Healthier Holiday Cookies

By: Patti Cook, Culinary Arts Student

People often ask me how they can eat healthier. My response is always the same: make it in your own kitchen. And, honestly, hanging out in a warm kitchen making cookies sounds a whole lot better to me than dealing with lines at the shopping mall and eating fake fried chicken patties.

For me, the holidays are all about the cookies. I make cookies for everyone I know. I become a cookie machine with a smile. People always ask me for my recipe. When they find out that I’m a health-conscious chef, they want the recipe even more. Their desire to make healthier cookies matches today’s dessert trends to want our dessert, but want it to be healthier too.

My tried-and-true cookie recipe got some revisions this year based on what I’ve learned in the health and wellness unit in online culinary school. It uses healthy cooking principles to create a yummy butter cookie that you can also feel good about eating. First, I reduce saturated fat by using canola oil for some of the butter. This decreases some of the not-so-good saturated fat and increases use of heart-healthy fat. And, I keep buttery flavor. Next, I substitute oats and white whole-wheat flour for some of the white all-purpose flour. The use of whole grains adds nutrients and fiber. Sugar is critical for sweetness, but I use less than most recipes. Cutting down the sugar a little bit is an easy way to reduce calories without negatively impacting the flavor. Last—although most important—I don’t make my cookies the size of a plate. It’s just common sense that reducing portion size is a key to eating healthier.

In addition to being quick and easy, this recipe is infinitely adaptable to your particular likes and whims. Although it is fine served unadorned, it is just as easy and much more fun and delicious to add something special.  My new favorite this Christmas season is mixing in chopped-up chocolate-covered cranberries and then putting one on top after baking for decoration; the chocolate melts slightly, which makes it stick onto the cookie. One variation that is always a big hit during the holidays is to put a few chocolate chips on top of the cookie after is baked; they’ll melt and you can spread them to frost the top of the cookie, then add a piece of candy cane.

From my kitchen seat, eating healthier doesn’t mean you can’t have cookies, it means you find easy ways to decrease the bad stuff like fat and calories and increase the good stuff like healthy ingredients and flavor. And, most important, enjoy every bite.

Healthier Holiday Cookies

Yield: 4 dozen cookies


¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick (not instant) oats


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides. Add oil, egg, egg white, vanilla extract and salt and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides.
  3. On low speed, slowly mix in the flours until just combined. Add oats and mix on low speed until just combined.
  4. Using 1 scant tablespoon dough, roll between your palms into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
  5. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until almost firm to the touch and light golden brown on the bottom, about 10-12 minutes. To assure even baking, it is best to rotate cookie sheet half way through. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough.


Chocolate-Covered-Cranberry Cookies:

  1. Add ½-1 cup chopped chocolate-covered cranberries with the oats in Step 3.
  2. Immediately when the cookies come out of the oven, gently press a whole chocolate-covered cranberry on top. Let the bottom slightly melt and then gently press to adhere to the cookie.

Candy Cane Holiday Cookies:

  1. If desired, mix in ½ cup chocolate chips with the oats in Step 3.
  2. Immediately when the cookies come out of the oven, gently press 4 chocolate chips, pointed side down, on top of the cookie. Put the cookie sheet back in the oven for 30 seconds. Remove and let the chips melt. Use a small knife to spread the chocolate. Gently press a piece of candy cane on top of the chocolate.
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