I want to begin this short article with a disclaimer…there are just some recipes where white flour and white sugar should not be replaced…why? Because just the memories alone from a good Martha Stewart sugar cookie is nourishing…right??? Some of my old recipes from childhood will always remain the same because there is a smile in my heart that cannot be replaced with almond flour!!!
That being said, there are some really good cookie recipes out there that use nut flours and natural sugars and they are delicious! Some of my favorites are Ambitious Kitchen’s Paleo Molasses Cookies and Texanerin Baking’s Chai Spiced Cookies.
I have compiled a list of healthy replacements for the typical “white” ingredients in holiday baking. Yes, I am going to still be consuming sugars with these replacements but they are more nutrient dense options and that is important to me. I will not feel guilt indulging in a frosted sugar cookie, but it may not make me feel my best if I have more than one. With these replacements, I can have a cookie and know that it is benefitting my body in many ways besides just the joy I get from eating it. Amazing!
1. Dates– I use dates in many of my recipes as a sweetener. Dates are nutrient dense, a known antioxidant, high in fiber and also promote brain and bone health. Using a food processor comes in handy when breaking them down in a cookie recipe. Look out on my website for an upcoming recipe for Peanut Butter Oat Bars which are sweetened with dates.
2. Raw Cacao Powder– I use this instead of Cocoa Powder because it is unprocessed and contains all the enzymes that you need to digest it properly. Raw Cacao is an excellent hormone balancer, full of magnesium and also is a mood lifter. It is really good for brain clarity and heart health as well. Raw Cacao is also a main ingredient in my Balancing Hormone Smoothie.
3. Coconut Flour– Coconut Flour is such a nutrient dense replacement for white flour. While you cannot replace one for one there are many recipes online that use this incredible flour and the baked goods taste amazing. I use a little in my Grain-free Brownies and also in my Grain-Free Pumpkin Muffins. Coconut is good for hormone balance and incredible for brain health since it is full of healthy fats.
4. Almond Flour– Almond Flour is another replacement for white flour that I use regularly. I use this nut flour in combination with coconut flour quite a bit. Again, it is great for those who struggle with gut health and autoimmune disease. Grain can cause a tremendous amount of inflammation and this flour is a great replacement. It is also high in protein and healthy fats.
5. Sprouted Spelt Flour– Sprouting grains has been done for centuries and it is an excellent way to break down phytic acid (which inhibits absorbing the nutritional qualities from grain) so that the amazing benefits of grain can be absorbed into the body. There is also less starch which makes the grain a bit easier to digest. Spelt is an ancient grain and has not been genetically modified like wheat has so it is one of my grains of choice.
6. Coconut Sugar– This has slowly become one of my favorite natural sweeteners. It is low on the glycemic index so may be a good option for diabetics. It is also very easy on the gut due to inulin which stimulates the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria which is found in probiotics. This alone helps to boost the immune system. Can you see why this is a much better choice than white sugar which is devoid of any nutrition and has been bleached to reach that color? Coconut sugar has a caramel flavor which I love in my baked goods. We have also used it to make a simple syrup for some of the specialty cocktails my husband makes. Just keeping it real!!
7. Brown Rice Syrup– Brown Rice Syrup has been around for a long time and I love that it is made from the whole grain and is not too sweet. It adds just the right amount of sweetness to any dessert. To see how I use this product you can check out my Peanut Butter Energy Bars on the website.
8. Maple Syrup– Maple syrup has been used for centuries and is high in antioxidants. It is lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar and contains a good amount of manganese which is important for metabolizing carbohydrates and fat. It also is pretty high in zinc which improves immunity. Again, a great alternative to white sugar which has no nutritional value at all and raises your blood sugar leaving your pancreas overworked as well.
9. Arrowroot Powder– Arrowroot powder is my replacement for cornstarch. It is a great thickening agent for gravies or sauces but I also use it in baking as well. When replacing gluten-filled grains in baking, arrowroot thickens the batter so that it rises appropriately. One of my favorite cookbooks right now is My French Family Table by Beatrice Peltre. She is gluten intolerant and has devised a lot of delicious baked treats and breads using all sorts of flours and arrowroot is one of her key ingredients. I am familiarizing myself with lots of different ingredients and replacements when it comes to baking.
10. Avocado Oil– I love Avocado Oil! I now use it in place of canola oil or any vegetable oil in baking. Avocado oil is an antioxidant and is full of heart healthy fats. It is a great go-to when sauteeing over high heat but has been a key ingredient in my baking as well. Canola oil is a genetically modified oil so that is enough of a reason for me to not use it. Dr. Axe has a really good article if you are interested to see why canola oil is not a good choice when it comes to baking or cooking. I hope this has been helpful for you. I have not been much of a baker but lately I have been taking some time to work on it. There are so many great nutrient dense ingredients out there that benefit your health so you can have your treats and feel good about them as well.
As the holidays approach, I hope this list gives you some freedom to try out new, healthier versions of your favorites!