butter, you could use low-fat peanut butter. Also, keep in mind you can replace butter with a healthy fat, like Greek yogurt or even apple sauce! Whatever you’re swapping, make sure you check packages and labels, or check online, for the conversion rates between the items first, though.

You can also try healthy alternatives to all-purpose flour, like whole wheat flour or oats.

Flour is another ingredient with alternatives that are healthier and simple to integrate. One substitute for all-purpose flour is whole wheat flour. You shouldn’t straight swap whole wheat and all-purpose flour, since that’ll make an overly dense or bitter cookie. Be prepared to add extra liquid or mix some whole wheat flour with all-purpose flour to compensate for loss of the density. We recommend using about 75 percent of what the recipe calls for. (Note: This may not work for more delicate cookies.) A second healthy alternative to all-purpose flour is oats.

There are two types of oats that you can easily use instead of all-purpose flour. One type is quick or instant oats. These are the most processed and pre-cooked, which makes them easier to blend into a cookie dough. The second type of oat is rolled or old-fashioned oats, which are still flat but less processed than instant or quick oats (compared to steel cut oats, which are too hard to substitute for flour). Generally speaking, you only need half the amount that you would need in flour in oats, which instantly cuts back on some of the calories.

Get Baking!

We wouldn’t just mention a few ways to have healthier cookies without giving you a recipe to try! Below, you’ll find a delicious, but simple, peanut butter oat cookie recipe that uses many of the examples we noted above. Give it a try and tell us what you think!

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Peanut Butter Oat Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup of instant oats
  • ½ cup of low-fat peanut butter
  • ¼ cup of Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup of brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ tsp of baking soda
  • ½ tsp of baking powder
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix the peanut butter, Greek yogurt, brown sugar, and sugar in a large bowl until creamy.
  3. Add in the egg and vanilla extract and continue to mix well.
  4. Add in the oats, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Continue mixing on the mixer’s low setting until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  5. With a spoon, scoop out dough in roughly 1- to 1.5-inch balls.
  6. Place balls on a prepared cookie sheet with two inches of space between each ball.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.
  8. Set on a cooling rack and serve when cooled.

Further Reading

Medicareful Living — Health for the Holidays: Eggnog
Medicareful Living — Health for the Holidays: Hot Chocolate
Medicareful Living — Health for the Holidays: Hanukkah Classics