A Healthier Cookie?

By Diane Ruyack

What is crispy or chewy and goes with milk as a delicious snack or dessert?  Cookies! How do we make them healthier?  Here are some suggestions and ideas to help.

One idea to increase the soluble fiber in cookies is to use half butter and half puree fruit such as applesauce, apple butter, prunes, apricots or pears. Soluble fiber can reduce cholesterol levels.

To make your own fruit puree, cut one cup of dried fruit, add to one cup of water and cook over medium-low heat until the fruit is soft. Then puree the fruit in a food processor until smooth. Baby food fruit works well too as well as canned fruits.

Low-fat plain yogurt holds moisture and can be a suitable fat substitute, as can grated vegetables such as carrots, beets or zucchini. Remember to keep at least 25 to 50 percent of the fat such as butter for flavor, volume and texture.

You can cut the sugar in most traditional recipes by one-third without a noticeable effect and using the puree fruit adds sweetness.

To reduce fat, two egg whites can be used for every one egg. It is recommended to  use at least one whole egg so the dough binds better and the cookies hold their form.

You can replace half the white flour with whole wheat flour which will result in a little heavier cookie. Also, try replacing a quarter of the total flour with ground flaxseed. Doing this will boost fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 levels. Healthy oats can also replace a fourth of the flour, but be sure to use the quick-cooking or old-fashioned versions. Instant oats tend to make the batter sticky. Keep in mind, tweaking a cookie recipe can be hit-or-miss at first, just keep trying.

Consider cutting the amount of chocolate chips, and opt for lower-sugar dark chocolate. Dark chocolate chips have more flavonoids, which can reduce blood pressure levels.  Adding  a tablespoon or two of lower-fat cocoa powder with chocolate chips, and you’ll end up with richly flavored chocolate/chocolate chip cookies.

Skip the salt. Cookies don’t require it.

Walnuts, macadamia nuts and pecans work great in all sorts of cookies and impart good-for-you fat along with a host of vitamins and minerals. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg add calorie-free gusto. Mix in dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, raisins, etc  and you end up with a cookie that is more antioxidant-rich as well more flavor and texture.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
1 ¼ cup canned pumpkin
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a bowl, combine pumpkin, egg and egg whites. In a separate large bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, oats and raisins. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and mix. Drop cookies by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, two inches apart and flatten gently. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Nutrition per cookie: 139 calories, 0.5 grams fat (0 grams saturated), 29 grams carbohydrates, 4.5 grams protein, 2.5 grams fiber

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