Tips to Make Cookie Baking Fit with a Healthy Diet

Love to Bake Cookies but Fear the Effect on Your Waistline? Check Out These Tips to Keep Cookie Eating in Control

I have a passion for baking. Give me some butter, sugar, and flour, and I’m bound to turn out a sweet treat — most likely, cookies. Dozens of rich, decadent cookies.

I know, I know . . . cookies?! How can they be part of a healthy diet?!

I obsess over cookie baking during the holidays, so I need to find ways to incorporate them into my healthier diet. And you know what?

We can bake our cookies and eat them, too!

All in moderation, of course. Moderation, as always, is the key to a healthy diet. Moderation can mean many things — for big trigger foods, it can mean only eating them outside of your home (so you are inherently limited in the amount you can consume); for unhealthy but not necessarily crave-able foods such as butter, it might mean finding ways to substitute at least some heart-healthy oil or nonstick spray in your recipes. Of course, it can just mean eating less.

You have to decide for yourself what route you need to take with cookies, but here are my tips for keeping the cookie monster under control:

Spread the wealth. I bake up to a dozen batches of cookies each holiday season, but I would never eat them all myself; otherwise, you’d be rolling me to the Christmas tree. Instead, I utilize my love of baking to create gift boxes of homemade cookies.

It’s a fairly frugal gift (that is, if I find good sales on butter and nuts!), so I can make certain to recognize everyone I care about at the holidays, plus since it’s a homemade gift, everyone knows I put in plenty of time and effort to make it special.

The healthy eating bonus is that I get my bounty of baked goods out of the house so my family isn’t so tempted to binge!

When you don’t have the holidays as an excuse, try baking cookies as a hostess gift or for potluck dinners. Guests will gobble them up.

Use the freezer. Most cookies freeze superbly. Pop a well-wrapped dozen in the freezer, and you’ll have fresh-tasting cookies at the ready throughout the holiday season for unexpected guests. I store my cookies for gift boxes this way, too.

It’s an excellent strategy for batches you plan on eating yourself, too. The freezer keeps the cookies from going stale, so you don’t feel the pressure to eat handfuls at a time so they won’t go bad.y

If you prefer your cookies fresh-baked, freeze the formed dough on a cookie sheet. When it’s solid, transfer it to a freezer bag or plastic tub for long-term storage. To prepare the cookies, bake them straight out of the freezer for a couple minutes more than you normally would. Yum!

Try healthier recipes. I have King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking book, which offers a number of cookie recipes punched up with, as you would expect, whole grains. I’ve made another King Arthur cookie recipe Sparkling Cranberry Gems that offers the option of using white whole-wheat flour and that calls for little fat. If you’re not ready to make the leap into 100 percent whole-grain desserts, consider classic healthier cookies like meringues, oatmeal cookies, and ground nut-based macaroons.

And remember, baking is light exercise. My shoulders feel the burn of lifting sheet pans after hours on my feet as surely as my fingers feel it if I forget the potholder.