Baking season is definitely in full swing and as we approach the holidays, cookies of every kind will be baked in kitchens across the country - my kitchen is no exception! Gingerbread, Sugar, Chocolate Chip, Shortbread...my mouth is watering already! Unfortunately, traditional cookies are full of sugar and other ingredients that might not make us all feel that great this season. And who wants to feel crappy during the holidays? I have compiled a list of 4 of my favourite healthy(er) Christmas Cookies with some ideas of how to modify to make a more tummy-friendly cookie for your and your family - without skipping on the taste!
There is nothing better than getting the old family cookbooks out or in this day an age, the old Pinterest Holiday board, don your Christmas apron and head to the kitchen with the kids or grandkids for an afternoon of baking and laughter and memory making.
I am not going to lie, the recipes that my mom and grandmother shared with me were amazing, but now if I eat them I realize that my body doesn't react well to them. I have recently realized that gluten is not my friend and I am desperately trying to lessen the sugar that my family and I consume. But I don't want to give up this wonderful tradition of Christmas baking with my kids and I don't want to miss out on the yummy cookie rewards!
So, we modify! There are so many great new recipes out there for those looking for healthier-for-them options - whether it be low carb/low sugar, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan. There are so many available ingredients to help us tweak our favourites.
Admittedly, these might not be my all time favourite ooey, gooey, full - sugar, gluten, dairy Christmas cookies, but these are some pretty darn solid options that won't spike your blood sugar, zap your energy and make you feel bad this holiday season!
Four of my Favourite Cookie Recipes
My Kids love this low carb, easy to make, brownie cookie made with almond flour. It is GF, Dairy free (depending on the chocolate chips you use) and she has a vegan option for you too! And soooo chocolaty. My family needs a solid chocolate cookie as part of the Christmas cookie platter and this one fits the bill.
I use 1/4 cup of monk fruit as my sweetener (instead of 1/3 cup of erythritol) and I find it definitely sweet enough! I like to use pecans (as per the recipe) or chopped walnuts. What I love about these, is this "cool" taste when you bite into them. YUM.
Photo on the right from sweetashoney.co
2. Tagalongs (from Eating Bird Food)
Apparently these are a girl scout favourite, but as I was not a girl scout, I am not sure where they came from? My daughter found these on Pinterest when she was in a baking mood last month and wanted to give them a try. The ingredient list looked good so I said to give it a whirl! They were great. A nice crunchy cookie covered in chocolate with some creamy peanut butter in the middle. They were pretty easy to make and we didn't make any substitutions. The one suggestion my daughter has is to make the thumbprint (the space for the peanut butter) pretty big so you can get a good amount of gooey goodness in there. A new one on the Christmas cookie baking list this year!
3. Soft-baked Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (from kitchentreaty.com)
Everybody needs a solid chocolate chip cookie recipe and this one is gluten-free (made with almond flour) and pretty low carb (only 2-3 tbsp. of maple syrup) and is really good! You don't have to use mini chocolate chips - I use the big ones and it works out just fine (Krisda - Keto Chocolatey Chips are the ones I use). But I don't change a thing in this recipe - although often I only use 2 tbsp. of maple syrup as the chocolate chips add enough sweetness.
Seriously, if you need a grain/gluten free cookie, you gotta try this one!
4. Keto No Bake Cookies (from Maebells simply easy recipes)
Let's be honest, sometimes we don't feel like baking and this simple stove top cookie-like creation is quick and easy and full of chocolate crunch. The down side is that it has to be kept in the freezer as it does melt quickly due to the high coconut oil content. So if you are putting out a platter for hours in a warm room...well, don't try it. The upside is that it is a decadent chocolate treat with no sugar (or grains, or dairy) in it and has Hemp in it, so could really be considered healthy (wink, wink). We did think we could reduce the amount of sweetener (I always try to do that - sugar or not), but it was really too bitter without the full cup. And don't skip the sea salt!
5. Soft Cut out Sugar Cookies - Christmas baking would not be complete without this holiday staple! I am not sure what is more fun, cutting them out, decorating them or eating them?! These are a healthier twist on the traditional as they are grain-free, gluten-free and paleo. They still have sugar in them, but they are sugar cookies! I chose to use a scant 1/2 cup of organic coconut sugar instead of organic cane sugar - a slightly better option, but still a sugar. It gives them a richer brown colour instead of the lighter, traditional cookie. This recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of sugar which is much less than the 1+ cup of most sugar cookie recipes. I would however look at substituting the 1 cup of powdered sugar in the icing for a non-sugar powdered sweetener like Swerve Icing Sugar (made with Erythritol).
Now to Decorate!
This is often the fun part but when you are trying to cut the sugar and ditch the artificial dyes and colourings, it can be a challenge. There are some natural food colourings and even sprinkles without these nasty ingredients that you can pick up at the store, but if you can't find, them look around in your kitchen for natural ways to give your icing some colour - use what you have in the kitchen that usually stains - blueberries, cherries, strawberries, turmeric, beets are a few ideas to give your icing a natural colour and in some cases a nice flavour. You have to be careful though. I used a spinach powder and beet powder to make decorate my daughter's birthday cupcakes long ago and while the beet powder did a great job at making a nice pale pink icing, without compromising the taste, the ones made with the spinach powder tasted like the inside of a barn. Not a hit.
Tweaking that Cherished Family Recipe to Make it Your Way
As you get more used to baking with alternative ingredients, you can modify lots of traditional family favourites. White or Whole Wheat flour can be replaced by a Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour (I like Bob's Red Mill) , sugar can be replaced by alternative non-sugar sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, erythritol or just sweeter foods like applesauce or really ripe bananas or better sugar options like honey, dates, maple syrup or coconut sugar (these last 4 are all still sugars, so definitely reduce the quantities!). Use plant-based milk substitutes like coconut milk or almond milk for diary free cookie and eggs can be replaced by flax and water or chick pea "juice" for vegan a option. There are so many websites that will teach you how to do this effectively. And many food bloggers and food websites have great alternatives for their recipes - giving suggestions how you can make them gluten free or dairy free or low carb etc. They do the work for you!
So, whichever cookies you choose to make this Christmas, I think the most important thing to remember is to do it with someone (or 2 little helpers) you love. Or make them for someone you love. Or make them out of love...Just remember the love part - healthiest ingredient out there!
Have fun and make lots of great memories and great cookies!
- Happy Holidays!