Sugar is a large part of the reason why cookies taste good, but it adds a lot of calories. If you’re cooking with small amounts of sugar (which is unlikely in a cookie recipe), you can use a less voluminous sugar substitute, such as Equal or Sweet’N Low. If you need to use larger amounts, such as a half cup or more, a better substitution option is Splenda. Many grocery stores carry large bags of Splenda in the baking aisle, but be sure to read the substitution directions on the package. Pure Splenda for baking is an equal substitution (meaning one cup of Splenda replaces one cup of sugar in the recipe), while you use half the amount of the sugar-Splenda mix to replace the sugar in the recipe (one half cup of the Splenda mixture replaces one cup of sugar).
Replacing fat in baking, especially in cookies, it tricky. Butter helps the cookies spread out as they bake, and it gives the cookies the crispiness that many people love. The downside of butter, though, is that is packs a lot of fat and calories. Your best bet for replacing fat (such as butter or oil) in baking is to use a fruit puree. Unsweetened applesauce is a great, inexpensive replacement, but you can also use canned pumpkin, prune puree, and mashed bananas. If you are replacing butter or shortening, you should use about half the amount of fruit puree. For example, one cup of butter would be replaced with one half cup of applesauce. If the batter or dough looks too dry, add a little bit more. If you are replacing oil, use 3/4 of the amount of fruit puree (3/4 cup of applesauce would replace 1 cup of oil). It is important to note that using a fruit puree in place of fat tends to make the cookies more cake-like. Using some butter or oil and some fruit puree can reduce the fat and calories without totally sacrificing texture.
Eggs are an important ingredient in cookies, but it is possible to replace them without sacrificing the finished product. Two egg whites in place of a whole egg can cut out fat, calories, and cholesterol. One quarter cup of liquid egg substitutes, like Egg Beaters, can also be used to replace a whole egg. Completely cutting out all yolks, however, can make the cookies turn out rubbery and not as tasty. Using a combination of whole eggs with egg whites or liquid egg substitute will give you a healthier cookie that still looks and tastes good. It is also possible to use 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal mixed with 3 tablespoons of water in place of an egg. Again, it is best to use a combination of whole eggs and flaxseed instead of entirely cutting out eggs. As an added bonus, flaxseed will add healthy omega-3 fat to the cookies.
Other Tricks for Healthier Cookies
Low-fat baking is not an exact science, so experimentation is a necessity. Try altering your favorite recipes, and make notes of what works and what doesn’t. Another way to make healthy holiday cookies is to cut out or cut back on nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, and frosting/icing. There are lots of websites with low-fat recipes that already have the healthier substitutions written in. Some use substitutions not mentioned above, such as using sour cream or fat free yogurt in place of fat. Check out www.cookinglight.com and www.diabetic-recipes.com for some great low-fat (but still tasty!) healthy holiday cookies.
“Egg Substitutions.” Taste of Home. https://www.tasteofhome.com/Healthy/Recipe-Makeovers/Baking-Techniques/Egg-Substitutions-in-Baking
Jenkins, Robin Mather. “The Art of Low-fat Baking.” https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/the-art-of-low-fat-baking-00400000001071
Phillips, Sarah. “How Low-Fat Baking Works.” TLC Cooking. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/low-fat-baking.htm