10 Hacks Nutritionists Use for Healthier Cookies
Chances are you already have everything you need in your pantry.
Photo By: photohoo
Photo By: m-chin/iStock
Photo By: Kikovic
Photo By: bhofack2/iStock
Photo By: SMarina
Photo By: Juank Photo/iStock
Photo By: AlexPro9500
Photo By: Conejota / iStock
Photo By: nedjelly
Photo By: Proxima13 ©Proxima13
Hack Your Cookies Healthy
Cookies are a favorite treat for kids and adults. They’re a perfect dessert to bake for guests or to bring to a party. Most traditional cookie recipes, however, are brimming with calorie and sugar-heavy ingredients like butter, granulated sugar or chocolate. Can you make cookies just a little healthier? You certainly can! Here are 10 hacks that registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) from around the country use when they whip up a batch.
Hack: Swap the all-purpose flour out for white whole wheat flour
Food and nutrition blogger Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD always swaps out all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour in her cookies. "It adds more fiber than refined all-purpose flour, and most of the time nobody can tell the difference!" she explains.
Hack: Add ground flax seed, chia seeds or hemp seeds
Vicki Shanta Retelny, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Total Body Diet for Dummies adds ground seeds like flax, chia or hemp to her cookie batter. "These seeds give cookies a nourishing boost of healthy omega-3 fats, which are good for your total body wellness. Omega-3 fats keep inflammation at bay and contribute to the health of your brain, heart, cells, muscles and joints for life," explains Retelny.
Hack: Make the cookies smaller
"It may sound ridiculous, but I make my cookies smaller," says Sara Haas, RDN, author of Taco! Taco! Taco! and consultant culinary dietitian based in Chicago, IL. Haas makes a one or two-bite version of the original with all the decadent flavors, just in smaller form. "A smaller cookie makes for a more appropriate portion size when it comes to sweet treats. Fewer calories, but still the same flavor indulgence. Plus, they’re super cute!"
Hack: Replace eggs with mashed ripe bananas
If you’re looking to make a recipe more plant based or vegan, Jessica Spiro, RD has the hack for you. "You can substitute one a whole egg for 1 medium mashed ripe banana in most cookie recipes," says Spiro. "This not only makes the texture light and chewy but it also makes the cookie taste sweeter. Plus it adds fiber and vitamins and minerals like potassium."
Hack: Replace added sugars with pureed prunes in a 1:1 ratio
"By swapping out the added sugars and using pureed prunes, you can increase the fiber and nutritional content of the recipe, and reduce added sugars, overall calories and carbohydrates," says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. "Because of their sweet taste and moist texture, this swap allows you to make your cookie more nutritious without changing the overall taste or texture."
Hack: Cut the sugar by one-third
Maggie Moon, MS, RD, author of The MIND Diet, says "I cut the sugar in any standard recipe by a third. It is admittedly a little less sweet, but still tasty. I started by cutting a quarter of the sugar and noticed no difference in taste, so I recommend starting there." Moon explains that less sugar means less inflammation and fewer calories, and since the difference in taste is negligible, it's an easy win.
Hack: Replace half the butter with Greek yogurt
Philadelphia, PA based registered dietitian Julie Lichtman, RD, LDN says "I replace about half of the butter in a cookie’s recipe with full-fat Greek yogurt." Lichtman explains that her switch decreases the cookies saturated fat content significantly while still keeping its soft, gooey texture!
Hack: Add nuts to the batter
An easy add-in to any cookie recipe is chopped nuts. "Pecans, almonds, peanuts, cashews or pistachios — whatever I have in my pantry," says Toby Amidor, MS, RD Healthy Eats contributor and best-selling cookbook author. She adds 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped nuts to the cookie batter. "Adding nuts increases the healthy fat, fiber, and protein, plus the antioxidant vitamin E."
Hack: Make multiple swaps
Katie Morford, MS, RD Mom's Kitchen Handbook routinely makes multiple swaps to her cookies to make them healthier. "I start by substituting at least half of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour, I use dark chocolate in place of milk chocolate, and I replace some of the butter with canola oil or olive oil," says Morford. "Collectively these swaps add up to a cookie with more fiber, nutrients, antioxidants and healthy fats."
Hack: DIY dough without raw eggs and flour
Angie Asche, MS, RD Sports Dietitian and owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition takes a food safety approach to making her cookies. "The two culprits of foodborne illnesses in raw cookie dough are eggs and raw flour. So for a healthier version that still has the same flavors and consistency as cookie dough, I combine soaked cashews, almond butter, oats, and a little 100% maple syrup for sweetness in a food processor," says Asche. This blends up into a delicious, dough-like consistency that you can either safely eat raw, or bake. "By using these wholesome ingredients, you're also consuming healthy fats, protein and iron — definitely more nutritious than traditional cookie dough," explains Asche.