Healthy Holiday Cookie Roundup

Holiday Cookies

Office party cookie exchange? Kids’ gingerbread decorating party? In-laws holiday dinner? Chances are you’re going to be making a batch of cookies at least once this season. Instead of dusting off The Joy of Baking Cookbook for a dated chocolate chip cookie recipe, why don’t you try one of these festive and healthy recipes?

We’ve pulled from our favorite bloggers and recipe creators for our top 15 healthy holiday cookie roundup.

Short on time? Here’s 5 easy, no bake options: 

  1. No Bake Pecan Snowballs (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): With only 7 whole food ingredients and 2 steps, these festive cookies make the top of our list.
  2. Dark Chocolate Truffles (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Roll these superfood packed bites into matcha powder and pulverised dehydrated raspberries for red and green truffles that no one will know are healthy.
  3. Gingerbread Bites (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Easy almond gingerbread bites were our holiday cookie feature last year. Check ’em out.
  4. Chocolate Bark (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Homemade chocolate made with just a few simple ingredients and topped with any toppings you like would make a great dinner party dessert or host gift.
  5. Raw Double Chocolate Macaroons (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Shredded coconut sweetened with dates and dipped in homemade chocolate. Need we say more? (You could easily, skip the chocolate coating to save time and ingredients).

Looking for a healthy takes on holiday classics? Here you go:

  1.  Gingerbread Cookies (Vegan, Paleo): Using almond flour and maple syrup, these are a healthier alternative to the holiday classic (especially with this coconut sugar frosting).
  2. Sugar Cookies with Naturally Colored Frosting (Vegan): Subbing coconut oil for butter and dehydrated raspberries to make red frosting, make this recipe is a winner.
  3. Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies (Vegan, Paleo): Take the extra step to sub the filling with this 5 minute chia jam and you’ll wow all your friends.
  4. Magic Bars (Vegan, Paleo): A cookie exchange favorite with squeaky clean ingredients…these are a must.
  5. Peppermint Fudge (Vegan, Paleo): 4 ingredient peppermint fudge made with coconut butter. Check out the recipes link to easy DIY coconut butter.

Feel like trying something new? Check out these creative recipes:

  1. Eggnog Dark Chocolate Chunk Almond Meal Cookies (Vegan, Gluten Free): This recipe has us drooling by adding eggnog to the batter. And with only 1/4 cup sugar for the entire recipe, we can’t wait to try.
  2. Secret Ingredient Blondies (Vegan, Gluten Free): These are so good, we promise you’ll never notice the healthy secret ingredient.
  3. Peppermint Brownies (Vegan, Gluten Free): We couldn’t resist throwing in these peppermint black bean brownies too!
  4. Pistachio Crusted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies (Vegan, Gluten Free): One of the prettiest and healthy recipes we could find!
  5. Cranberry Chocolate Chia Cookies (Vegan, Paleo): With an ingredient list that you could eat for breakfast, these holiday cookies are a great healthy alternative.

Understanding Your Cravings

Whether it’s salty, chocolate, sweets, meat or carbs, you’ve probably experienced the feeling of craving a specific food.

Sometimes cravings are  social. For example, when it’s #nationaldonutday and after the 10th image of a donut on Facebook, you’ve GOT to have one. Other times, a craving is a red flag. We crave what our body needs.

Here’s a guide to what these cravings might be telling you and how to satisfy them (without binging on peanut butter pretzels):

 

Craving: Salty

What it might mean: Low sodium. This can happen to athletes and active people who sweat a lot. Salt also helps the body retain water, so it’s common to crave salt when we’re dehydrated.

Satisfy with: Start with drinking lot’s of water and electrolyte rich liquids like coconut water. If that doesn’t do the trick, try adding more sea salt or Himalayan salt to your food for a couple days. Instead of salty popcorn or chips, try celery (which has a natural salty flavor) with peanut butter and sea salt.

 

Craving: Chocolate

What it might mean: Low magnesium. Cacao the main ingredient in chocolate is rich in magnesium.

Satisfy with: Chocolate! Try organic dark chocolate with 50-70% cocoa. Add unsweetened cocoa powder to a smoothie or make chocolate chia pudding.

 

Craving: Carbs (pasta, bagels, bread)

What it might mean: You’re hungry. Carbs are the human body’s preferred form of fuel. So when we get hungry, we crave the quickest form of energy for our bodies to use: carbs. Craving carbs could also mean you’re stressed or sad. Carbs are the ultimate comfort food (hello mac n’ cheese) so if you’re constantly cravings carbs even when you’re fed, take a look at your emotional state.

Satisfy with: If you’re craving carbs because you’re hungry or just haven’t eaten enough carbs, (aim for about 2 cups of whole food carbs per day) try a baked sweet potato. Other carbohydrate rich whole foods are whole grains like brown rice or quinoa. If you’re craving carbs because your stressed, sad or tired ,try a non-food approach like going for a walk, calling a friend or heading out to your BCSF class to sweat it out.

 

Craving: Red meat

What it might mean: If you’ve been dreaming of a juicy steak or burger, you might be low in iron and/or B12.

Satisfy with: Instead of a greasy diner burger or steak, buy some organic and grass-fed beef or bison at the store and cook at home. If you’re vegan or vegetarian start a B12 supplement and multivitamin with iron.

 

Craving: Sweets (cookies, candy, sugar)

What it means: See carbs.
Satisfy with: Fresh fruit (apples with cinnamon and peanut butter, tangerines, banana or berries). Click here to see what our BCSF trainers reach for for their sweet tooth (like trainer Valeries’ idea for Trader Joe’s “just dried mango”).

 

How do you satisfy your cravings? Are you a salty/savory person or a sweet/chocolate person? Tell us in the comments below, we’d love to hear.

What Your Trainer Eats: Favorite Weeknight Dinners

We know that at the end of the day, dinner is the easiest meal to reach for quick and easy fixes….ahem we’re looking at you frozen pizza.

Like you, our trainers have busy schedules with early mornings and late nights. So when it comes to getting no-fuss, healthy meals into their bodies – these guys are pro’s.

We asked our trainers to share their go-to meals for busy weeknights, favorite healthy restaurants and what they reach for when they have a sweet tooth.

(For more trainer inspiration, check out your trainers favorite healthy breakfasts)

Tracy
Favorite weeknight dinner: Lemony Pan Fried chickpeas and chard with a sunny side egg on top of it. I cut up some avocado on the side and steam some broccoli to go with it too. It’s fast, healthy, easy and delicious.
Favorite spot for a healthy bite out: Nopalito since you can get a meal that is somewhat healthy. I love the Chicken Consomme with vegetables, and fresh avocado cut up in it.
Favorite after dinner sweet fix: A square of dark chocolate dipped into a spoonful of peanut butter. It’s a homemade reese’s peanut butter cup without any work!

Tyler
Favorite weeknight dinner: Black bean burgers on a whole wheat bun and avocado…super yummy and healthy. Or a salad with power greens, feta, walnuts, cranberries and avocado with a lemon dressing.
Favorite spot for a healthy bite out: Pacific catch. They have great fish and shrimp tacos, healthy salad bowls and lots of fresh seafood.
Favorite after dinner sweet fix: Homemade chocolate chip cookies or strawberry shortcake!

Lee
Favorite weeknight dinner: As a vegan, my go-to meal is baked tofu with a big side salad with teriyaki dressing.
Favorite spot for a healthy bite out: Eatsa. They make the best quinoa bowls and are fast and cheap. My favorite is the burrito bowl.
Favorite after dinner sweet fix: Cliff bars! They’re sweet and sustaining.

Katy
Favorite weeknight dinner: Anything I can make in advance and reheat is a winner for me when it comes to busy days or weeks. My favorite make ahead recipe is Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja.  It’s 15 minutes of hands-on work and you let it cook while you’re out all day working, training with BCSF, running errands, or spending time with loved ones.
Favorite spot for a healthy bite out: I love all things seafood!  Pacific Catch is a regular staple for when fellow trainer Tyler and I grab dinner to catch up with each other!  I like the salmon sandwich (no aioli) either with salad or sweet potato fries.
Favorite after dinner sweet fix: Frozen yogurt topped with strawberries and/or dark chocolate nibs. For something a little lighter, I like fresh berries with Light Cool Whip on top.

Rebecca
Favorite weeknight dinner: Throwing together a salad with whatever is in the fridge (usually feta, baby arugula, kale and spinach, avocado and tomatoes from the garden) and grilling up some chicken to slice up and put on top.  It’s quick, generally doesn’t involve a trip to the store and fairly balanced.
Favorite spot for a healthy bite out: I love big salads filled with lots of goodies so Blue Barn is my favorite go-to healthy lunch or dinner.  I normally get the beets and green (no dressing) which is filled with beets, seasonal berries (antioxidants rich), goat cheese, nuts (protein, yay!) and caramelized onions.  It’s delicious, filling and clean.
Favorite after dinner sweet fix: I love sweets so I’d have to say either a homemade chocolate oatmeal chip cookie or fro-yo from Loving Cup

Valerie
Favorite weeknight dinner:  Grilled salmon and asparagus. Or homemade Mac and “Cheese” made with cauliflower and carrots for the “cheese sauce” – the kids love it.
Favorite spot for a healthy bite out: Judahlicious on Judah. They have the best smoothies and acai bowls.
Favorite after dinner sweet fix: Trader Joe’s “just dried mango” or (if I am feeling really naughty) a slice of my husband’s famous banana bread.

Molly
Favorite weeknight dinner: Anything I can make in a slow cooker. I throw all my ingredients in after my morning classes, and come home to a warm meal after my evening classes. Right now, I am making my Paleo Pumpkin Chili all the time.
Favorite spot for a healthy bite out: Takeout from Burma Super Star.  I love their fermented tea leaf salad.
Favorite after dinner sweet fix: Dark chocolate. I also have tea almost every night which helps with a sweet craving. Licorice, peppermint and herbal chai are my favorite.

Easy Almond Gingerbread Bites

Looking for an easy treat for your holiday potlucks and parties? Feel like making a festive dessert, but know that those christmas cookies leave you feeling overdosed on sugar?

Today’s recipe has got you covered.

If you like the sweet, spicy holiday flavors of gingerbread, you’ll love this recipe.

Gingerbread Bites

These little gingerbread bites contain NO sugar or refined sweeteners, flour or dairy. They’re so healthy you could even have them as a pre or post workout bite.

The best part?

They don’t require any baking or complicated ingredients.

Simple, easy and nutrient dense, these will become your new favorite holiday treat.

Ingredients (makes about 18)
2 Cups raw mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, brazil)
6 Soft medjool dates, roughly chopped
2 Tbs unsulphered blackstrap molasses
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 Inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Ground nutmeg and cloves to taste (a dash or two)
Dash Himalayan or sea salt
Shredded coconut for rolling

Directions
Pulse nuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped (should resemble gravel)
Add all other ingredients, except coconut and process until smooth dough forms
Scooping out into 1 inch balls, roll in shredded coconut
Store in fridge (will last 7-10 days)
Recipes like these are a great healthy swap for flour and sugar filled treats.  Try making them for your office party, holiday dinner or cookie exchange. They’ll such a hit that no one will even notice they’re healthy.

Happy Holidays!

(photo via momowellness.com)

Guide To Sweeteners

brownsugar

Remember when agave syrup was all the rage? Today, you might be hearing more and more about coconut sugar.  But are these alternatives really healthy choices?  It can be confusing, especially when it comes to baking and cooking at home.

So whether you’re baking a dish for a potluck or your favorite holiday recipe, we’ve listed the pro’s and con’s of common sweeteners. From sweeteners to avoid to the more nutritional choices, we’ll show you how to substitute each of these alternatives in your go-to recipes.

Reduce List: Sucrose / high fructose sweeteners
Refined white sugar: Conventional table sugar, or sucrose, is derived from sugarcane or sugar beet and processed through heat, chemical purification, and bleaching. This type of sugar is highly processed, high glycemic and no nutrients.

Brown sugar: White sugar plus molasses. (We know! We were shocked too.)

Organic sugar: The same as table sugar, but derived from non-GMO beets or sugarcane. While avoiding GMO’s is a plus, organic sugar is nutritionally the same as table sugar.

Agave syrup: Despite it’s claims as healthy alternative to sweeteners due to it’s low glycemic index, agave is on our avoid list. It’s a refined and processed syrup made from cactus with a molecular structure similar to high fructose corn syrup (90% fructose). Cheaper brands and quality may even contain high fructose corn syrup.

Better list: Low / no fructose
Coconut (Palm) sugar: Low on the glycemic index, minimally processed and still contains some nutrients. However, still high in fructose (up to 50%). This is the easiest alternative to white sugar as it doesn’t change the recipes.
-Use  1:1 in recipes that call for regular sugar.

Brown rice syrup: Made by breaking down and cooking rice until it becomes syrup leaving complex carbohydrates, maltose and a small amount of glucose. This makes brown rice syrup popular a low/no fructose option. Although it can be hard to find good quality brands.
-Use 1-1 1/4 cups in place of sugar in recipes and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup.

Honey: Therapeutically used for allergies, honey contains many healing minerals and qualities. Quality is the factor that determines if this sweetener is “healthy” or not. Pure, raw and organic darker honeys have great antioxidant content. Good to sweeten beverages and drizzle onto snacks. But when using for baking, can lose most of it’s nutrients. However, honey is still high fructose at 40%.
-Use 1/2 the amount of honey to sugar in recipes, add 1/2 tsp of baking soda per cup of honey and reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees F.

Maple Syrup: Like honey, this sweetener is high fructose (40%) but it can be argued that it contains a good amount of some vitamins and minerals. Grade B and C contain more nutrients than the more processed and cheaper Grade A. Unless it’s labeled “pure” it may be mixed with corn syrup or other sweeteners. Maple syrup is a good sweetener choice for baking and heating.
– Use 1/2 to 2/3 cups maple syrup for each cup of sugar and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup.

Stevia: Derived from the stevia plant, stevia powder has low/no effect on blood sugar and also no calories making it a good option for those watching their glycemic index or caloric intake. However, like honey, quality is what determines the health factor. Look for pure and organic. Stevia has a distinct taste and is hard to use in baked goods since it’s  300x sweeter than sugar. However, it can be a good tool for those transitioning off of sugar and sweets.
– 1 tsp of finely ground stevia is about equal to 1 cup of sugar. However, stevia isn’t recommended to be subbed for sugar in recipes that don’t call for stevia as the sweetener already.

Best Choice List: Sweet Whole Foods
Bananas /Dates / Fruit: There are many recipes for cookies, brownies, and cakes  that use unrefined whole foods as the main sweetener. While bananas and dates are high in fructose they contain the fiber that slows down the glycemic response, unlike the above condensed sweeteners. They also contain enough nutrients to support their metabolism. Berries are the lowest fructose fruit.

Spices: Sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves can help give the illusion of sweet. Try adding cinnamon to coffee or tea instead of sugars.

Coconut: Coconut has a naturally sweet and nutty taste that can help satisfy a sweet tooth. Try using shredded coconut on top of oatmeal or using coconut oil saute banana slices for a caramelized treat.

Save this guide for the next time you’ll be baking your favorite cookie or dessert. Or even better, try bringing a no sugar option like a berry crisp or fruit salad to your next potluck or party.

A Sweet Treat: Healthy Blondies

Healthy and blondies in the same sentence?!

We know, it’s a little crazy.

But before you hit that back button, give us a second. Here at BootCampSF we believe a little indulgence is part of a healthy lifestyle. We also believe that not all sweets and treats can (or should!) be healthified. But this recipe for blondies is so good, you’ll never miss the sugar and flour laden version.

No one will ever guess that chickpeas are the secret ingredient that give these a chewy, fudge-like texture that is higher in fiber and protein than any traditional recipe.

Sweets are eaten after dinner, closer to bedtime. But eating high sugar (a.k.a high glycemic) foods right before we hit the hay can spike our blood sugar, leaving us tossing and turning throughout the night. Swapping high glycemic foods for higher protein and fiber snacks and treats is a great way to maintain blood sugars during the night for a better nights sleep and improved energy the next day.

This recipe is the perfect treat to whip up during your bootcamp sessions when you want something sweet but are trying to keep your diet on track.

Flourless Chickpea Blondies
(recipe via The Ambitious Kitchen)
Makes 16 blondies

1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (no sugar added) almond butter or peanut butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chocolate chips
sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees  and spray 8×8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray (we suggest Trader Joes coconut oil in the spray bottle)
  2. In a food processor, add all ingredients except chocolate chips and process until batter is smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.
  3. Pour batter in pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown.
  4. Cool pan for 20 minutes on wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt then cut and serve.

 

Cookie Salad

What is this cookie salad I speak of?  Is it exactly what is sounds like?  Mini-chocolate chip cookies, Madeleines, Oreos, with a sprinkling of M&M cookies and Christmas tree cookies for color?  Whip cream or vanilla bean (always bean, never the French variety) ice cream as your dressing?  Fat free frozen yogurt if you are into that?  Unfortunately not.

My version of the cookie salad looks like a regular salad as seen in the pictures shown.  It’s all green and healthy looking with some croutons, little baby tomatoes (as opposed to “big” baby tomatoes
 yes, I just mocked myself), and a sprinkling of parmesan.  I know(sigh)
 it sounds disgusting to me as well.

So why eat it?  For two reasons.  One, salads are healthy and if you pile on enough greens you will eat slower and hopefully it will keep you full (if not, i recommend drinking a glass of water before, during and after
 check with your physician and BootCampSF instructor to make sure that my water recommendation is not crazy talk).  And two, and more important to one in my opinion, is that the end of a cookie salad is a 
. COOKIE!!

In the case of the cookie salad in the picture, double chocolate chip and a sizable one at that.  My personal reasoning is that no matter what happens I am going to have that cookie.  I may be on a diet, but I need something to make me happy.  I’ve cut out less than satisfying work hot chocolate and other sugary treats (i.e. no more sugary iced coffee drinks which are just fancy milkshakes).  I’m eating a ton of veggies.  I deserve at least a little happiness.  Hence the cookie salad.  Whereas before I’d eat one to three cookies in less than 2 minutes, now I eat a cookie salad over the period of ten to fifteen minutes.  I still eat that cookie in like 30 seconds, but now I’m eating a salad a day!

One tip, if you do start having cookie salads, no dressing.  Soggy vinagretted or ranched cookies aren’t so tasty.  One more tip, just a sprinkle of parmesan otherwise you have a cheesy cookie(parmesan is what those white sprinkles on what is otherwise a pristine looking cookie).

Have a good workout!

Any questions or comments, please post on the Facebook page or email foxbehungry@gmail.com.