Smart cookies: Shave off some holiday sugar

There’s so much baking this time of year! We host cookie exchanges and take treats into work and gift our neighbors with plates of goodies. Lighten up your assortment this holiday season with these recipes that offer a more subtle sweet, handpicked by Julia D. Walker, RDN, CDE, CD, Parkview Center for Healthy Living. (You might notice she’s a big fan of Ellie Krieger. Aren’t we all?)

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this "antioxidant" power. This recipe also includes canola oil, a heart-healthy oil that contains no saturated fat. It also uses whole wheat pastry flour which contains all of the vitamins, minerals and fiber of whole wheat flour. 

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/3 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (2 ounces)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate (2 ounces)
2/3 cup chopped pecans, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, mash together the butter and sugars with a fork until well combined. Add the oil and egg and beat until creamy. Mix in the vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and the pecans and mix well. Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

[1 serving (1 cookie), Calories 131, Fat 8.3 grams, (Saturated fat) 2.7 grams, Cholesterol 13.9 mg, Sodium 22 mg, Carbohydrate 16 grams, Fiber 1.2 grams]

Adapted from a recipe featured on

Honey Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Cooking spray
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
1/4 cup smooth unsalted almond butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or 1/2 cup each all-purpose and whole-wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mist 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.
2. Beat the butter, canola oil, honey, egg, almond butter and vanilla extract in a large bowl with a mixer until combined.
3. In another bowl, whisk the dry milk, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the oats and raisins.
4. Scoop tablespoonfuls of batter about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in a loosely covered container for up to 3 days.

Makes 30 cookies

[One cookie: Calories 100; Fat 5 g (Saturated 1 g); Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 45 mg; Carbohydrate 13 g; Fiber 1 g; Protein 2 g]

Adapted from a recipe featured on

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Applesauce fills in for some of the butter and oil in these cookies, reducing the fat and keeping the cookies moist. Apricots and cherries lend a little natural sweetness. 

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg white
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts
2 ounces dark chocolate, cut into chunks
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Combine the brown sugar, butter and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl, until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the applesauce, vanilla and egg white and mix to combine. Add the flour, oatmeal, cinnamon and salt and mix just until just combined. Add the apricots, cherries, walnuts and chocolate and mix to combine.
3. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Using 1 tablespoon of cookie dough at a time, roll into balls and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Press the balls down with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly, as the cookies will not spread as much as cookies with more butter. Bake until lightly browned but still soft, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on racks.

Makes 20 cookies

[One cookie: Calories 103, total Fat, 4.9 grams, (Saturated fat 1.6 grams), Cholesterol 12.8 mg, sodium 44 mg, Carbohydrate 16 grams, Fiber 1.2 grams]

Adapted from a recipe featured on

Almond Butter Cookies

 A whole wheat and almond butter version of the Chinese cookie classic. These treats are an ideal partner in cookie crime to a cold glass of milk or a cup of afternoon tea.

Cooking spray
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole what pastry flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup smooth, unsalted almond butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
36 raw whole almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. 
2. In a large bowl whisk together the fours, salt and baking soda. 
3. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, almond butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until well combined. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, blending well.
4. Shape dough into ¾-inch balls, and place on the baking sheets. Place an almond in center of each cookie and press down lightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 36 cookies

[One cookie. Calories 80; Fat 5 g; Saturated Fat 1 g; Mono Fat 3 g; Poly Fat 1 g; Protein 2 g; Carb 9 g; Fiber 1 g; Cholesterol 9 mg; Sodium 85 mg; Calcium 21 mg; Potassium 64 mg; Vitamin E 1.5mg]

Adapted from a recipe by the Almond Board of California


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