“Healthy” Holiday Baking Tips

Header imageRecently, I received a request from the Room Parents at school asking that we contribute cookies for the holiday show. There was a caveat that they be “healthy” cookies. Written like that, with “healthy” in quotes. It is the school’s commitment to promoting healthy eating and maintaining a ‘no sweets on campus’ policy (which I applaud!!) that is prompting this “healthy” cookie request. Outside the classroom, the request was being met with a wink and a nod by most parents because the consensus was “Yeah right. What is a healthy cookie?”
This got me thinking though. If not a truly healthy cookie, can we make the cookies more healthy? That we can do, so this week’s blog article was inspired.

Homemade – Going homemade is already a huge jump towards the healthy end of the spectrum. By baking at home, you’ve eliminated all of the colors and preservatives that come in the boxed cookies.
Fruit instead of sugar – I’m not an expert baker and I can’t tell you how to substitute dates for sugar in your favorite recipe, but I can use Google quite effectively and have found several recipes that do this. This one looks delicious: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/healthy-banana-cookies/Detail.aspx

Coconut Sugar – Use coconut sugar in place of your cane sugar. I was hesitant to try this at first, expecting it to change the flavor of my baking. I’ve found that it doesn’t, at all. Coconut sugar has fiber, minerals and vitamins where cane sugar has none of these. It is also thought to have a low glycemic index, the concept of which is debatable. However, side-by-side, coconut sugar has a higher nutrient value than cane sugar and is an excellent baking substitution. When buying coconut sugar, check the ingredients to make sure it isn’t a blend of coconut and other sugars. Also to note, coconut sugar is different than coconut palm sugar.

Butter – Go full fat and use grass fed butter, I like Kerry Gold Irish Butter. Grass fed cows produce milk higher in Omega-3 fats so this butter is actually good for you (not to mention delicious). Stay far away from all vegetable oils and even further from shortening which is made of Trans Fats.

Add whole grains – This doesn’t work for every cookie, but with many you can use ½ baking flour and ½ whole wheat flour. When cooking with oatmeal, be sure to use the Old Fashioned Oats (not the Quick Oats) as the Old Fashioned ones have a higher fiber content. When baking oatmeal cookies, instead of using flour, I grind oats in the food processor to make flour and substitute oat flour for baking flour.

Eliminate coloring and chemicals – Read the ingredients of your ingredients. Strawberry Marshmallow Fluff contains: Corn Syrup, Sugar Syrup, Dried Egg Whites, Artificial Flavor, Red 40, Carmel Color. (http://www.marshmallowfluff.com/pages/faq.html) Not a strawberry to be found. Even in your baking, eliminate as many chemicals as possible.

Add nuts and fruit – Add nuts and or dried fruit to your cookies to improve the nutrient value. Montmorency Cherries are extremely high in antioxidants and go great in a chocolate cookie. As the mom of a boy with a nut allergy, I feel compelled to remind you that if you are sharing cookies, make sure everyone is aware of the ingredients.

Happy Holidays, everyone!