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Recipe Makeovers: Low-Cal Holiday Cookies

We took our favorite holiday cookies recipes and sent them to our Healthy Test Kitchen for a makeover. The challenge: Keep each cookie's yummy taste while lowering fat and calories. The result: sweet success!

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Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Miki Duisterhof
Prev 23 of 23 Next
Prev 1 of 23 Next

Christmas Wreaths

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Reduced butter by a third, added cream cheese as a butter substitute, replaced half of flour with white whole wheat flour.

Healthy Savings: We cut 18 calories and 3g fat; added 1g protein and 1g fiber.

New Nutrition Facts: 184 calories, 2g protein, 18g carbohydrate, 11g fat (7g saturated) 1g fiber

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Prev 2 of 23 Next

Mandel Bread

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Replaced vegetable oil with canola oil, reduced sugar by one-fourth, replaced semisweet chocolate chips with dark ones, replaced one-third of flour with white whole wheat flour.

Healthy Savings: We cut 22 calories and 2g carbohydrate; added 1g fiber.

New Nutrition Facts: 123 calories, 1g protein, 15g carbohydrate, 8g fat (2g saturated), 1g fiber

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Prev 3 of 23 Next

Coconut-Chocolate Drops

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Replaced sweetened condensed milk with fat-free kind, reduced chocolate chips by one-third.

Healthy Savings: We cut 19 calories and 2g fat (1g saturated).

New Nutrition Facts: 148 calories, 3g protein, 20g carbohydrate, 7g fat (6g saturated), 1g fiber

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Prev 4 of 23 Next

Magic Cookie Bars

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Replaced sweetened condensed milk with fat-free kind, halved butter.

Healthy Savings: We cut 24 calories and 4g fat (3 g saturated).

New Nutrition Facts: 170 calories, 3g protein, 20g carbohydrate, 9g fat (4g saturated), 1g fiber

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Prev 5 of 23 Next

Sand Tarts

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Replaced about one-third of flour with white whole wheat flour, reduced butter by a third, used cream cheese as butter substitute.

Healthy Savings: We cut 11 calories and 1g saturated fat; added 0.5 g fiber.

New Nutrition Facts: 111 calories, 1g protein, 16g carbohydrate, 5g fat (3g saturated), 0.5g fiber

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Prev 6 of 23 Next

Buckeyes

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Used low-fat, low-sodium peanut butter, reduced butter, added shortening as butter substitute.

Healthy Savings: We cut 46 calories and 6g fat (2g saturated).

New Nutrition Facts: 120 calories, 1g protein, 21g carbohydrate, 3g fat (2g saturated), 0g fiber

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Prev 7 of 23 Next

Snickerdoodles

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Replaced half of flour with white whole-wheat flour, reduced butter by half, added yogurt or cream cheese as butter substitute, reduced sugar in the dough by one-fourth, reduced sugar in coating by one-fourth.

Healthy Savings: We cut 22 calories, 2g carbohydrate, and 2g saturated fat; added 1g protein, 0.5g fiber.

New Nutrition Facts: 70 calories, 1g protein, 11g carbohydrate, 2g fat (1g saturated), 0.5g fiber

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Prev 8 of 23 Next

Chocolate Chip Christmas Balls

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Reduced butter by one-third, used cream cheese as butter substitute, reduced granulated sugar by one-third, replaced half of flour with white whole wheat flour, replaced chocolate chips with mini ones and reduced by one-fourth.

Healthy Savings: We cut 29 calories, 3g carbohydrate, and 1g saturated fat.

New Nutrition Facts: 124 calories, 1g protein, 17g carbohydrate, 6g fat (3g saturated), 1g fiber

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Prev 9 of 23 Next

Lemon Squares

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Replaced half of flour with white whole wheat flour, reduced butter by one-fourth, reduced granulated sugar in filling by half.

Healthy Savings: We cut 34 calories, 6g carbohydrate, and 2g fat.

New Nutrition Facts: 98 calories, 1g protein, 13g carbohydrate, 4g fat (3g saturated), 0g fiber

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Prev 10 of 23 Next

Double-Chocolate Drip-Drop Cookies

Test-Kitchen Fixes: Replaced half of flour with white whole wheat flour, replaced vegetable shortening with butter, reduced sugar in dough by half, used honey as sugar substitute, reduced chocolate chips by one-fourth.

Healthy Savings: We cut 21 calories, 3g carbohydrate, and 1g fat.

New Nutrition Facts: 132 calories, 1g protein, 17g carbohydrate, 7g fat (4g saturated), 1g fiber

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Prev 11 of 23 Next

Pistachio Biscotti

While biscotti may taste indulgent -- especially after dunked in coffee -- they can be a smarter choice compared to other sweets on the spectrum. Plus, they have a long shelf life, so you can keep a bunch in your cupboard and pull them out when you've got a hankering. Andrew Teter of Savona Restaurant in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania, pares this treat's calorie count down even further by using Splenda and whole wheat flour, but adds intrigue to the taste with ground pistachios and lemon zest.

Nutrition Facts: 59 calories, 2g protein, 7g carbohydrate, 2.9g fat, 1.2g saturated fat, 0.8g fiber, 31.7mg sodium

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Prev 12 of 23 Next

Soft Molasses Cookies

Looking for a lighter take on the traditional sugar cookie? Try this yummy bite from Patricia Williams, executive chef at New York City's Nios Restaurant. Williams is a former ballerina, and finds cooking with a healthy mind-set engrained after her years of dancing onstage. She's able to subtract the amount of refined sugar in her recipe by adding molasses -- a sweet syrup that retains some of the nutrients lost in the sugar refining process.

Nutrition Facts: 82 calories, 1g protein, 13g carbohydrate, 2.8g fat, 1.7g saturated fat, 0g fiber, 90mg sodium

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Prev 13 of 23 Next

Apricot-White Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's hard to believe that this beautiful cookie is missing anything at all, but Teter actually cuts some of the fat and calories from his original recipe by swapping in Splenda and margarine and using partly whole wheat flour. A crowd pleaser!

Nutrition Facts: 134 calories, 1g protein, 15g carbohydrate, 8g fat, 3g saturated fat, 1g fiber, 106mg sodium

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Prev 14 of 23 Next

Lime Honey Drop Cookies

While Southern cooking typically scoffs at lighter ingredients, chef John Currence of Oxford, Mississippi, had to do a gastronomic about-face after a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. Slimming down his recipes does not mean sacrificing taste, though, says Currence. These cookies use top-quality honey as a featured ingredient, providing a depth of flavor without a lot of added fat.

Nutrition Facts: 93 calories, 1g protein, 14g carbohydrate, 4g fat, 0.8g saturated fat, 1g fiber, 113mg sodium

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Prev 15 of 23 Next

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

This pumpkin pie reincarnate from Pastry Chef Jessica Goryl of BLT Steak Los Angeles combines the warm and fuzzy flavors of cinnamon and clove with the crunchiness of walnuts, but sends the bad fats and excess calories packing.

Nutrition Facts: 138 calories, 2g protein, 19g carbohydrate, 7g fat, 4g saturated fat, 2g fiber, 75mg sodium

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Prev 16 of 23 Next

Blueberry Whole Wheat Cookies

According to Goryl, ingesting lots of sugar is an occupational hazard that was taking its toll on her overall health. "I figured that there had to be a way to still do my job and create (lighter) desserts that were just as beautiful and flavorful as traditional sweets," she explains. Her Blueberry Whole Wheat cookies avoid that "awful cardboard consistency you usually find in so-called healthy cookies." She raves about their slight sweetness and lovely texture. We agree!

Nutrition Facts: 113 calories, 2g protein, 17g carbohydrate, 5g fat, 3g saturated fat, 1g fiber, 55mg sodium

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Prev 17 of 23 Next

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Cookies

Shae Rehmel, Pastry Chef at Five and Ten Restaurant in Athens, Georgia, amps up the health factor in a classic chocolate chip cookie by adding bananas -- a no-fail complement to the chocolate. Cashew butter, sunflower oil, and flaxseeds provide most of the fat in her recipe, but the majority is the heart-healthy kind.

Nutrition Facts: 324 calories, 6g protein, 39g carbohydrate, 18g fat, 6g saturated fat, 3g fiber, 253mg sodium

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Prev 18 of 23 Next

Pecan Spice Meringue Cookies

Julia Child whisked egg whites vigorously by hand till they formed soft peaks. Make like the jolly, self-confident master and don't use your mixer for this recipe. You'll feel a biceps burn while preparing a fat-free and super-light treat. Plus, with Chef Shae Rehmel's addition of candied pecans, this typical French cookie is bolstered with a healthy fat source.

Nutrition Facts: 27 calories, 0g protein, 3g carbohydrate, 2g fat, 0g fiber, 49mg sodium

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Prev 19 of 23 Next

Fruit and Seed Oatmeal Cookies

Butter gets booted out of this otherwise jam-packed energy-boosting treat by Nicole Garfield, Culinary Nutritionist at The Pump in New York City. Strong flavors, like tart cranberries and rich sunflower seeds, make us easily forget about the missing fat in these cookies, Garfield says. And instead of traditional brown sugar, Garfield uses fig paste here, which keeps the cookies moist and adds a natural source of sweetness.

Nutrition Facts: 213 calories, 6g protein, 31g carbohydrate, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 4g fiber, 26mg sodium

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Prev 20 of 23 Next

Ginger Pine Nut Shortbread

Unusual treats such as these from chef John Currence deliver several tasty flavors in a single bite. The spice of the ginger and the toasty pine nuts trump the fact that there's not a lot of saturated fat or sugar. A fulfilling finale to a light meal!

Nutrition Facts: 225 calories, 2g protein, 14g carbohydrate, 12g fat, 2g saturated fat, 1g fiber, 119mg sodium

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Prev 21 of 23 Next

Low-Fat Maple Marshmallow Granola Bars

We couldn't wait to share the recipe for these gooey no-bake bars, perfect as a stand-in for the store-bought brands, which often sneak in lots of processed ingredients and added sugar. This is like a campfire treat come home, but mixed in with the whimsy of marshmallow is the serious health benefit of flaxseeds, walnuts, and antioxidant-rich cherries.

Nutrition Facts: 262 calories, 4g protein, 47g carbohydrate, 9g fat, 1g saturated fat, 3g fiber, 114mg sodium

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Prev 22 of 23 Next

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Black Mission Figs

Chewy, sweet, and satisfying, these cookies from Chef John Currence conjure up the oatmeal raisin treats of your childhood, but swap the raisins for a very adult ingredient -- black mission figs. Subtle hints of almond and honey say "sophisticated," while the guilt is diminished by the pared-down fat and calorie content. An instant favorite.

Nutrition Facts: 238 calories, 4g protein, 42g carbohydrate, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 4g fiber, 120mg sodium

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, November 2009.

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