Craving a cookie? Or multiple cookies? But not wanting to add too much sugar/saturated fat/calories to your eating plan? There can still be a way to satisfy your need for a cookie without breaking the food budget and causing guilt.
Have you ever wondered, what type of cookie is the healthiest as well as the tastiest? Homemade or store bought cookies? The answer? It depends on your definition of “healthy”. Do you mean low fat? Low calories? Low sugar? Healthy fats? Natural?
Homemade cookies are the better choice for you if you are looking for a cookie that is made with high quality ingredients, healthy fats, real sugar, and real chocolate. However, store bought cookies can often be lower in calories and sugar than homemade cookies.
Keep reading for the healthiest cookies and tips from a dietitian to making healthier homemade cookies!
Are Homemade Cookies Healthy?
Homemade cookies are definitely not a “health food“, but depending on the ingredients, they could be good for you, at least better for you than some comparable store-bought cookies.
The good thing about making cookies from scratch at home is that you can control the ingredients. You don’t have to choose low-quality ingredients, cheap, unhealthy fats, and fake chocolate chips, you can use the real stuff! Plus you can add in secret ingredients to give your cookies a slight boost in nutrition.
You’re in control and you know exactly what goes into your cookies. Keep in mind, cookies taste really good to us because they are typically full of sugar and fat. You may be able to find the perfect recipe you like that doesn’t have quite as much fat or sugar as some store-bought versions, which would be a win-win!
Plus, who doesn’t love making homemade cookies? It’s like a stress-reliever and makes your house smell amazing and anyone you share them with will instantly love you and have a better day.
When people find out I’m a dietitian, they automatically assume I’m a health nut, and super strict on what I eat. I tell them that I eat really healthy meals, but when it comes to dessert I eat whatever type of dessert I want, I eat the good stuff! I don’t eat dessert very often, but when I do I make sure it’s amazing!
Overall, if you are craving one cookie, go ahead and eat one cookie, whatever type of cookie you want. And make sure to eat slowly and enjoy it! Because life is better if you satisfy your cravings instead of eating 10 other things to distract you from a cookie.
Plus, one cookie isn’t going to ruin your diet. All foods can fit in a healthy diet, it’s all about moderation, balance, and portion sizes. Life is too short to not enjoy good cookies.
Quality over quantity, we shouldn’t settle for any crappy cookie, we should enjoy our food! I’m really picky about homemade chocolate chip cookies especially, because my mom made the BEST cookies and I end up comparing every cookie to hers.
She set the bar pretty high! And she tried to sneak a little nutritious boost in her cookies as well. She used half whole wheat flour and used blended up oats/oat flour for some added whole grains and fiber.
Homemade cookies aren’t exactly healthy, but they can be made slightly healthier for you by controlling the ingredients you use. Homemade cookies are typically made with better quality ingredients than store bought cookies.
They use real butter, vanilla, chocolate chips, flour, and no highly processed additives or artificial flavors. Still, cookies are going to have fat and sugar and aren’t ever labeled as a “health food”.
You can make homemade cookies whatever size you like, add whatever toppings and ingredients you enjoy, and control just about everything else! Plus they always seem to taste a little better than store bought versions.
Have you ever found a store-bought chocolate chip cookie that is just as chewy, flavorful, and delicious as a homemade cookie? I haven’t! I think I need to go bake some amazing cookies right now. What’s your favorite type of cookie to bake?
For those times when you can’t bake, store-bought cookies will definitely do the trick. They are typically inexpensive, come in large quantities, easily stored to last a long time, come in easy-to-follow portion sizes, and can taste just as satisfying with a glass of milk.
Some store-bought cookies can also be lower in calories and sugar than homemade cookies. This can be a good thing, but could also be partly due to the fact that cheaper, lower quality ingredients are being used to enhance taste and flavor for a low cost.
Store bought cookies are usually lower quality made with cheaper ingredients than what you’ll use at home. Processing techniques rely on cheap ingredients, preservatives, unhealthy cheap fats, natural and artificial flavors to enhance taste, and some lower quality techniques and ingredients to make, package, and ship huge batches of cookies at once.
They can’t usually compare to homemade cookies in taste and quality. Sometimes they can be lower in calories and sugar than other types of cookies because of the types of ingredients used, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are good for you.
Low-sugar and sugar-free store-bought cookies are typically made from artificial sweeteners. These are cheap and easy to use and only needed in small amounts compared to real sugar because they are much sweeter.
Many different types of cookies contain artificial sweeteners. I’m always wary of artificial sweeteners and would choose real sugar every single time, even if it means more calories. Check out my post: Sugar-Free Kids? The Problem with Artificial Sweeteners for Children and Teens. The post is written for kids, but applies to everyone. Be sure to read food labels and look for claims such as “sugar-free”, “low calorie”, “reduced sugar” for the cookies with artificial sweeteners.
The types of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols typically used in cookies would be listed in the ingredients as acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin, neotame, stevia, sucralose, erythritol, etc. It doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t eat a product that contains these ingredients, but I would eat it in moderation and not very often.
More research is emerging, but in my opinion the benefits from consuming artificial sweeteners do not outweigh the potential consequences.
The other category of cookies would be cookies that aren’t packaged, and you didn’t make them yourself. Bakery cookies.
If you choose to buy cookies from a bakery you’re probably going to get a cookie that is made with high quality ingredients for a delicious-tasting masterpiece. Plus you’re choosing a cookie made by a baker with caring, skilled hands and lots of love, I’m sure. B
akery cookies are usually higher in calories than store bought or homemade cookies partly because they tend to be much bigger cookies, and full of fat and sugar and that’s what makes them taste delicious. If you want high-quality ingredients with a delicious taste, bakery cookies are for you, but you’re probably paying more for it as they tend to be more expensive per cookie.
If the cookie is too large, choose to eat 1/2 of a bakery cookie, because some of those are huge and full of calories, but if you only splurge every once in a while, then go for it! Enjoy those calories, you earned them!
|Store-Bought Cookies||Homemade Cookies||Bakery Cookies|
-Come in large quantities
-Last a long time
-Easy to portion
-Can be lower in calories and sugar
|Cons||-Low quality ingredients|
-Highly processed, not as fresh tasting and fresh baked (or you can buy cookie dough and make it yourself)
-Preservatives and added natural/artificial flavors and colors possible
|-Finding time to bake|
-More fat, sugar, and overall, calories
What Are the Healthiest Cookies to Buy?
Looking for the healthiest kind of cookies to buy? Typically that would be cookies that are lower in fat, sugar, and calories than other cookies. Sorry, Famous Amos, Keebler, and Chips Ahoy cookies have a lot of sugar per serving.
Some better options are: (click to view on Amazon)
- Enjoy Life Cookies– lower in saturated fat, sugar, and calories. Vegan and gluten-free options available.
- Simple Mills Chocolate Chip Cookies – Lower in sugar, made with high quality ingredients, gluten-free, non-GMO.
- Annie’s Homegrown Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies – Popular with kids. Made with organic ingredients, no artificial or synthetic flavors, colors, or preservatives. Annie’s also has cookie dough and cookie mix available.
- Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Thin and Crispy Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies– a popular favorite without too much sugar or saturated fat.
- Lenny and Larry’s Cookies– vegan, non GMO, good source of protein and fiber, moderate amount of calories, saturated fat, sugar. I’ve never actually tried these so can’t comment on taste. Let me know if you like them!
- Kashi Cookies- Available at many grocery stores or online. Made with whole grains and high quality ingredients.
- Oreo Thins- 4 cookies per serving and the perfect size to satisfy any cookie craving, but they are not made with the highest quality ingredients.
- Keebler Grasshopper– more processed than others, but also fairly low in sugar per cookie.
- Nilla Wafers– More processed than others and lower quality, but also fairly low in sugar per cookie.
Watch out! Many of the tempting “healthy” cookie options such as gluten-free, vegan, natural, organic cookies have additional healthy ingredients, but also have lots of sugar or fat and can be high in calories.
Ingredients to avoid in store-bought cookies:
- Trans Fat, partially hydrogenated oils
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Too many types of sugar listed in the ingredients. Look for sugar, sucrose, honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, fructose, rice syrup, agave, brown sugar, cane sugar, palm sugar, etc.
Comparing Nutrition Facts of Homemade Vs. Store-Bought Cookies
Here’s a comparison of food labels for store-bought and homemade chocolate chip cookies. What differences do you notice? Overall, a store-bought cookie and a homemade cookie are not quite the same size.
In this example the store-bought cookie had slightly lower calories, fat, and sugar, but overall they are quite similar! This is why it can be hard to compare store-bought and homemade cookies just by the numbers. It’s important to consider the overall picture- the quality of ingredients, processing methods, and types of fat, sugar, flour, etc.
|Store-Bought Cookie||Homemade Cookie|
|Serving Size||1 cookie||1 medium cookie|
|Calories||70 calories||78 calories|
|Fat||3.5 grams||4 grams fat|
|Total Sugar||7 grams||9 grams sugar|
Healthy Homemade Cookie Swaps
If you like the idea of cookies, but don’t want to totally over-do it, there are some healthy cookie swaps you can test out. They won’t taste quite the same as regular cookies, but you might find they are still the perfect, healthier treat! Did you know you can use yogurt, white beans, smashed up fruit (think bananas, avocado), or even chickpeas instead of butter in many cookie recipes? You’ll notice a flavor difference so just try substituting for half of the butter at first.
You can also substitute some or all of the flour for whole-wheat flour to boost fiber and nutrients in cookie recipes. Some other ideas of boost nutrition would be to add raisins, dried fruit, nuts, or seeds into your cookie recipes, or to use less chocolate, frosting, sugar, etc. Some people might also choose to not use table sugar and substitute recipes with honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
You should also control the size of your homemade cookies. Growing up, my mom always baked very small cookies. She would send me to school with 2 in my lunchbox. I thought she was the best mom ever for giving me not one, but TWO cookies! Good trick mom. I still make my cookies small because sometimes one small cookie is just as satisfying as one big one.
Healthy Homemade Cookie Recipes
On the look-out for a healthier homemade cookie recipe to make with your kids? Here are some good options that aren’t quite as full of sugar and unhealthy fats as other cookies.
- Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies: Mix 1 cup of oats with 1 mashed banana. Add your favorite mix-ins like peanut butter, chocolate chips, flax seed, dried fruit, nuts, cocoa powder, protein powder, etc! Make into cookies and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes. I love these! Perfect for kids and adults for a tasty treat.
- Protein-Packed Kodiak Cake Cookies: 2 cups Kodiak Cakes power mix, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 egg, 2 Tablespoons smashed banana, 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup oil of choice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. See a recipe here.
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies: I love these delicious cookies, pumpkin counts as a sneaky way to include vegetables. Make with a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup apple sauce, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda, 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 1 cup dark chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.
- Your favorite homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe. Use whole wheat flour, real butter, high-quality chocolate, and organic sugar for the best quality of ingredients and healthier spins.
- Even some versions of chocolate and peanut butter no-bake cookies can be slightly healthier, and not as sugary as other types of cookies, depending on the amount and quality of ingredients used.
Cookie Craving Alternatives
When you want to satisfy your cookie cravings with healthier choices, there are some great, tasty options that are great substitutes. They’ll leave you satisfied, and maybe you’ll surprise yourself and enjoy them more than a traditional cookie.
- Power balls/protein balls. Make your favorite recipe by mixing 2 cups oats, 1 cup nut butter, 2/3 cup honey or maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 Tablespoons seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin etc.), and 1/2 to 1 cup total of mix-ins like chocolate chips, raisins or craisins, nuts, coconut flakes, cocoa powder, protein powder, cinnamon, etc. Roll into balls and eat!
- Peanut butter toast. Maybe not quite the same as a cookie, but it’s the fastest and easiest solution! And a personal favorite when I want a yummy snack. Spread the peanut butter or nut butter on the toast straight out of the toaster so it gets a little melty and warm. Add a tiny bit of chocolate spread (like Nutella) on top if you need a little bit of chocolate.
- Homemade granola bars. Melt together 1/3 cup butter or oil, 3/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter. Then add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Pour onto a mixture of 3 cups oats, 3 cups crispy rice cereal, and 1/2 cup flax seed. Mix and add your favorite toppings like chocolate chips, craisins, pumpkin seeds, etc. Press onto a cookie sheet and cool, then cut into bars.
- A square of dark chocolate and some dried fruit. Always delicious and always a way to satisfy cravings. Eat it slowly to savor every bit!
Benefits to Making Cookies from Scratch at Home
- Choice of ingredients. You control the types of ingredients and the quality and taste. You know where the ingredients came from and how much you’re adding.
- Less processed overall, and less preservatives, artificial additives, and flavors.
- You can control the amount and size of cookies.
- You enjoy the baking process and feel accomplished from making your own food.
What is the Healthiest Cookie to Eat?
There aren’t really any cookies that are “healthy” (except maybe the homemade breakfast cookie recipe above made with only bananas, oats, and mix-ins!), but cookies are typically better and healthier for you if they use natural and whole ingredients, lower amounts of fat and sugar, and less processing.
The healthiest cookie to eat would be a type of cookie that fits into your fat, sugar, and calorie budget for the day, or what is called ‘discretionary calories’. Discretionary calories are extra calories leftover in your total calorie budget once you’ve eaten all the required nutrients you need in a day, meaning you can choose what type of food to eat to fill those energy needs.
Depending on your total calorie needs, you could have anywhere from 100-300 calories allotted toward your discretionary calories per day. If you would like to have a cookie, it could easily fit within your budget. Most homemade cookies (depending on size and ingredients) could be anywhere from 50-200 calories each.
A homemade chocolate chip cookie about 2 1/2 inches is around 70-80 calories. You can easily have room in your eating plan for 1-2 homemade cookies, within reason.
Overall, I would recommend to bake homemade cookies when you have a cookie craving. You can more easily control what you are eating and how big the cookies are. Be sure to make a small batch and share them with your friends! If you’re only craving one cookie, then go ahead and eat a store-bought cookie. One cookie shouldn’t break your whole diet, the important thing is that you practice moderation. Enjoy your cookie!
My favorite “healthier” cookies include: (see recipe ideas above)
- Peanut butter chocolate chip protein balls (aka power balls or energy balls)
- Healthy banana chocolate chip breakfast cookies
- Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
- Homemade chocolate chip cookies
How Many Cookies Can I Eat Per Day? You can realistically eat 1-2 cookies per day as long as you aren’t eating many other treats or sources of sugar, and as long as you are sticking to your food budget. It is good to enjoy treats in moderation.
You don’t need cookies everyday, they are a fun treat to enjoy occasionally, switch it up and try other foods that are sweet, but not as sugary instead of cookies each day. Try berries, dried fruit, dark chocolate, a fruit popsicle, a fruit smoothie, etc.
Can I Eat Cookies and Still Lose Weight? If you are focused on weight loss and calorie intakes, cookies can still fit in a healthy eating plan. It’s my belief that “all foods fit” in a healthy eating plan and a restrictive diet will never benefit you long term. Just because you are trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you should limit all types of treats.
Pay attention to your hunger cues as well as emotional eating and “boredom eating” habits. Ask yourself, “Why do I want/need a cookie?” If one cookie will satisfy your craving, then go ahead! If you’re more likely to eat a whole plate of cookies, there’s probably something else going on that you should consider.
It’s good to practice moderation when trying to lose weight, and by eating a cookie a few times a week or so you can definitely still stick to your overall goals and lose weight.
Will I Gain Weight if I Eat One Cookie? If you eat one cookie per day over your calorie budget, you might gain weight over time. If a cookie easily fits within your sugar recommendations per day (about 25-35 grams or 6-9 teaspoons) and food budget, then go for it! You won’t gain weight just by eating one cookie.
You’ll gain weight when the food choices you make each day are focused on highly processed foods that are too high in saturated fat, sugar, salt, and calories. One cookie isn’t the important part, it’s the food you decide to eat all day, every day that adds up into excess calories for weight gain.
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By Katherine Harmer, RDN
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