Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

December 5, 2019
The holidays can be healthy-ish with whole wheat sugar cookies

Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life. 

The holidays can be a tough time to keep nutrition and health goals at the forefront of your mind. With so much going on, a healthy lifestyle often gets pushed to the back burner. 

Even with other priorities, there is still room for good health and proper nutrition. The trick is to simplify. Instead of saying “I’ll lose five pounds this month,” say “I’ll exercise 30 minutes five days a week.” Instead of saying “I’m only going to eat healthy food,” say “I’m going to make half my plate fruit and veggies.”

During the holiday season, focus on small, realistic goals rather than big, long-term goals.

Here are five tips to eat healthy-ish during the holidays:

• Eat breakfast. A well-balanced breakfast helps jump start your day and maintain energy levels. If you skip breakfast, you are more likely to binge eat later in the day.

• Focus on fruit and veggies. Fruits and veggies should cover half your plate every day of the year! If you’ve been doing that all year long, keeping momentum during the holidays will be a breeze.

• Stay hydrated. When your schedule is altered due to Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and wrapping presents, your eating and drinking habits are likely altered, too. You may find that you’re not drinking enough water. Keep a water bottle handy to remind yourself to drink.

• Be mindful. Mindful eating is a great tool all year long! Enjoying a taste of your favorite holiday dish is not the same thing as over-indulging on your favorite holiday dish. Slow down and embrace what you’re eating. Enjoy every bite, and stop when you feel satisfied. 

You can be more about mindful eating and managing holiday indulgences by: using a smaller plate, only eat what you can see (keep healthier foods visible), serve from the stove, remove distractions, eat smaller meals through the day instead of over-indulging in one sitting, set simple nutrition goals, eat what you love and leave behind what you only like, skip punch and eat cake (try not to drink your calories but save it for dessert instead), go to gatherings to gather, not to eat. 

Move on. Maybe you blew it, realizing that your diet was horrible and you didn’t exercise once. Get over it! Don’t let it start you into a downward spiral. Get back on track, headed toward a healthy lifestyle.

Another way to manage your nutrition during the holidays is to take steps to make holiday foods just a bit healthier. Below is a list of simple holiday food swaps. 

• Less Healthy Options: Turkey with skin, sweet potato casserole, canned cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, crackers and cheese, pecan pie, Christmas candies and apple pie. 

• Healthier Choices: Turkey breast with skin removed, mashed sweet potatoes, freshly made cranberry orange relish, steamed green beans with toasted almonds, veggies and hummus, pumpkin pie, fresh fruit and baked apples. 

I put those tips to use in a sugar cookie recipe below. It’s still a cookie. There’s still sugar and calories, but with a simple swap to whole-wheat flour, and no trans-fat, it’s become healthy-ish. How will you be healthy-ish this holiday season? Happy holidays!

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies


2 ½ cup whole wheat flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup butter softened

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ounce Neufchatel cream cheese (1/3 less fat)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt

¼ teaspoon zested lemon rind

Sprinkles or sparkling sugar (optional)


In a medium bowl mix the butter, granulated sugar and cream cheese together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, mix until well blended. In a speared bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, mix until just combined. Flatten dough into a 6-inch disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. After dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Roll dough to ¼ inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes from the dough, rerolling scraps as necessary. Place cookies 1-inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges. Let cookies cool. To prepare icing, whisk together powdered sugar, yogurt and lemon zest. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Top with sprinkles or sparkling sugar if desired. Let icing set 15 minutes before serving. 

Sarah Patino is the Certified Nutrition Educator for Food Sense at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2408 and at

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