If there’s ever a time to pull out your baking sheets, measuring cups, and mixing bowls, the holiday season is it! My healthy cranberry oatmeal cookies are one of my favorite things to bake this time of year. They are chewy, sweet and delicious and always a holiday party favorite. Best of all I don’t feel guilty when my son eats three in one sitting!
A Healthier Holiday Cookie
Anytime you are baking and trying to make something both healthy and tasty there’s a very narrow margin for error. I have a few tricks for making healthy cookie recipes taste good such as using softened pureed dried fruits to replace some of the sugar, using extra-virgin coconut oil in place of butter or unhealthful omega-6 rich vegetable oils, using white whole wheat flour in place of regular whole wheat flour, etc.
But, as for what makes a healthy cookie “healthy”, here’s the deal:
- A truly healthy cookie should be low in refined sugar (sweetness should come primarily from unrefined “whole” fruits such as bananas or softened and pureed dried fruits). If you have to add any sugar then only use an unrefined sugar such as organic coconut palm sugar (I like Navitas Naturals); because it is unrefined it actually still contains nutrients so it is not a total empty calorie. Coconut palm sugar tastes and bakes like brown sugar, so if you can’t find it you can always use a bit of brown sugar. Note: If you can’t find coconut palm sugar at your grocery, you can always get it online (at a discount!) at Vitacost.com
- A truly healthy cookie should not contain any trans fats (no margarine, no vegetable shortening)
- A truly healthy cookie should contain almost zero animal fat. This can be achieved by swapping extra virgin coconut oil for butter—and don’t worry, if you buy a high quality extra virgin coconut oil the tropical flavor intrinsic to coconuts is completely undetectable when mixed with the other ingredients. My favorite brand of high quality coconut oil is Barlean’s Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.
- A truly healthy cookie should be made with 100% whole grains and contain no refined flour. The healthy cranberry oatmeal cookies in the recipe below are made with one of my favorite all-purpose baking flours, Isis biodynamic whole wheat flour (Note: because this flour is free from the toxic herbicide glyphosate it seems to be tolerated by some people who are otherwise gluten-sensitive. You can read more about Isis biodynamic whole wheat flour HERE.) For added health benefits you can also add in old fashioned (not instant) rolled oats.
- A truly healthy cookie should include healthful fats (such as nuts, chia seeds, nut butters, flaxseeds, etc.)
- If you use chocolate be sure to look for a vegan chocolate that does not contain milk or butter fat. Or, better yet, try using raw cacao nibs or raw cacao powder.
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- 3/4 cup biodynamic whole wheat flour (such as Isis) or white whole wheat flour (such as King Authur) (sub 1-for-1 gluten free flour for gluten free)
- 1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup finely chopped raw walnuts
- 1/4 cup white chia seeds
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil, melted (such as Barlean’s)
- 1/4 cup organic coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 whole banana, cut into pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a heavy duty baking sheet with a thin layer of extra virgin coconut oil.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice. Mix in the oats, cranberries, walnuts and chia seeds.
- In a blender on medium speed, blend the melted extra virgin coconut oil, sugar and vanilla extract until the sugar is smooth. Add the banana and blend until the banana is completely pureed. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until well combined.
- Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet, 1 inch apart, to make 24 cookies. Flatten the cookies slightly with the back of a wet spoon.
- Bake the cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, until they are golden brown and almost firm to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then remove the cookies from the baking sheet and continue to let them cool on a rack.
These cookies will keep for about 5 days if kept in a covered container in the fridge. They can also be made ahead and frozen for up to a month.