Healthy-Up Your Holiday Cookies | Natural Gourmet Institute

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Healthy-Up Your Holiday Cookies

Posted December 6, 2018

As a health-supportive chef, who loves baking, you will never find me trying to “sneak” brussels sprouts and cauliflower into anyone’s brownies. (And I love brussels sprouts and cauliflower! Which is why I have them front and center on the dinner table, where they can show off their beauty).

I believe in baking with minimally-processed ingredients, without compromising the taste and texture of the perfect cookie: crispy, lightly golden edges with a buttery flavor, kissed with just the right amount of sweetness.

Lucky for us, cookies are as fun to make as they are to eat. Here are some easy swaps you can do at home this holiday season to bring a bit more wholesomeness to your favorite cookie recipes:

  1. Start with the best ingredients: Cookies are eaten for no other reason than the pure joy of it, so our primary goal is that they look good and taste great. Fortunately for us, fresh, organic ingredients will always have optimal flavor, as well as the most nutrition. Dried spices will develop a rancid odor as they age, so replace your baking spices (ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom) that are older than a year. While you’re at it, check the dates of all your pantry items. Read the labels: make sure your vanilla extract is made from real vanilla beans and not the processed vanillin flavoring. Use organic cocoa powder, sea salt instead of iodized salt, and aluminum-free baking powder for high-quality, professional-level cookies.
  2. Replace your white sugar: Coconut sugar can be used as a one-to-one substitute of plain ol’ sugar. Because of its darker color and toasty flavor, coconut sugar works best when used with other strong flavors, like double-chocolate chip or gingerbread. If your options are limited, organic cane sugar is still better than bleached white sugar.
  3. Upgrade your egg: Get pasture-raised eggs from your local farmer’s market, which are higher in Vitamin D than eggs from caged hens (while you’re there, pick up some veggies too!) .1 If you wish to make vegan cookies, replace each egg with 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce. Applesauce works well in cakey cookies, like whoopie pies and snickerdoodles. For chewy recipes, like oatmeal raisin or cowboy cookies, mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons warm water for each egg. Let mix sit until cool before adding to your wet ingredients.
  4. Say NO to bleached all-purpose flour: Use whole-wheat pastry flour as a cup-for-cup substitution. Whole wheat flour is made from the whole grain, so it contains more fiber and minerals. Don’t use whole wheat bread flour for desserts; its high protein content will yield a tough product. Be aware that whole wheat flour will give your product a tanner hue. If you want to maintain a lighter-colored cake or cookie, use half whole wheat pastry and half organic unbleached all-purpose flour.
  5. Mind the gluten: If you are baking for a guest who can’t have wheat, make your own gluten-free flour blend. Mix 2 cups white rice flour with 2/3 cup potato starch and 1/3 cup tapioca starch. Treat this blend like all-purpose flour, measuring out exactly how much the recipe calls for. Save extra in an air-tight container for another day.
  6. Replace the butter: For every stick (1/2 cup) of butter, use 5 tablespoons coconut oil plus 3 tablespoons coconut cream. Use this for recipes that require creaming the butter and sugar together, like sugar cookies and shortbread. If you desire to use the real thing, buy organic cultured butter, which contains probiotics, no antibiotics, and is delicious. For recipes that call for “vegetable oil,” use either melted coconut oil or organic (non-GMO) canola oil.
  7. When in doubt – dip it in chocolate. If you’ve done some experimenting and have cookies that are good but a bit less than perfect, use a spoon to create designs with melted organic chocolate chips over your cookies. There’s nothing chocolate can’t fix.


  1. Free-range farming: a natural alternative to produce vitamin D-enriched eggs. Citation data: Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), ISSN: 1873-1244, Vol: 30, Issue: 4, Page: 481-4 Publication Year: 2014