Managing Cookies for Christmas

New today on Edible TV:

13D114A6-C39E-42E0-A9CE-091290F55E3B.jpgHoliday baking fans, start your mixers!

Food Network’s annual sweet-treat bonanza, the 12 Days of Cookies newsletter, comes out of the oven starting December 1. That’s less than two weeks away, cookie monsters!

I know, I know . . . cookies?! How can they be part of a healthy diet?!

I obsess over cookie baking during the holidays, so I need to find ways to incorporate them into my healthier diet. And you know what?

We can bake our cookies and eat them, too!

All in moderation, of course. Moderation, as always, is the key to a healthy diet. Moderation can mean many things -- for big trigger foods, it can mean only eating them outside of your home (so you are inherently limited in the amount you can consume); for unhealthy but not necessarily crave-able foods such as butter, it might mean finding ways to substitute at least some heart-healthy oil or nonstick spray in your recipes. Of course, it can just mean eating less.

You have to decide for yourself what route you need to take with cookies, but here are my tips for keeping the cookie monster under control:

1. Spread the wealth. I bake up to a dozen batches of cookies each holiday season, but I would never eat them all myself. Ugh, you'd be rolling me to the Christmas tree . . . Anyway, I utilize my love of baking to create gift boxes of homemade cookies.

It's a fairly frugal gift (that is, if I find good sales on butter and nuts!), so I can make certain to recognize everyone I care about at the holidays, plus since it's a homemade gift, everyone knows I put in plenty of time and effort to make it special.

The healthy eating bonus is that I get my bounty of baked goods out of the house so my family isn't so tempted to binge!

2. Use the freezer. Most cookies freeze superbly. Pop a well-wrapped dozen in the freezer, and you'll have fresh-tasting cookies at the ready throughout the holiday season for unexpected guests. I store my cookies for gift boxes this way, too.

It's an excellent strategy for batches you plan on eating yourself, too. The freezer keeps the cookies from going stale, so you don't feel the pressure to eat handfuls at a time so they won't go bad.

3. Try healthier recipes. I have King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking book, which offers a number of cookie recipes punched up with, as you would expect, whole grains. For Thanksgiving, I'm planning to make Sparkling Cranberry Gems, which offer the option of using white whole-wheat flour and are relatively low in fat. If you're not ready to make the leap into whole-grain desserts, consider classic healthier cookies like meringues, oatmeal cookies, and ground nut-based macaroons.

And remember, baking is light exercise. My shoulders feel the burn of lifting sheet pans after hours on my feet as surely as my fingers feel it if I forget the potholder.

Picture: Food Network 12 Days of Cookies Newsletter

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