The Secret to Baking Better-for-You Cookies

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Sinking your teeth into a cookie is one of life’s decadent pleasures. And with October designated as National Cookie Month – and the holidays right around the corner – the temptation to indulge your sweet tooth can be too much to resist.

You probably figure that eating a cookie is a surefire way to ruin your diet. After all, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

How to Make Healthy Cookies Represented by Rows of Various Homemade Cookies on Parchment Paper and Towel with Serving Utensil |

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Kaleigh McMordie, a Lubbock, Texas-based registered dietitian nutritionist who blogs at the Lively Table.

Making your own cookies can allow you to skip the preservatives and trans-fat often found in shelf-stable packaged cookies.

“Homemade or closer to homemade are usually going to be better for you,” McMordie says.

Baking your own cookies allows you to control both the cookies’ ingredients and their size. “I find them much more satisfying, too,” she says. 

Baking healthy cookies

Cookies that satisfy your cravings without endangering your health — or waistline — begin with the right ingredients.

When baking cookies at home, McMordie uses white whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour.

Hard white spring or winter wheat are used to make white whole wheat flour. This type of flour has the same nutritional value as whole-wheat flour, but has a milder flavor and paler color.

“This adds more fiber and nutrients, and also gives cookies a lovely nutty flavor while keeping the texture relatively unchanged,” McMordie says.

To further spike the nutritional content of your cookies, add ingredients such as oats and nuts, she says.

McMordie also tries to make the size of her individual cookies a bit smaller than what you might find in a store or bakery.

“You can still eat a satisfying cookie that’s a bit smaller rather than one that is the size of your face,” she says.

High-quality ingredients also can make cookies less harmful to your health, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  It recommends using:

Such ingredients add flavor, allowing you to cut back on sugar. In fact, as a general rule, the academy says you can reduce sugar in a given recipe by about 25% without “noticeable differences.”

The academy also suggests incorporating fruits or vegetables — such as shredded or pureed apple, carrot, banana and pumpkin – into recipes to boost nutrients, flavor and moisture.

Using high-quality ingredients makes for cookies that are more likely to satisfy cravings when eating smaller portions, the academy says.

Indulging yourself

If you don’t like to bake – or simply can’t help reaching for a sinfully rich cookie from time to time – McMordie says it is OK to occasionally succumb to temptation.

“There is nothing wrong with enjoying a cookie or two every now and then as part of a balanced diet,” she says.

If you are going to eat these foods, the National Institutes of Health suggest you choose reduced-fat or low-fat versions of:

McMordie  says eating the occasional store-bought or bakery cookie is actually better than taking a white-knuckle avoidance approach, which is likely to backfire.

Forbidding sweet treats like cookies from your diet makes your mind focus on them even more, McMordie says.

“The best way to avoid going overboard on cookies is to allow yourself to have one when you’re craving it,” she says.

So, indulge in the occasional cookie. When doing so, McMordie urges you to slow down to allow yourself to fully savor the experience.

“If you start to eat a cookie that just isn’t satisfying, you have full permission to not finish it,” she says. “It’s all about being mindful with your choices.”