The holidays are a tempting time to give up on healthful eating, but holiday cookies don't have to be the enemy.
When baking holiday cookies, you can boost their nutritional profile. Most cookies not only are high in fats, they also are high in saturated fats (usually from the butter and shortening). By replacing some of these solid fats with canola oil or nut oils, such as almond and walnut, you can reduce saturated fat and increase monounsaturated fats.
Another technique is to cut some or all of the yolks out of recipes that call for eggs. Most recipes can stand having half the egg yolks removed. Replace every two yolks with one white.
To add fiber and nutrients, consider replacing some or all of the white flour with whole-grain flour. In most cases, up to half of the all-purpose flour can be replaced without significant changes to flavor and texture.
Cookies also can be made more wholesome by adding nuts, dried fruits, lecithin, flax seeds or other whole foods.
This recipe for intensely chocolatey low-fat Lava Rock cookies from EatingWell magazine uses only egg whites and no added oil. The pecans in the cookies are toasted, giving them an extra-rich and nutty flavor. Toast pecans in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 to 4 minutes.
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Generous pinch of salt
3 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 ounces pecans (about 2 cups), well chopped and toasted
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
4 teaspoons cocoa nibs
Heat the oven to 325 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, flour and salt. Using an electric mixer set to low speed, beat in the egg whites, one at a time.
Add the vanilla paste (or extract) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Fold in the pecans, chocolate and cocoa nibs until evenly incorporated.
Spoon the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies in the center of the oven, until dry and glossy on the surface but soft at the centers when pressed, 15 to 17 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.