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3 Tips to Make Your Christmas Cookies a Little Healthier

December 22, 2023

We all agree that calories don’t count when it comes to Christmas cookies. But if you’re the type who licks the bowl and sneaks a few extra cookies every evening, you may be wondering if there’s a way to add a some nutrients to your holiday favorites.

We asked Samantha Oldman, MS, a bariatric surgery dietitian who practices in Norwich, how to make your favorite Christmas treats just a little bit healthier.

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1. Cut down on the fat the recipe calls for.

Specifically, that’s oil and butter.

“Try replacing some (or all) of the fat with nonfat plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened applesauce, or pureed pumpkin,” says Oldman. “Some of these can be adapted to the flavor profile of the cookie you’re planning to bake.”

But be mindful of your swaps, she warns – and always follow a tested recipe.

“The type and amount of fat in a recipe will greatly affect the texture of your cookies. Butter cookies typically have a softer texture, while cookies made with oil won’t be quite as fluffy.”

> Related: Should I Try Cutting Carbs, Fat or Sugar for Weight Loss?

2. Don’t put too much emphasis on eliminating sugar.

Christmas cookies and strict, sugar-free diets don’t tend to mix well. So instead of trying to skip the sugar altogether, Oldman suggests focusing on healthy ways to cut back.

“Sugar is the main ingredient in most cookies,” she says. “And that’s okay – there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your favorite treats in moderation.”

But if you’re looking to reduce the amount of artificial sugar, she suggests replacing it with a natural option (think: dates, honey, molasses, banana or unsweetened applesauce).

“All of these ingredients contain natural sugars,” says Oldman. “But they’re also accompanied by extra nutrients that regular cane sugar doesn’t offer.”

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3. Pack in the vitamins and minerals.

Substitutions aren’t the only way to make Christmas cookies healthier – additions can work, too.

“Dried fruits and whole grains can act as a wonderful source of fiber, B vitamins and other minerals,” says Oldman. “Dates are rich in fiber, antioxidants and some vitamins and minerals such as copper, potassium and vitamin B6. Honey and molasses are also high in antioxidants, with molasses rich with minerals such as iron, calcium and potassium.”

And the list doesn’t end there.

“Banana will provide you with nutrients like potassium and fiber. Unsweetened applesauce will boost your daily soluble fiber intake, which can protect against heart disease and lower cholesterol. And local raw honey can be used to strengthen the immune system to prevent seasonal allergies.”

At the end of the day, no one cookie is better than the next.

“It’s hard to say objectively that one Christmas cookie is ‘better’ nutritionally than others. It really depends on your dietary restrictions and which nutrients you’re targeting,” says Oldman.

If you’re looking to cut fat, for example, meringue cookies might be the answer. With only egg whites, sugar, and vanilla extract, this will give you a zero-fat option. Or if you’re trying to get extra nutrients in your diet, oatmeal raisin cookies might be the way to go.

And if you’re just looking for a good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie? Try replacing some of the all-purpose flour with a higher fiber option such as whole wheat, buckwheat or almond flour.

So whatever cookie you’re craving – go for it, says Oldman. ‘Tis the season.

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