If you are currently following a gluten-free and/or plant-based (vegan) eating plan, you might be feeling a little left out when it comes to baking and/or eating cookies. Scenario #1: You think you've found what seems to be the perfect gluten-free and vegan cookie recipe, but then realize it contains a million (yes, one million) and/or obscure ingredients that are definitely not in your pantry or available at your local grocery store. Scenario #2: You find a practical cookie recipe that's quick and easy and... the cookies taste terrible. Well, the search is over, my friends. With just the right amount of sweetness and only a few common ingredients (like whole oats, ground flaxseed, and unrefined coconut oil, as pictured below), you can once again experience the joy that is the homemade cookie – even without gluten, dairy, or eggs.
OK, so these cookies are easy to make and taste really good... but there's more! These little guys are also nutritiously superior to traditional chocolate chip cookies, as they contain far less sugar and a good amount of fiber. So, regardless of your dietary restrictions (or lack there of), these cookies are definitely worth a try.
What's the deal with sugar, anyway? While sugar is fine to use as a sweetener in cooking and baking in moderation, overdoing it can wreak serious havoc on your health. From negatively affecting your blood sugar and triglyceride levels, to contributing to excess weight gain, sugar can be a bonafide health-wrecker. The American Heart Association currently recommends that we limit our intake of added sugars (includes table sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, etc. AND the sugar found in fruit juice) to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women (24 grams) and 9 teaspoons per day for men (36 grams). To put this in perspective, just one can of regular soda contains about 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons) and a 'traditional' chocolate chip cookie contains about 12 grams of sugar (3 teaspoons). Eeeeek.
THREE QUICK SUGAR-REDUCING TIPS:
- Say 'so long' to soda. Soda contains sugar, Calories, and... yep, that's it. It's nutritionally void and you just don't need it – I promise!
- Try replacing sugar with Stevia. Stevia is a Calorie-free and more natural sugar substitute. Yep, zero g's of sugar.
- Read food labels, and more specifically, ingredients. If any type of sweetener is listed as one of the first two ingredients, chances are pretty good that food item is packed with sugar. Leave it on the shelf and walk away.
What about fiber? Fiber plays a vital role in establishing and maintaining healthy digestion. Fiber actually binds to the food in your intestines and keeps things moving at a healthy pace (yes, I'm talking about poop movement). Fiber also helps our bodies absorb beneficial minerals from our food, fight free radicals, sustain a healthy population of gut bacteria, and maintain healthy cholesterols levels. Eating fiber-containing foods also helps to slow down the overall digestion process, thus preventing blood sugar levels from spiking too high and/or too quickly. The Institute of Medicine currently recommends women aim to consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day, and men consume at least 38 grams per day*. THAT'S A LOT OF FIBER. For some perspective, one medium apple provides about 3 grams of dietary fiber and ¼ cup of oats provides a little over 4 grams of fiber. However, please do not eat 8+ apples per day in order to meet this recommendation... that would not end well. Which reminds me: add fiber to your diet gradually and make sure to drink plenty of water while doing so. Drastically increasing your fiber intake may make you feel bloated and/or gassy, so depending on how much fiber you're currently consuming, TAKE IT SLOW and you can thank me later.
THREE QUICK FIBER-INCREASING TIPS:
- Choose whole grains (gluten-free or not). Unlike refined grains (white flour, etc.), whole grains are minimally processed after harvest, and thus retain not only fiber, but also healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Replace fruit juice with whole fruit. Although fruit juice does contain vitamins and minerals, it lacks fiber. Without fiber, juice is digested and absorbed very quickly, spiking the blood sugar in a similar way as refined table sugar.
- Go nuts for nuts (and seeds). Nuts, nut butters, and seeds are PACKED with fiber, along with heart-healthy fats and protein. Try replacing your mid-morning, sugar-laden granola bar with a handful of lightly salted nuts instead.
I'll be the first to admit, these recommendations are difficult to meet! However, by limiting your intake of processed foods (refined sugars / syrups, white flours, convenience foods, etc.) and eating the recommended 2 cups of whole fruit, 2-3 cups of vegetables, and 6 ounces of whole grains per day, meeting these nutrient goals will likely take care of itself.
Whether you're looking for a new simple gluten-free and vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe, or just want to add a more nutritious cookie recipe to your usual dessert repertoire, these cookies are it.
VEGAN AND GF DARK CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 10-12 minutes | Yield: 12-16 cookies
- 1 ¾ cup gluten-free oat flour*
- ¼ cup turbinado sugar
- 2 flax 'eggs' (recipe below)
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
*I make my own oat flour by grinding gluten-free rolled oats in my blender or food processor. However, you can purchase pre-made oat flour instead to save time (Note: Pre-made gluten-free oat flour may not be available).
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Prepare flax 'eggs':
- Recipe for 1 flax 'egg': Combine 1 tablespoon GROUND flax seed (NOT whole fax seeds) with 2 ½ tablespoons warm water. Let stand for 5-10 minutes until it forms a thick, egg-like gel. To double this recipe (aka to make 2 flax 'eggs' for this recipe), combine 2 tablespoons ground flax seed with 5 tablespoons warm water.
- Blend oats in a blender or food processor until they form a semi-fine flour (about 5 minutes of blending).
- Combine oat flour, flax 'eggs', sugar, melted coconut oil, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Once combined, stir in chocolate chips.
- Scoop dough onto baking sheet by the tablespoon, flattening the top of each cookie with your hand (these do not spread out very much).
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies just start to brown on the top.
- Remove from oven, let cool for 5-10 minutes, and enjoy!
Serving size: 1 cookie (out of 16) | Calories: 121.5 | Fat: 7.5 | Sodium: 36.5| Carbohydrates: 12.5 (11 net) | Sugar: 6 | Fiber: 1.5 | Protein: 1.5
Allergen notes: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, nut-free
Eat (better-for-you homemade) cookies (in moderation),
*Individual fiber recommendations may vary depending on disease state(s) and/or condition(s). Check with your physician and/or registered dietitian before changing your fiber intake.