Healthier Holiday Cookies for Families to Bake Together

Want to indulge with less guilt? Try these kid-friendly recipes for gingerbread, lemon-sugar, chocolate crinkles or chocolate almond cookies.

The season is upon us – for shortbread, fruitcake and heaps of holiday cookies. Before sugar crashes dance through your head, though, take heart (and take care of yours!) with these healthier spins holiday cookie classics. The recipes hail from Health Alliance Plan. Each is designed to get children in on the baking, too – and they’re all lighter on the calorie and fat counts, whether you give them or gobble them up yourself.

Note: If your family has nut/nut product allergies, read packaging, labels, warnings and directions for all ingredients.

Gingerbread Men

Savor them plain (they’re just 100 calories and 4 grams of fat each) or deck ’em with a bit of frosting flair. A batch will yield you about 32 cookies.


  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) trans fat-free margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses


  1. In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, using a hand mixer, cream margarine and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in egg and molasses until combined. Gradually add flour mixture.
  3. Divide dough into thirds and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about two hours or until firm.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Dust rolling pin lightly with flour; roll out each piece of dough on wax paper until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Dip cookie cutter in flour and use to cut out gingerbread person (or other desired shapes).
  6. Transfer cookies onto baking sheet. Bake for eight to 10 minutes until golden brown. With a metal spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Lemon Sugar Cookies

This vegetarian-friendly option cranks out 48 tasty citrusy cookies – which, at 65 calories a pop, puts each one neck-in-neck with “a single chocolate chip Toll House cookie,” HAP reports.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup low fat lemon yogurt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, yogurt, egg, egg whites, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and stir until well blended. Add dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  4. Drop by teaspoonfuls, two inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly brown. Cool for 1 minute; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Crinkles

Someone on your list love the chewy-fudgy effect? This easy recipe is sure to please. With a snowy powdered-sugar finish, these sweet seasonal goodies are low in calories, too. You’ll wind up with about 48 cookies.


  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar


  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate on high for 20 seconds, stir, and continue to microwave at 10-second intervals until melted.
  2. In a large bowl, mix chocolate, oil, granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir in egg and egg whites. In another bowl, combine flours, salt and baking powder. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and stir until combined. Cover; refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place confectioner’s sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll balls of dough in sugar to coat. Place about two inches apart on cookie sheets.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate Almond Cookies

This batch will turn out chewy, chocolate-y (thanks to both cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate) and, best of all, low fat. Yields 45.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped


  1. Preheat to 350 F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy, about 1 minute.
  4. Gradually beat granulated sugar into egg whites. Scrape down the sides and beat in brown sugar until smooth, about three minutes. Beat in vanilla and melted chocolate.
  5. Stir in the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. Add almonds and stir to combine.
  6. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart.
  7. Bake until flat with slightly cracked tops, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

This post was originally published in 2013 and is updated regularly. 


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