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9 Healthy Holiday Cookie & Dessert Recipes

Ah, the holidays. Often, between all the work events, holiday parties, and gift giving, this time of the year can be a bit of a white flour and sugar free-for all. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a time and place for indulgence and some recipes just shouldn’t be meddled with (I’m looking at you and your chocolate cherry cookies, mom… seriously, can you make those when I’m home?) but for some standard favorites, there are a few small swaps you can make to improve the nutrition profile of a recipe without impacting the flavor. One of my favorite healthy swaps is replacing the refined carbohydrates with more complex, less processed, and fiber-packed whole grains. Whole wheat pastry flour, in particular, is a big favorite of mine. It’s not as dense as regular whole wheat flour so you can use it in place of white flour with hardly any texture difference! You can also often get away with decreasing the sugar in baked good recipes quite a bit without sacrificing flavor.

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite “healthified” cookie and dessert recipes to give a try this holiday season. I hope you enjoy them!

Whole grain holiday cookies desserts

Biscotti

I love biscotti at this time of year, and they make a great festive gift, too. Just add a bow! :) I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour in these recipes, which increases the fiber content, and reduced the amount of sugar normally in biscotti as well.

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Cookies

First up is a healthier remake of an old classic: Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies. These are healthy but not TOO healthy, if you know what I mean. They’re a good place to start if you want something that tastes like a typical cookie but is lightened up just a little! Matt actually came up with this recipe, so you know it’s man approved. ;)

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Next up a nice twist on traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes — it uses whole wheat flour instead of white flour, plus some oats for extra fiber (they are ground instead of whole to maintain the cookie’s soft, smooth texture – you’ll never even know they have oats in them). They also have dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate and olive oil in place of some of the butter for healthy fat. These cookies rock, and they also win for “most creative cookie name”: These Ain’t Yo Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (but they still taste like them)!

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If you’re looking for something less traditional that still tastes awesome, here is one of my absolute favorites: my Oatmeal Banana Coconut Cookies! These are made with whole wheat pastry flour, high protein Greek yogurt, and bananas and a little maple syrup for sweetness without any refined white sugar. They’re easy to make, flavorful, and soft!

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Want something similar, but vegan? Try my Oatmeal Banana Pumpkin Cookies instead – the pumpkin adds extra nutrients and moisture and omits the need for Greek yogurt, keeping the cookies vegan.

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Desserts

One of my favorite whole grain desserts that sounds fancy but is actually super easy is my Sweet Potato Bread Pudding. It’s made with whole wheat bread!

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Another favorite is my Citrus Zest Cake. This is completely whole grain, much lower in sugar than normal cakes, and full of flavor from the orange zest. It makes a great dessert with some ice cream or you could even serve it as an afternoon snack break with some coffee/tea in your office! Your coworkers will never know it’s “healthy.” :)

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What’s your favorite whole grain but still delish cookie or dessert recipe? I’d love some new ideas!

Thank you to the Grain Foods Foundation for sponsoring this post! This is the second in a series of two posts I did with them to share some whole grain love this holiday season (the first post was my yummy recipe for Lentil & Brown Rice Herbed Salad). Check out their Grains for Your Brain site for some more great recipes and nutrition information about a variety of whole grains. They also have an “ask an expert” section where doctors and dietitians answer common questions about whole grains, which I love, especially since there is so much misinformation out there nowadays about nutrition. Great resource.

Comments

  1. 1

    My family is coming up tomorrow and I needed a recipe! I love your Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, bread pudding is my mom’s favorite dessert so she will be shocked that I have made this for her! :) I love all these healthy cookie/desserts!

  2. 3

    What is the difference between whole wheat pastry flour and white whole wheat flour, in terms of nutrition and baking results?

    • 4

      Great question! They’re both made from whole wheat, but WWPF is produced from a “soft” variety whereas WW-WF is made from a “hard” variety. WWPF also is milled to a more fine exture than WW-WF, which is a little more coarsely ground, so WWPF makes for a softer/lighter baked good. WWPF is also a little lower in protein and gluten – again, this makes for a softer baked good. I tend to always use WWPF just because I have it on hand, but you could use the two pretty interchangeably.

  3. 5

    I did not know the difference between WWPF and WWWF so thanks! Do they bleach the WWWF to make it white? It can’t just be bleached regular whole wheat flour though because it is ground finer than regular whole wheat flour. Ugh- too many flours! I’m getting confused.

    Did you know WWPF spikes your blood sugar just as much as regular refined all-purpose white flour? And regular course whole wheat flour does almost as much as well. I’m not anti-grain at all but I was surprised when I read that.

    Anyway, the actual reason I was commenting was that in one of your cookie recipes up top you said they use “olive oil instead of canola for healthy fat”. I was under the impression that olive oil and canola oil were pretty much identical in terms of their fatty acid profiles? I didn’t look it up so I could be remembering wrong but I’m pretty sure that’s the case? Or am I remembering wrong?

    • 6

      I did know that about WWPF – very interesting, huh? I always like pairing any sort of carb with some fat/protein to mitigate the blood sugar surge a bit. As far as I know, white whole wheat flour is not bleached – it’s just milled from white wheat, giving it a lighter color and flavor.

      And you are totally right about olive oil and canola oil! They have very similar nutrition profiles and either would work fine in that recipe. That was a typo — supposed to say “olive oil instead of some of the butter”! Thank you for catching that – fixing it now!

  4. 7

    I actually looked it up after I commented and it looks like if you get technical canola oil does have less saturated fat than olive oil, more omega-3 fatty acids, and more omega-6 fatty acids. I guess it depends what you are shooting for (most of us want to increase omega-3′s but limit saturated fat and omega-6 fats)- honestly I find the nutritional differences to be pretty negligible in the grand scheme of things and typically bake with canola just because it is more neutral tasting. I’ve definitely had some baked goods with olive oil though that were great!

    • 8

      Yeah, exactly, similar enough to be negligible. I usually end up baking with olive oil more than canola just because it’s what we always have on hand for cooking – I always forget to pick up canola oil at the store. My favorite olive oil baked good is probably the last recipe in this post – the Citrus Zest Cake. It’s made with blood orange olive oil. SO good!

  5. 9

    You had me at Oatmeal Banana Coconut Cookies!

  6. 10

    Oh my word, I MUST try those chocolate chip cookies! I have to bring something to a family party this weekend, the search is over!

  7. 11

    All of these look amazing!!! Cookies are my weakness.

  8. 12

    Great recipes, Anne! I want to try them all. These are my favorite, go-to healthy cookies: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/nikkis-healthy-cookies-recipe.html Especially when I have bananas that are about to go spoil! They’re egg-free, flour-free, and have very little sugar. The only downside is (maybe since they are low in sugar and oil?), they don’t stay fresh very long. But they taste so good, my roomie and I eat them up pretty quickly! I also make them before road trips, and they don’t last long in a car full of hungry, chatty friends. :)

  9. 13

    The ones I posted today are pretty awesome! Sweet potato oatmeal cookies with chocolate chunks and pecans! They’re gluten free and vegan too! Have you tried the biscotti with any gluten free flours before?

  10. 16
    Roadrunner says:

    They look good, and some even look to be healthy and good! :-) Well done!

  11. 17

    Haha, I might…

  12. 18

    Love the look of all these recipes. In particular the cookies ;)

  13. 19

    Has anyone ever tried Gingerbread People w whole wheat pastry flour? I’m going to be making a HUGE batch this weekend.

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