9 hacks for healthier holiday cookies

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    By Cari Nierenberg

    'Tis the season for holiday cookies to be baked or bought -- when tins of homemade or store-bought sweets are exchanged at cookie swaps, are given as gifts and appear at workplaces, tempting people with treats all month long.

    But dieters beware. When a huge array of holiday cookies is out on display, people do not have just one cookie and feel satisfied, said Libby Mills, a nutrition and cooking coach in Philadelphia and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "When there's more than one kind available, people are more apt to try one of each," she said.

    Those extra calories can add up to too many, at a time when people are already frequently celebrating around food and beverages, Mills said.

    This is a good reason to be smart about the size of cookie that you eat or bake, and to stick with a smaller cookie, said Sara Haas, a dietitian and chef in Chicago and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Moderation is the thing that people forget about around the holidays," she said.

    The more additions a cookie has -- such as chocolate chips, nuts, fruits, toffee pieces and icing -- the more calories it contains, Haas said. A calorie-friendly cookie tends to be plainer, such as a ginger snap or a meringue, she said.

    There are ways to make holiday cookies just a tad healthier. Some people may be hesitant at first to modify their traditional holiday cookie recipes, because they've come to trust and enjoy the way the treats taste and don't want to mess with a good thing, Haas said. But others might be willing to experiment a bit to lighten up their cookies or make minor tweaks to them as long as they still taste good, she said.

    Here are nine ideas for making holiday cookies a little bit healthier, without skimping on taste or making them unrecognizable as cookies...