I was ready to throw in the towel on holiday cookies. I love them as much as anyone, in fact, maybe more. I really love them. But I try to limit them because they trigger my sugar cravings, and I'm allergic to dairy. On top of that, my kids and husband are gluten-intolerant!
But it’s the holiday season and there are traditions around baking goodies this time of year. Fortunately, with some experimentation, I’ve figured out what to swap with alternatives to keep the treats healthier and for us, allergen free.
1. Use alternative sugars.
Refined white sugar is arguably the worst thing you can eat for your health so to make holiday cookies healthier, the first step is to use something else to sweeten the batch. Stevia, agave syrup, raw honey, and maple syrup are all gentler on your system than refined white sugar. All of these natural sweeteners may need slight adjustments in their amounts when swapping out with white sugar. You’re also adding more liquid, so the dry ingredients may need to be adjusted accordingly. Experiment!
2. Use alternative flours.
If you aren’t gluten intolerant like we are, a good healthier flour option to refined white all purpose flour is organic whole wheat pastry flour. You’re at least getting the whole grain and all the fiber and nutrients that come along with it. Plus I’ve found that it swaps out evenly. If you are gluten intolerant however, there is no need to worry. There are great gluten free all purpose flour mixes by Bob’s Red Mill as well as King Arthur Flour, which can be found at most grocery stores. You can also make your own in a big batch (much less expensively) to have on hand. There are many recipes online; I like those at Gluten Free Girl.
3. Use alternative dairy.
This is the easiest substitution to make of them all! Earth Balance makes wonderful and healthy alternative “butter” in a tub and a stick version. The sticks bake up beautifully and the flavor is great. You will not be able to tell the difference! Some holiday treats (like fudge) call for milk and I’ve found that almond milk or coconut milk swap out with cow milk well with little difference in taste or texture. (FYI, many people are allergic to dairy and don’t know it!) Limiting or eliminating it from your diet may provide surprising health benefits!
We all want to eat more healthfully and we also want to participate in holiday traditions like baking family favorites and giving baked goods as gifts. With these simple swaps, you can enjoy your traditions and have the occasional treat without guilt or health problems.