THE BLOG
09/08/2014 12:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017
PRESENTED BY ZIPLOC® BRAND

6 Easy Baking Hacks For Healthier Cookies

Why do we make ourselves crazy trying to get kids to eat their peas, carrots and now...kale? Heck, do we even like kale? Instead of fighting a battle we can't win, it's time we rethink something our little ones already enjoy--the cookie.

Because kids love anything called a "cookie," here are 6 easy tricks for delicious and nutritious baking.

1. Add Chia seeds.

Sprinkles out...chia seeds in. Chia seeds are tiny but pack a powerful punch of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber. They also don't have much of a taste and just a couple teaspoons bulk up nutrition, meaning that to little ones or picky eaters they'll be barely noticeable. Pack a few of these cookies into a Ziploc® Sandwich Bag and send along in a school lunch for a sweet fix.

Try: Peanut Butter Cookies with Chia Seeds

snickerdoodles

Heart-healthy peanut butter, which is brimming with monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, is the base of these cookies. Honey is subbed for refined sugar and in a smaller amount than traditional peanut butter cookies. Because there is no flour in these cookies, they are more prone to burning on the bottom, so make sure to cook on a Silpat or parchment sheet-lined baking sheet in the top rack of the oven. You can use a wet fork to make a criss-cross pattern.

Makes about 20 cookies

1 cup natural peanut butter
½ cup honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, add all the ingredients, mixing together with a spatula until combined. Using a tablespoon, add the batter onto the prepared baking sheets spaced 1 inch apart. Place on top rack of the oven and cook until golden around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and let cookies sit on the baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer to a plate. Store cookies in a large Ziploc® container or Ziploc® Gallon Bag for up to 5 days.

2. Use whole-wheat flour instead of white.

Most cookies are made with nutritionally devoid all-purpose flour, but they don't have to be. Flour that is 100% whole-wheat can be subbed into most cookie recipes, upping the fiber and vitamins with just that one fix. Cookies will be slightly denser and puffier but worth the exchange.

Try: Whole-Wheat Snickerdoodles

snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles get a nutritional upgrade in this recipe adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie. Whole-wheat flour fully substitutes for white flour and coconut oil replaces butter.

Makes about 1 dozen cookies (depending on size of cookie dough balls)

¼ cup coconut oil
1 ½ tablespoons skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ cup granulated sugar, plus another 3 tablespoons granulated sugar for sugar-coating
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. In a large bowl, add oil, milk, and extract. In a medium bowl, add flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using wet hands, roll cookie dough into balls. In a shallow dish, combine remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Roll the balls into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on prepared baking sheets, spaced 1-inch apart. Cook about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets about halfway through cooking time. Let cookies sit on the baking sheet until cool. Store cookies in a large Ziploc® container or Ziploc® Gallon Bag for up to 5 days.

3. Ditch the sugar.

Refined sugar is near the top of the list of nutritional no-nos. Yet so many fruits are bursting with a natural sweetness making it possible for crave-worthy cookies with zero added sugar. Better yet, these can be made from items already around your kitchen, like mashed or pureed fruit--whether from those ultra-ripe bananas on the counter or the last bit of applesauce hogging space in the fridge. Place into Ziploc® Snack Bags to send kids with an on-the-go cookie breakfast.

Try: Cinnamon-Apple Oatmeal Cookies

oat cookies

These cookies are ripe for experimentation--try substituting canned pumpkin puree for the apple sauce and pumpkin spice for the cinnamon. Or try mashed ripe bananas and nutmeg.

Makes about 10 cookies

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup rolled oats
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare one baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper and then coating with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, add all the ingredients, mixing together with a spatula until combined. Add 1 heaping tablespoon portions of batter onto prepared baking sheet (these don't spread out, so it's okay to put them close together.) Place on top rack of the oven and bake until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cookies sit on the baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer to a plate. Store cookies in a large Ziploc® container or Ziploc® Gallon Bag for up to 5 days.

4. Use leftover quinoa from dinner...for dessert.

There's a reason that quinoa has skyrocketed as the super food of the moment: the whole grain is packed with protein and amino acids. A savvy cook can make extra for dinner and set it aside for dessert (it freezes well in Ziploc® Sandwich Bags for any impromptu baking impulses). Stirred into cookie batter, quinoa adds a nutty flavor and a whole lot of health.

Try: Chocolate Chip-Quinoa Cookies

healthy cookies

Quinoa boosts the nutritional value of these chocolate chip cookies, which also incorporate whole-wheat flour. So, rest assured, chocolate chip cookies for breakfast are an option you don't have to feel bad about.

Makes 22 to 24 cookies

5 tablespoons butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup cooked quinoa
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup to ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. In a large bowl, add butter, sugars, vanilla extract, and eggs. Use a spatula to combine, then stir in quinoa. Add dry ingredients into the bowl: both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, mixing until incorporated with the rest of the batter. Using a tablespoon, add cookie batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart. Cook until the cookies are brown on the edges and crisped, about 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes; transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Store cookies in a large Ziploc® container or Ziploc® Gallon Bag for up to 5 days.

5. Behold, the low-calorie meringue!

Light, airy meringues look sizeable, but all the air inside conceals the secret that they're low in calories. Meringues also provide that necessary cookie crunch while clocking in around 12 measly calories. A smear of jam between two converts them into fun cookies with a fraction of the calories of typical sandwich cookies.

Try: Meringue Sandwich Cookies

meringue

These low-calorie meringues can be enjoyed on their own or sandwiched together with a layer of sugar-free strawberry jam.

Makes about 30 sandwich cookies or 60 meringues

4 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or a flavored extract of your choice)
½ cup no-sugar strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Into the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer, add egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. On a medium-high speed, beat mixture until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar as mixture continues beating into stiff peaks, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add extract and beat until just combined. Using a spatula, transfer egg white mixture into a Ziploc® Gallon Bag. Using scissors, cut off one small corner of the bag and squeeze bag to remove air from it. Pipe similar shaped cookies onto the prepared baking sheet (these don't spread out, so it's okay to put them close together). Bake cookies for 1 ½ hours. Turn oven off, leaving meringues in the oven for another 1 ½ hours or until dry. Store cookies in a large Ziploc® container or Ziploc® Gallon Bag for up to 3 days. To make into sandwich cookies, spread jam on the flat bottom of one cookie and top with the flat bottom of another cookie.

6. Load up on oats.

Think beyond the oatmeal-raisin cookie when it comes to harnessing the protein and cholesterol-reducing powers of oats. A sizeable amount of this heart-healthy whole grain serves as the glue to hold together many nutritious cookies like no-bake and wheat-free ones.

Try: No-Bake Cocoa Cookies

no bake cookies

Crave cookies, but don't want to turn on your oven during a hot summer day? No problem. In this recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod, cocoa powder, coconut and oats merge together to create a no-bake cookie you'll be happy to have your kids munching on.

Makes about 15 cookies

½ cup honey
¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ cup low-fat milk
¼ cup canola oil or coconut oil
¼ cup peanut butter or almond butter
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or wax paper. In a medium pot, add honey and cocoa powder. Warm over medium heat and stir until combined, adding milk and oil. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture is thoroughly combined and simmering for about 1 minute. Remove from heat, stirring in all the remaining ingredients. Using a tablespoon, drop cookies onto prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the refrigerator to set up for about 20 to 30 minutes. Store cookies in a large Ziploc® container or Ziploc® Gallon Bag for up to 5 days.

CONVERSATIONS