World's Most Healthful Cookie?
July 19, 2010 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I love chocolate chip cookies and refuse to give them up, or even to eat just a few. So I've been trying to create the most healthful cookies possible, using science-approved ingredients and methods. Can you help me assess the result?

Here's what I've come up with: Oat flour and whole wheat flour, baking powder, coarse kosher salt, Olivio (the olive oil-based yellow spread), some brown sugar (much less than you'd expect), skim milk and one egg. Plus a bunch of Ghirardelli 60% cacao dark chocolate chips and a bunch of walnuts. Sometimes I add a bit of fresh-ground nutmeg or cinnamon, or some SBUX decaf (fresh grounds) for extra flavor. Just about all these things are science-approved, right? Oats, whole wheat, skim milk, dark chocolate, walnuts, etc. True, the Olivio contains fat (but no trans fat, no cholesterol, and a relatively tiny amount of saturated fat) and the sugar is empty calories. Having hypertension, I minimize salt, but use some here. I like cookies crisp, so I bake them till they're a bit dark around the edges. Man, they're good! With skim milk on the side.
My questions:
Is this as good as I can make them, healthwise?
What is the net effect of eating these things: Neutral, positively heathful, a little bit unhealthful, or really bad for you like any other cookie and you're kidding yourself?
Do you have any better ideas?
I'm interested in truly science-sanctioned information, not new-age wishful thinking, but I'll take what I can get.
Thanks very much for your help and ideas.
posted by fivesavagepalms to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
What about adding whole oats in addition to the flour? I love chocolate chip-oat cookies.

The only thing that raises my eyebrow is the Olivio. I know there are a lot of 100% wholesome health claims for it, but it's still olive oil in a processed state. I wonder if you could manage to just use olive oil - some cookies do - or just use real butter, as minimal an amount as you could work out. I can make butter myself at home in a jar; I can't make Olivio myself.

Of course, I have what is a perhaps irrational suspicion of newly created 'foods', so take this as you will.
posted by Miko at 9:25 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm with Miko on the Olivio. I'm a big believer that real food is better for you than fake food, even if the calorie count is higher. Rather than using Olivio, I'd use a combination of real butter and applesauce. I've replaced up to half the fat in baked goods with unsweetened applesauce and it works very, very well. I've never tried it in chocolate chip cookies, but it's worth a shot.
posted by something something at 9:30 AM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I wish I could remember what recipe I'm thinking of, but saw a cookie recipe recently in which they dramatically reduced the amount of butter but browned it, to maximize butter flavor (which I believe is an essential component of choc chip cookies).
posted by purenitrous at 9:41 AM on July 19, 2010

You could add a tablespoon or three of ground flaxseed. It tastes nutty, the texture is unremarkable, and it contains fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:50 AM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't know if blood sugar spikes are a risk, but you could switch to a low-gylcemic index sweetener like agave nectar. For extra health benefits (omega threes and fiber) you could add some ground flaxseed.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 9:51 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the ground flax. I love it. Been putting it breakfast oat banana smoothies.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:53 AM on July 19, 2010

I saw the browned butter recommendation on America's Test Kitchen.

I'd agree with everyone who says don't use anything called "spread". Applesauce does work as a fat replacement, but will move you away from a crispy texture towards cakey. Try using 1/2 the amount of real butter creamed with some olive oil to equal 3/4 of the fat called for (for 1 cup in recipe, use 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup olive oil, etc).
posted by donnagirl at 10:34 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing don't use "spread"; most if not all of them are highly processed garbage. As the others say, just use butter; (some) fat is necessary to your function anyhow. You don't have to use as much if you replace the fat / moisture content with something like applesauce.

Agave nectar is the best sugar replacement I've ever found, and seems like it would be a good sub to help add moisture / mouthfeel if you cut down on fat content.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:43 AM on July 19, 2010

In order to minimize fat, you could also experiment with mixing applesauce with oil. I've successfully substituted applesauce for half the of the butter or oil in oatmeal cookie recipes without significantly affecting flavour. Use the unsweetened kind or it will throw off your sugar ratios.
posted by Kurichina at 10:54 AM on July 19, 2010

Response by poster: These are great, helpful answers. Thanks a lot, please keep 'em coming. I've questioned the Olivio myself and will try the butter-creamed-with-olive-oil suggestion next time I bake. Will also try the flax seed, sounds good. Where do you get agave nectar--health food stores? What effect will it have on cookie texture if I use it instead of sugar? Thanks again!
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:10 AM on July 19, 2010

Agave nectar used to be tough to find, but it's really hip now. You can pretty much get it anywhere. Trader Joe's has always had it, my Dominick's has it, and even Costco's got it (in a 2-pack, of course). Sometimes it's in the baking aisle, but you're more likely to find it with the syrups, jams, and peanut butter.
posted by phunniemee at 11:30 AM on July 19, 2010

Also, a froyo place near me (Berry Chill) has carob chips available as a healthy alternative topping to chocolate chips. They taste OK; personally, I would never use them to replace chocolate, but I'd also never try to healthify chocolate chip cookies. You might want to look into them.
posted by phunniemee at 11:34 AM on July 19, 2010

Olive oil is good but has a unique flavour; you might experiment with sunflower oil or another nut- or seed-based oil to see how that affected the taste of your cookies.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:47 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might see if you can track down a copy of Good to the Grain, it's a new book all about baking with whole grains. I haven't checked to see if there's a chocolate chip cookie recipe in there but you might want to check it out.

I like the ideas of flaxseed and whole oats, have you considered white whole wheat flour? It bakes more like white flour than whole wheat, but it's still better for you.
posted by hungrybruno at 11:57 AM on July 19, 2010

Agave Nectar isn't really the great health find it appears to be. Here's a good article that summarizes the issue.

Basically, pros: low glycemic index (so it doesn't spike your blood sugar level). Cons: It's a highly processed product, and it has more concentrated fructose in it than high fructose corn syrup (70% compared to 55%).

Personally, I'd use honey as a sweetener.
posted by warble at 12:06 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
3 large bananas
a little bit of vegetable oil
chocolate chips/raisins/almonds/?
dash of salt

Mash the bananas, add the rest, mix. Let sit for at least half an hour (lest the oatmeal remain dry!)

Drop in lumps on a lightly greased sheet. Bake at some temperature ~350C for 15-20 minutes or so.

Not the same thing as choc. chip cookies, but I'm not sure which I'd pick given the choice.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 12:15 PM on July 19, 2010 [13 favorites]

Correction: 1 cup oats.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 12:43 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Agree with those voting for real butter over Olivio, which sounds processed. We use half the butter called for in our cookie recipe with good results. Now we'll try halving that again with applesauce.
posted by Mertonian at 12:50 PM on July 19, 2010

Skip the agave - like warble said - it's highly processed and expensive. Junk food masquerading as health food. Go for honey or see if some mashed banana can sub in. Having said that, I'm a firm believer that at the end of the day sugar=sugar - your body doesn't know/care whether it came from a banana or a piece of choc but it's got to be better if you can get some nutrients in with it.

Could you use some almond meal/almond flour in place of some wheat flour? Try first subbing about a quarter and see how that goes. It'll make it lower GI, add protein and good fats and cut out some of the empty carbs of flour.
posted by nothing too obvious at 4:03 PM on July 19, 2010

These vegan chocolate chip cookies are delicious. I usually don't tell people they're vegan and they never suspect anything. I always substitute the all purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour and you could also substitute the 1/4 cup of oil with applesauce or a mashed banana or two.
posted by cm young at 5:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think the science clearly indicates that anything you're doing to make your cookie is healthy, or healthier than an alternative, conventional cookie. I don't think the evidence suggests that the canola/soybean oil blend in Olivio is any healthier than a good grass-fed butter--in fact, probably less. And I think the evidence is in favor of keeping blood sugar levels low and reducing carbohydrates (even oats). I would add more fat to my cookie, not less. High quality fats are about the only thing no one can make a good science-based claim against. The fats you're adding in Olivio, walnuts, ground flaxseed, etc. are fragile and easily damaged by the high temperatures of baking. Walnuts are great and you should still definitely add them to your cookie so that you consume less cookie-stuff and more walnuts, but you should also consider sources for these fats where they aren't cooked, like say raw walnuts, or good, plain olive oil or grass-fed butter.

I would use organic whole milk, not skim, and go to town on the eggs. Crisping your cookies is also probably something to avoid.
posted by holympus at 6:07 PM on July 19, 2010

These lentil cookies are surprisingly good (not fantastic, but good). They're no chocolate chip cookies, but maybe you can get some ideas from the recipe. Whole wheat pastry flour, for example. The lentil flavor is completely hidden, but you get some fiber and protein and other lentily nutrients. There's not much butter in them and only one egg, so I'm guessing you could substitute lentil puree for some of that.

You will be posting your recipe when you perfect it, I presume.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:06 PM on July 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to all for a good batch of suggestions.

This recipe is still a work in progress and I'll certainly let you know when I come up with the cookie that makes you live forever.

Next: the beer that makes you lose weight.

posted by fivesavagepalms at 5:23 PM on July 20, 2010

« Older If two is good, why not four?   |   Is this my grand daughter? Avuncular DNA Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.