Keep the Cookies, Cut the Calories

A few smart tricks can help you enjoy better-for-you versions of your favorite recipes.


It’s no wonder we can’t resist them – when we’re surrounded by batch after batch of temptation. They come in chocolate, frosted, or versions coated in nuts and powdered sugar. Cookies! You can conquer the cookie battle and still wind up with crumbs on your lips. 

Simple Trade-Offs

“Small changes to traditional recipes still give you the delicious taste you remember but can lower calories and fat,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Baking is a science, she says, so it’s best to try just one change at a time. 

Skim the fat.

Not only can you replace some of the oil and butter in a recipe with natural applesauce, but you also can try other fruits as well. “Pureed plums, mashed bananas, and even jars of pureed baby food fruits (such as peach mango) add flavor to baked goods while cutting fat,” says Blatner, “or take out 1/4 cup of the oil or butter in cookies and don’t replace it with anything.” 

Try a fiber fix.

Replace up to three-quarters of the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour contains more fiber than white flour. Fiber can be a plus when you’re watching your calories because it can help to make you feel full with fewer bites. If you’re already adding whole wheat and seek even more fiber, try adding 1/4 cup of flaxseed in place of the same amount of flour. 

 Think out of the shell.

Some eggs are produced to have less cholesterol, for example, so they can be better for you. Better yet, replace the eggs with a fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute. 

Keep it sweet.

Several sugar substitutes on the market can be used in baking and help to drastically cut calories. Just be sure to follow directions on the package. “These products don’t have the same properties as sugar,” says Blatner. You may need to find recipes specifically developed for that product. If you’re going to stick with sugar, leave out 1/4 cup. 

Boost flavor.

If you’ve taken out some fat, you’ve lost some of the flavor, because fat carries flavor. To enhance the flavor, see what doubling the amount of vanilla in reduced fat cookies does, for example – or choose flavorings and spices. Here are some suggestions: 

  • 1/2 teaspoon of almond, mint, or maple extract 
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of grated orange, lemon, or lime zest 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, or ginger 
  • Dash of black or cayenne pepper