Healthy(ish) Holiday Baking

by | Dec 7, 2021

We hold an annual family Christmas Cookie Day every year. It is one of my favorite traditions. We all come together to bake a recipe or two each, & by the end of the day, we are up to our necks in cookies. This year, my daughters, who are almost 3, are going to be able to really help stir, cut, & taste-test… so I cannot wait!

With that being said, I love a good cookie filled with all the sugar & butter, but I also enjoy trying recipes that swap in extra nutrients while replacing some of the added sugars & fats. Do you have to only eat “healthy” cookies? Absolutely not, but you may find that you enjoy some of the “healthy” cookies & are able to get in some extra fruits, veggies, whole grains, or healthy fats while doing so. One of my favorite cookies to make around this time are Dark Chocolate Avocado Cookies (check out the recipe HERE) – which add in some avocado, applesauce & whole-wheat flour… in addition to delicious dark chocolate.

Looking for some ways to switch up your holiday baking this year? Here’s some ideas on how to incorporate nutrient-rich ingredients into the treats you already love.


Try adding applesauce, shredded carrot, mashed banana, or pureed pumpkin to boost moisture, flavor, & nutrients. These are great additions to breads & cookies especially when holiday baking.


Switch the all-purpose flour with whole-grain flour for added fiber, vitamins, & minerals. In most recipes, you can replace cup for cup… or try using ½ whole-grain & ½ all-purpose for a blend. Want to experiment with chickpea or almond flour? There are lots of recipes that specifically use these products, but they can easily be incorporated into crusts & doughs for a punch or flavor… not to mention protein & fiber as well!


Opt for lower fat options of milk, buttermilk, & yogurt in baking recipes. You still get the protein & calcium, but less of the saturated fat, which can raise bad cholesterol & increase the risk for heart disease. Greek yogurt has a great profile of protein & nutrients… & can be incorporated into recipes, dips, & frostings as well.


Trade out some butter for heart-healthy oil like olive oil. Don’t replace it all, but do a partial swap to maintain good texture. Other butter substitutes include ½ cup of unsweetened applesauce for every 1 cup of butter, 1:1 replacement of butter with mashed avocado, & ¾ cup pureed pumpkin for every 1 cup of butter.


You can typically reduce total sugar by 25% without even noticing a difference in the recipe, so start there! If you want to use a sugar substitute, try Stevia & Truvia… & make sure to read the label for their recommended swapping ratios. If you’re making breads, muffins or brownies, applesauce or mashed bananas are a great swap for sugar. You may want to reduce some of the liquid in the recipe (water, milk, oil) if it seems too runny. These swaps are less calories & sugar, but also house more vitamins, minerals, & fiber. Dates can also be incorporated into baked goods for natural sweetness as well & can replace some of the added sugar too.


Do you have any favorite holiday bread, muffin, or cookie recipes? Any other holiday baking traditions you look forward to?  I would love to hear!  And make sure to head over to our FB Group – Nicole’s Nutrition Community for lots of free tools, trainings, education, recipes & support through this holiday season.

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