Kicking Off Out of the Box Food’s Holiday Cookie Month!

by kimgerber on 12/04/2011

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I love the holidays.  The air gets cold and crisp, colored lights twinkle from trees, the kids get excited and I get to bake! There is just something magical that happens when the kitchen is warm from the oven and the house is filled with the sweet smell of vanilla and cinnamon.  But do the crisp cookies and sumptuous cakes need to be unhealthy?  Not at all!  With a few simple adjustments, our holiday treats can be both delicious and nutritious.

There was a time not too long ago, that my holiday baking consisted of rolling out a prepackaged tube of sugar cookie dough, tinting containers of frosting with food coloring, and sprinkling the baked and frosted cut-outs with an assortment of artificially colored sugars and sprinkles.  Sure, those cookies of days past were delicious, and Santa loved to nibble on them come Christmas Eve, but they were far from healthy.  Take a look at the ingredients in one of those prepacked tubes of cookie dough:


THE COMPARISON: Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Refrigerator Dough vs. Out of the Box Food’s Healthy Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

(All ingredients followed by an * can be referenced at by clicking on the ingredient)


Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Refrigerator Dough


  • Sugar
  • Enriched Flour, Bleached
    • wheat flour
    • niacin
    • iron
    • thiamin mononitrate
    • riboflavin
    • folic acid
  • Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil
  • Water

Contains 2% or less of:

  • Wheat Protein Isolate
  • Eggs
  • Baking Powder
    • baking soda
    • sodium aluminum phosphate
  • Salt
  • Artificial Flavor

**All listed product ingredients are taken from the product’s package or website.  Though Out of the Box Food makes every effort to provide complete ingredient information, please check the package/website for the most current information.


Making the dough fresh is not nearly as difficult or time consuming as I used to think.  Looking for a classic?  These basic sugar cookie dough recipes are a great start:

Martha Stewart’s Basic Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies

The Kitchn – Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies


Want to up the nutrition ante even more?  When thinking about the classic, cut-out holiday sugar cookies I realized a couple of things.  First, the cookie itself does not need to be overly sweet because we top them with icing and sweet decorations.  I also realized that they don’t need to be white.  When topped with frosting or glaze, the only part of the cookie that might be exposed is the thin edge.  So why not make our cut-out and decorated holiday cookies with less sugar and whole wheat flour?  I couldn’t find a reason why not so that’s what we did.


Healthier Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Basic Sugar Cookies


  • 2 C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp water


  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer), beat together butter and sugar.  Add egg, vanilla and water and beat until combined.
  • Slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.
  • Divide dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment.
  • Roll out one piece of dough between two lightly floured pieces of parchment.  Cut out cookies using cookie cutters and place on prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.
  • Top with Out of the Box Food’s Vanilla Spice Icing and assorted decorations (ie. flaked coconut, sanding sugar, naturally colored sprinkles ) if desired.



The Best Vanilla-Spice Icing


  • 1/2 C milk
  • 3″ piece vanilla bean
  • 3″ piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
  • 1 C powdered sugar


  • In a small saucepan, warm milk with vanilla bean and cinnamon stick over low heat (approximately 10 – 15 minutes).  Do not let it boil.  Cool.
  • In a medium bowl whisk together powdered sugar, cream of tarter and 3 tsp of the cooled milk. (reserve extra milk for additional batches of frosting)
  • If needed, add additional milk to reach desired consistency.


All this month we’ll feature some of our favorite healthy cookie recipes to warm your ovens and your families holiday spirit.  Be sure to join us next week…



© 2011, kimgerber. All rights reserved.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

L.A. December 20, 2011 at 5:13 am

My son has sensitivities to artificial food dye and other chemicals in processed foods, so I make a lot of from scratch cookies. I also find that if I pre-make the dry ingredients and put them in a ziploc I can make cookies from “a bag” but just adding the wet ingredients and it saves some time. I like your recipe for a healthier sugar cookie, I’ll have to try to find the whole wheat pastry flour but I especially like the frosting recipe. Thanks again for your post and I’m so glad I found your sight.


kimgerber December 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

Great tip! Pre-making the dry mix and putting it in a ziploc is a great time-saving idea! Thanks!


Mary Solis December 8, 2011 at 12:16 am

We try not to give in to the “please, please, please” too much at the market — and frankly this site has done so much to eliminate a lot of that as my kids are more plugged in to “healthy foods” as a result of the weekly posts! — but did just pick up a premade “separate and bake” holiday dough package. Whine control aside, it was mainly for the sake of ease so thank you for posting these great links and reminders of how easy–and fun!–from scratch really is. I also cut down the sugar when we make it ourselves and it has been fine. By the way, I noticed in the flour break out that folic acid is listed .. isn’t that usually considered something good? Just curious…


kimgerber December 8, 2011 at 8:56 am

Hi Mary,
Yes, folic acid on it’s own is good – but when flour is stripped of it’s nutrients, bleached, and then supplemented with vitamins & minerals (aka enriched flour), our bodies can not process it in the same way as a whole grain flour. This article offers some good information about enriched flours:
Thanks for the comment & question!


Brenda @ Meal Planning Magic December 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm

We made our sugar cookies from scratch this year too (I usually use the bag mix) and it was a whole lot easier than I thought. Just a few more ingredients than opening up the bag but the dough tasted SO good. Best of all, I could make the dough ahead of time b/c it required chilling and then we could cut out when we had more time. I got my recipe from Allrecipes. Yummy!


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