Healthy Sugar Cookies Recipe

Who doesn’t love sugar cookies? Even though I’m a certified health nut (err, I mean coach), I find their simple buttery sweetness to be nearly irresistible -- and so do my clients. So, I’ve adapted the traditional recipe to make it a bit healthier but just as tasty. Of course, my cookies are still cookies, so please indulge in moderation.

Here are some of my secrets that you can try out in your own recipes:

  • Coconut sugar: It comes from the coconut tree, but this all-natural sugar (aka palm sugar) doesn’t taste like coconut. Instead, it has a mild brown sugar flavor that’s perfect for baked goods. But the best part about it is that it has a lower glycemic index (about 35 compared to 60 for white sugar), so it won’t raise your blood sugar nearly as much. It also measures just like regular sugar, so you can use the same amount listed in your recipe. Yes, it’s still sugar, but every little health boost counts.


My favorite coconut sugar brands: Organic Nectars’ PalmSweet or Sweet Tree’s Blonde Coconut Palm Sugar. I don’t like sugar substitutes, which won’t provide the same bulk and never taste quite right to me.

  • Gluten-free flour: After cutting gluten (a protein found in wheat) out of my diet, I lost those last stubborn 5 pounds and gained a lot of energy. So, I still try to avoid gluten when I can. My favorite gluten-free flour brand is Cup4Cup, which was created by Thomas Keller, chef at the famed California restaurant The French Laundry. The all-purpose blend replaces the same amount of regular flour in recipes, so it’s easy to use and great in all baked goods. I also like Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour, which is available at supermarkets, though you’ll need to add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour for best results. Almond flour is another good substitute that’s high in protein. Here’s a great recipe from Elana’s Pantry, one of my favorite blogs. But I advise against using whole-wheat flour, which I find makes cookies too tough.
  • Real butter: If you’re vegan, you can use a vegan butter substitute. If you’re not, I urge you to use real butter in your cookies. I find that sugar cookies and other baked goods just don’t taste as good without it, so I think it’s worth the splurge -- especially if the rest of your ingredients are on the healthier side. Try to make it organic.

Happy eating!

Completely You’s Healthier Sugar Cookies Recipe

Makes 40 cookies

Ingredients
1.5 cups gluten-free flour (note: check the brand to see if you need to add xanthan gum for best results; you can also use all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar if you must)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder and set aside.

3. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Using an electric hand-mixer, mix together until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Then, gently blend in the dry ingredients.

4. Make balls of dough from rounded teaspoons. Place the balls on ungreased cookie sheets, at least 1 inch apart.

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Do not overbake.

6. Let the cookies stand on the cookie sheets for three minutes. Then, remove them with a spatula and allow them to completely cool on a wire rack. Store them in a plastic container.

Variations: Dip cooled cookies in melted 70 percent dark chocolate, or break dark chocolate into chunks and push one chunk into the center of each cookie before you bake them. Yum!

What are your favorite cookie recipes? Share below in honor of National Sugar Cookie Day.

7 Kitchen Mistakes That Cause Food Poisoning

Anyone who’s ever had food poisoning never wants to have it again. Yet many people are unaware of some basic food safety rules -- or don’t take them seriously enough. Here are the seven kitchen mistakes many people make and get sick … and what you need to remember to not do in order to stay healthy and happy this summer.

1. Keeping your fridge too warm.
I’m a food safety fanatic, and yet when I checked my fridge, I was shocked to discover that even though it felt cold, it was 51 F -- way too warm. “Your fridge should always be set at 40 F or below,” says Mark Nealon, a former New York City restaurant inspector and food safety expert. At warmer temperatures, bacteria begin to grow, vastly increasing your chances of getting ill.
To avoid food poisoning:
Use a digital thermometer to check the temperature often -- even if your fridge has a temperature display.

2. Crowding food in the fridge.
Too many items jammed together on the shelves prevent proper air circulation and cooling. On the other hand, it’s OK to pack your freezer, which works more efficiently that way.
To avoid food poisoning:
Try to leave a little space between containers in your fridge.

3. Defrosting on the top shelf.
Though it’s better than defrosting meat, poultry or fish out on the counter, many people place raw meat on the top shelf. That’s a big no-no -- any drips can contaminate the food below.
To avoid food poisoning:
Always defrost protein foods in the package on a plate or in a container on the fridge’s bottom shelf, advises Nealon.

4. Not washing before you cut.
The rinds of melons and other fruits that grow in the ground often harbor dangerous pathogens, such as deadly Listeria, which was recently found on cantaloupes. If you cut these fruits open without washing them, your knife can transfer the pathogens to the fruits.
To avoid food poisoning:
Place some pathogen-killing vinegar in a spray bottle, douse all produce and wait 30 seconds before cutting. Also, avoid buying precut fruits and veggies.

5. Cleaning the cutting board wrong.
You can’t remove the germs from raw meat and poultry (or even vegetables, which have been linked to salmonella outbreaks) by hand-washing your board, even with soap and very hot water.
To avoid food poisoning:
Sanitize cutting boards by placing them in the dishwasher or pouring boiling water over them.

6. Reusing grilling tongs.
You probably know better than to use the same plate for raw and cooked poultry or meat. But you could still be contaminating food if you use the same grilling tongs or spatulas.
To avoid food poisoning:
After you place raw foods on the grill, do what Nealon does: Place the tips of meat tongs on the grill and close the cover (with the handles of the tongs on the outside). The heat of the grill will kill all bacteria so that they can be used again.

7. Not following the two-hour rule.
That chicken salad might still taste great. But if it’s been sitting out for more than two hours, you’re risking serious illness by eating it. That goes for all other prepared foods, especially during the summer.
To avoid food poisoning:
Refrigerate all foods within two hours of cooking; if you don’t, throw them out, says Nealon. “It’s just not worth getting sick.”

Also read: “Healthy Salad Dressing: 5 Simple Summer Recipes”

Healthy Salad Dressing: 5 Simple Summer Recipes

It’s salad season! With locally grown veggies, fresh herbs, and grilled fish or meat, summer salads are scrumptious. But don’t sabotage their amazing flavor and health benefits by tossing them with a dressing that’s full of saturated fat, sodium and preservatives.

“You can whip up your own in less than five minutes,” promises Mark Molinaro, chef and instructor at the New England Culinary Institute. “Do it on Sunday and store it in the fridge for the rest of the week.” Here’s how to put your salad on the best-dressed list:

1. Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

In a small bowl, combine vinegar and shallot. Add Dijon and salt. Slowly whisk in olive oil, starting with a few drops at a time. Once you’ve incorporated 10 drops of oil, whisk vigorously. Finish with a pinch of black pepper and chopped basil.

2. Healthy, Creamy Asian

  • 1 ounce silken tofu
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup (or more) canola oil

In a blender, puree tofu. Remove from blender. Whisk in rice wine vinegar and reduced-sodium soy sauce. Then slowly whisk in canola oil, starting with a few drops at a time, until dressing reaches desired consistency.

3. Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Roast red bell pepper. Place in a blender with white wine or sherry vinegar; blend together. Slowly whisk in olive oil, starting with a few drops at a time. Once you’ve incorporated 10 drops of oil, whisk vigorously.

4. Low-fat Ranch

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayo
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk (or 1 teaspoon milk and 1 teaspoon vinegar)
  • Pinch each of garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill and dried parsley
  • Salt to taste

Stir together mayo and sour cream. Season with spices. Stir in 1 tablespoon buttermilk (or whisk together milk and vinegar). Add salt to taste.

5. Raspberry Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon
  • 1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil
  • Pinch each of salt and black pepper

In a small bowl, combine raspberry vinegar and minced shallot. Add a pinch of salt and Dijon. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil, starting with a few drops at a time. Once you’ve incorporated 10 drops of oil, whisk vigorously. Finish with a pinch of black pepper.

5 Eating Habits for Perfect Oral Health

Sure, you know that an overload of sweets is bad for your teeth and a nutrient-packed diet is good for them. But other eating habits can affect your susceptibility to tooth decay too.

“A common misconception is that people think of sugar as only table sugar, also called sucrose,” says Carole Ann Palmer, a professor of public health in community service at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. “But bacteria can feed on any simple sugar -- it could be sucrose, fructose, glucose.” In other words, anything from fruit to bread can cause cavities if you’re not careful. Follow these tips to help prevent tooth decay before it starts.

1. Snack less.
Lately, the idea of eating three meals a day has morphed into constant grazing, which is bad news for your oral health. “Every time you put some sugar in contact with the plaque on your teeth, it only takes 20 seconds for acid to form,” says Palmer. And leaving that acid on your teeth for more than 20 minutes puts you at risk. Try to limit yourself to one snack a day, and eat it all in a short period of time (rather than making a bag of pretzels last all afternoon). If possible, brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out after you’ve finished.

2. Drink, don’t sip.
Snacking often isn’t the only thing that exposes your teeth to sugars for a prolonged period of time: Lingering over coffee, tea or other sweetened beverages also ups your risk of tooth decay. Even sugar-free diet drinks can be problematic since they put your teeth in frequent contact with acids, which can erode enamel. Just as with snacks, finish drinks in a timely manner. If you want something to sip on, stick with water.

3. End your meals with cheese or nuts.
The exception to the snacks-are-bad-for-your-teeth rule? Cheese and nuts. Both have protective qualities when it comes to tooth decay, likely because nutrients in them may help remineralize tooth enamel. Have either one at the end of snacks or meals to neutralize the pH balance in your mouth and help curb cavities.

4. Chew gum with xylitol.
Having a piece of gum can also help prevent cavities since it stimulates saliva, which naturally cleanses the mouth. Types that contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol are most protective. (It has antibacterial qualities.) But believe it or not, chewing gum with sugar is better than nothing. “The small amount of sugar is gone pretty rapidly because you’re stimulating saliva,” says Palmer. “The problem is when you pop another piece of gum the minute the flavor is gone.”

5. Eat sweets with your meal.
If it seems that it would take superhuman willpower to cut out sweets altogether, Palmer recommends eating them with your meal instead of after it. “Since the pH balance in your mouth goes down during mealtimes anyway, consuming sweets then has a less damaging effect than eating them alone,” she says.

Got more oral health tips? Share them below or connect with us @Completely_You

Make Takeout Healthy Tonight

Love getting takeout? So do I. But I don’t love the fact that it often comes loaded with extra calories, fat and sodium. For example, an innocent-sounding dish like eggplant in garlic sauce from your local Chinese restaurant can actually set you back 1,000 calories, 13 grams of saturated fat and 2,000 milligrams of sodium. Even tofu with mixed vegetables can weigh in at 900 calories, 9 g of fat, and 2,200 mg of sodium. Mexican takeout is just as bad. A chicken quesadilla can carry a whopping 1,010 calories, 27 g of saturated fat and 1,980 mg of sodium.

So what’s a concerned eater to do? I’ve come up with some tricks for myself and my clients to trim down some of our favorite meals. Print out a copy of this article and throw it in with your takeout menus so you can use it the next time you order.

1. Asian Food

  •  Order your sauce on the side. Full of vegetables (including healthy greens) and lean protein, Asian food is a healthy choice ... until it’s smothered in typical takeout sauces, which are loaded with sugar, salt and calories. Many dishes come covered with a full cup of sauce or more. So order yours on the side and put yourself in control, adding just 1 or 2 tablespoons.
  • Choose steamed over fried. Go ahead and order the shrimp or pork dumplings, but get them steamed to save calories and fat.
  • Go for brown rice. White rice has been stripped of all its nutrients and fiber, unlike brown rice, which is a whole grain. Some sushi places will even make rolls with brown rice if you ask.

2. Pizza

  • Make the move from thick crust to thin crust. The difference can be substantial when it comes to calories. At Pizza Hut, for example, you’ll save 50 calories per slice, which can really add up.
  • Ask them to go light on cheese or skip it altogether. Add more cheese flavor at home by sprinkling your slice with 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan or Romano.
  • Switch from meat to veggie toppings. This not only cuts calories and fat, but also amps up the health benefits. Go ahead and pile on as many veggies as you want (peppers, mushrooms, onions, olives) to satisfy your hunger.

3. Mexican Food

  • Ask for vegetarian refried beans. They don’t contain lard like the regular kind do. You’ll save calories too.
  • Choose a soft burrito with a vegetable filling. You’ll save lots of calories over any of the fried options or quesadillas and other dishes with lots of cheese.
  • Swap guacamole for sour cream. Guacamole is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Stick to a 1/4 cup portion, though, since it can come with a lot of calories. Don’t forget to pile on the salsa as well to get a hefty dose of prostate cancer–preventing lycopene from the tomatoes.

4. Fast-food Burgers

  • Order the child’s size. It will still satisfy your beef craving but with less damage to your waistline and your heart. Better yet, order a grilled chicken sandwich or salad.
  • Request double the lettuce and tomatoes. Yes, they count as a full serving of vegetables.
  • Dress your salad at home. Filling up with some greens is a great idea. But most restaurant dressings are usually loaded with fat, and the reduced-calorie kind are often full of sugar and chemicals. Your best bet: using your own oil and vinegar at home.

What’s your favorite way to make takeout healthy? Comment below or connect with us @Completely_You