Weighing In: Making Christmas Cookies Healthy

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December means Christmas, and Christmas means cookies. While we could never say a bad word about cookies, it’s easier than you may think to mindlessly eat an entire day’s work of calories just in Christmas cookies. This doesn’t mean you need to give up sprinkled snowman cutouts altogether, though. There are simple substitutions you can make while baking to eliminate some of the fat and calories in your cookies.

You can easily cut calories in a cinch by reducing the fat and oil content when baking cookies. Kathleen Keller, Assistant Professor in the Penn State Department of Nutritional Sciences, says that you can reduce the butter or fat in cookies by as much as 50 percent in some cases. You can also substitute things such as applesauce and greek yogurt in place of butter or oil. Keller recommends using egg whites in place of oil to reduce fat but still preserve the texture of the cookies. By swapping out the fat in your cookies for low-fat alternatives, your cookies will still be delicious, but with a lot less calories.

If you’re looking to cut overall calories when baking as opposed to just cutting fat, try using a sugar substitute such as Splenda or Equal. Most sugar substitutes have directions on the box for how much you need to use to replace each cup of sugar. Since most sugar substitutes have zero calories, using them in place of sugar will eliminate a large amount of calories from your cookies.

If you don’t want to reduce the butter or sugar in your cookies, try picking a recipe that is rich in healthier ingredients, such as fruit or nuts. Keller says she prefers this as opposed to swapping ingredients. “However, it’s important to avoid too large of portions of these items because they do pack a lot of calories,” Keller says.

Reducing the fat and calories of Christmas cookies when you’re baking is great, but don’t be afraid to eat the full-fat varieties that your friends and family make. “When I bake, I go for the full-fat recipes and just eat smaller portions,” Keller says. The holidays are about enjoying your time with loved ones; don’t let a few extra calories hold you back!

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