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Indulge Guilt-free in the Joy of Holiday Treats

Updated: Jan 4


The holiday season wouldn't be complete without a variety of festive sweet treats. And if you are like me, you look forward to these treats. Maybe they remind you of someone you love, or you love the way your home smells, the joy of baking with your family, or the tradition of a cookie exchange. Especially this year, when our traditional holiday gatherings have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to at least allow ourselves the indulgence of our favorite holiday treats. But what if we are trying to be healthy, trying to avoid gaining more weight than we’ve already gained since March? I am here to tell you that there is a way to satisfy your sweet tooth, indulge in the nostalgia and tradition, and not feel guilty about it!


Ten years ago, I did a 30-day sugar-free challenge. It was one of the best things I've ever done. (Let me know if you want to give it a try after the holidays, I can help!) And while I am not sugar-free anymore, when I started eating baked goods again, I was overwhelmed by how sweet everything was. All I could taste was sugar. So I began experimenting with various ways to make baked goods at home that had less sugar and were overall healthier. I found many simple substitutions that resulted in delicious treats with less sugar and more nutritional value. Today, a quick internet search tells you how to use mashed beans or avocados instead of fat and pureed dates or figs instead of sugar. I think my swaps are even simpler.


I have found that in most baked recipes you can reduce the sugar by half without sacrificing flavor, no substitution needed! To replace butter or oil, I use an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt (2% Greek yogurt or any non-dairy variety). I substitute all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour, and I add a mashed ripe banana for natural sweetness. I use ‘flax eggs’ instead of chicken eggs to make my treats vegan and to add a nutritional boost.


So give yourself permission to indulge in the traditional sweet treats your body is craving this holiday season. Experiment with your favorite holiday baked goods, and see how easy it is to remove some of the unhealthy stuff and add in healthier ingredients with delicious results. Or try my favorite healthy cookies. Filled with nuts, fruit, whole grains, and spices, eating healthy doesn’t feel like deprivation at all.


Loaded Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


These cookies are full of wholesome ingredients, like oats, fruit, and nuts, that won’t leave you feeling guilty or with a sugar hangover but will still satisfy your sweet tooth and give you the comfort of a delicious holiday cookie.

  • 1 cup oats

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut

  • ½ cup chopped nuts

  • ½ cup dried fruit

  • ½ cup mini dark chocolate chips

  • 2 eggs or 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax seeds mixed with 5 tablespoons water)

  • 1 ripe banana, mashed

  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

  • ¼ cup maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients - the oats through the chocolate chips.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients - the flax eggs through the vanilla extract.

  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine.

  5. Using a small scooper or spoon, drop the cookie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and flatten slightly.

  6. Bake for about 15 minutes (or longer depending on how big our cookies are) until set and golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Notes: Use any combination of nuts (or seeds) and dried fruit that you enjoy. For the ones in the picture, we used a combination of almonds, walnuts, raisins, and goji berries because that’s what I had in the pantry. These Loaded Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are vegan if you use the flax egg and vegan chocolate chips, and low in sugar (for a cookie 😊). If the batter seems a little dry, add a splash of (non-dairy) milk. They are not gluten-free. For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free oats and a gluten free flour blend.


This recipe was adapted from Hälsa Nutrition’s Wholesome Trail Mix Cookies.


Loaded Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
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Apple Oatmeal Cookies


These high fiber cookies are lower in sugar than classic cookies and full of fruit, nuts, and cinnamon. They are made with simple ingredients and pantry staples and come together quickly to satisfy any sugar craving.

  • 1 cup instant oats

  • ¾ cup white whole wheat flour

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 2 ½ tablespoons water)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup

  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts

  • ½ Granny Smith apple, finely chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients - oats through salt.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients - egg through maple syrup.

  4. Fold in the walnuts and apple.

  5. Using a small scooper or spoon, drop the cookie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and flatten slightly.

  6. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Notes: These Apple Oatmeal cookies are vegan if you use the flax egg and low in sugar (for a cookie). They are not gluten-free. For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free instant oats and a gluten-free flour blend. If the batter seems a little dry, add a splash of (non-dairy) milk. We added about 2 splashes of almond milk to ours.


This recipe was adapted from Amy’s Healthy Baking’s Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies.


Apple Oatmeal Cookies
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