Reader Question: Help, my kids are addicted to eating raw cookie dough and I don’t mean healthy raw, I mean the stuff that comes in the pre-made tube. I mean, I can’t blame them, it’s delicious, right?! I keep seeing all of these alternatives on pinterest that seem to contain healthier ingredients and are even gluten free, but the sugar content is still high. Do you have any suggestions that my kids might like? My main concern is reducing their sugar intake overall and switching to something they might actually gain nutritional benefit from. I know to have a “sweet” snack, sugar may be unavoidable, but at least can it be a healthy sugar- I keep hearing use agave, don’t use agave… should we use agave? Oh, and can you please oh please oh please say something, anything about high fructose corn syrup. I don’t know why, but my wife is still buying products for the kids with it in there.
Bradford, Santa Monica, CA
Garden Eats: We hear you loud and clear. We L O V E sweets too, but definitely want to stay away from processed sugars, gluten (some of us have allergies here) and GMO laden foods! This question comes at the perfect time. Last night I made coconut macaroons and crumpets. The macaroons are divine for adults, but with an added touch of salt, they resemble that coookie-dough flavor and texture the kids are after. I’ve always noticed it’s the combination of salt and sweet that makes cookie-dough so addicting! And, let’s give your wife a break, she actually might not yet understand about high fructose corn syrup. We’ll talk about it though!
We usually whip up recipes without measuring, so you may have to add a little more of this or that based on your desired texture. I’ll note where to look out for those measurements. The recipe(s) takes less than 20 minutes to make and does not have to be chilled if your kids are growing impatient.
Before we get into the ingredients, let me answer your question about nutrition and sugar. Depending on what I’m making I usually try to add ingredients such as shredded coconut, vanilla and cinnamon (all organic of course) to create a sweeter result. Sometimes though, those ingredients need an extra punch of sweet to do the trick. In the past I used organic blue agave. Occasionally I might use it for a cocktail, but no longer in food or baking. I admit, it’s easy to use and desirable because of its supposed low-glycemic index. Agave has been a popular substitute for maple syrup, but I’m not sure why considering their side by side nutritional breakdown (which I’ll get to in a minute).
Agave has a low glycemic index, but is 90 percent fructose! Fructose is fine when it is derived directly from fruit because of the enzymes contained within (unless you’re diabetic, then that’s an entirely different story), but when processed, all of the nutrition and fiber is stripped and you’re left with a nutritionally void version- a major enemy of metabolism at that high concentration. When my friends and patients started asking me about why it was or wasn’t healthy, I considered the inulin contained in the fiber of agave. Thinking about food composition I didn’t see a huge issue because inulin contains various health benefits, but upon further inspection, most of the inulin is gone after the processing of the agave.
And the issue that most parents aren’t aware of, or at least many of the ones I speak with in private practice is that fructose leads to glucose storage in the liver, can increase the incidence of fatty liver and be stored as triglycerides; raising the risk for heart disease. Is that a risk you want to take with your kids? No, of course not. The over-consumption of fructose can directly lead to metabolic syndrome… and if not reversed, diabetes is likely.
Here’s some numbers for you:
Organic Agave………… about 80 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrates/20 grams sugar and no significant levels of other beneficial nutrients. Remember, the inulin is stripped away.
Organic Maple Syrup…… about 73 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrates/17 grams sugar BUT contains appreciable levels of manganese, calcium, zinc, iron, potassium, omega-6 essential fatty acids and B vitamins.
Okay- corn syrup- keeping it short- refer above where I explain the fructose conversion. The commercials where the nice lady says, “oh corn syrup is healthy it comes from corn” is about as true as pigs can fly. Other major, major M A J O R issue is that almost all commercial corn is genetically modified. So hey, anyone who wants metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes and cancer (just to name a few) in their lives- enjoy that corn syrup… That’s the short story, but long enough so you get the point. Corn syrup is N O T a healthy food.
… How about that recipe?!
What You’ll Need (for both)
Putting It All Together
1. In a medium size bowl pour in coconut flakes, salt and almond meal. Mix with a fork.
2. Add syrup and vanilla.
3. With scrubbed hands knead and mix until you reach a cookie dough texture. Add chips now and continue mixing
Note: if your mix isn’t sticking together add a bit of syrup- if it’s too thin, add equal parts almond meal and coconut.
4. For macaroons, roll into balls and chomp away OR if for the kiddos, offer them a tiny bowl of “dough” and a spoon.
5. To make crumpets preheat the oven to 400. Whisk together two egg yolks, add to mix, mix very well.
5a1. Grease muffin tins with coconut oil or use parchment baking cups in tins.
5a2. Fill tins/cups 1/2 full.
5a3. Bake for 10-15 min or until crispy brown on top.
Not that I offer them liberally, but my one year old likes the macaroons. I recently served the crumpets at a party and guests let me know how much they liked them!