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.

Salted Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Banana Ice Cream

Ice cream lovers, listen up! If you haven’t tried banana “nice cream” yet, get ready because your dessert world is about to be rocked.

By simply freezing bananas in small slices and blending, you get a rich, creamy and sweet mock “ice cream” made from only bananas. One try and you’ll be impressed with how similar the sweetness and texture are to real ice cream.

All you need is ripe bananas that you chop into small pieces and freeze and a powerful blender or food processor.

Try out our recipe for salted banana peanut butter with chocolate sauce or experiment with adding your own flavors. (Like mint, chocolate chips, strawberry or cocoa powder)

If you’re looking for a cold treat to quench your sweet tooth craving this summer, this healthy alternative will be your new favorite.

Salted Banana Peanut Butter with Chocolate Sauce (serves 2)

3 Ripe bananas frozen in very thin slices
2 Tbs. Organic unsalted peanut butter (no additives)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 Tbs. coconut oil
2oz. quality dark chocolate (70% or higher) Or 2 Tbs. Cocoa powder

Instructions
  1. Blend frozen banana slices and peanut butter in a blender or a food processor on lowest setting until creamy, adding salt to taste (if not blending well, wait a couple minutes to let them defrost a little and they will blend better. I like to leave a few chunks too. You could also add a Tbs. of non dairy milk.)
  2. In a double boiler (or carefully with a small pot or in micorwave) slowly melt coconut oil and chocolate
  3. Scoop ice cream into serving bowls and pour chocolate sauce on top
  4. Top with chopped nuts, extra chocolate, shredded coconut or toppings of choice

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.

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.