UPDATED ON OCTOBER 29, 2016–Last week I wrote about putting sugar in its place (click here for post). It stands to reason that I should talk about what that place might be!
It would be fair to say that an honest-to-goodness cookie should have absolutely nothing to do with… a potato chip, right?
Well, you’d be surprised! I am not just talking about the highly processed kind that you find on the supermarket shelves like the chips-ahoys and such! You don’t expect honest-to-goodness in those, do you? I am also talking about those homemade Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies that you lovingly bake from scratch in your own oven.
What could these cookies possibly have to do with a potato chip? Think about it: Most, if not all, cookie recipes call for salt AND baking soda–it’s just a given! You don’t even think twice about throwing that one teaspoon of each in your batter, as a matter of routine.
The best-of-the best chefs do it. In fact, it is one of those baking “secrets” that your grandmother probably passed on to you as her own grandmother did. We have been taught that that’s how it’s done–something to do with bringing out flavors–I, like everyone else, did it too.
What is the nutritional ramification for that added sodium?
I did a little calculating here for you: I looked at what adding that 1 tsp of salt + 1 tsp of baking soda to a typical cookie batter (I used the recipe for toll house chocolate chip cookies–here) does to the sodium content of that cookie per 100 calories and compared it to a popular brand of potato chips per 100 calories to be consistent (by the way, if you have tried these chips, you will agree that they are perfectly salty, just as you would expect).
Now, let’s do the comparison: Guess which one has the most sodium per 100 calories?
61 mg SODIUM
The Toll house chocolate chip cookies have a higher sodium content than the potato chips! Those, you made from scratch, with only good intentions–Mind boggling, right?
Given the adverse health effects of a high sodium diet, why would we want more salt in something that should simply be sweet?
Is it because we LIKE salty cookies? Certainly not! We can’t even taste the salt in those cookies! So, why do we add all that sodium to our cookies, and is it really necessary? (David wrote a wonderful article about it, entitled “Your Cookies (Probably) Won’t Explode!” you can read here!).
To answer that question, a few years back, when my husband and I were working on a book together, I braced myself with courage (I almost felt like it was sacrilegious of me!), and proceeded to take down the salt in my cookie recipes, little by little, until I took it out completely, and–guess what?–nothing terrible happened! They certainly didn’t explode!
One thing, however, did change: suddenly, we noticed that my cookies were too sweet. I had not altered the sugar content at all, mind you, but now, with the salt taken out, they were too sweet because they no longer had to compensate for the saltiness. So, I did the obvious, and I lowered the sugar content too– a win-win, all around!
I think adding salt to our batter is one of those things we do without thinking. As it turns out, it is not only unnecessary in most cases, but consequently leads to needing to add more sugar in the recipe to mask the saltiness (how convoluted!). This also has ramifications in the appetite center in our brain, referred to as sensory-specific satiety, prompting us to eat more. I elaborate in a prior post I entitled “SIMPLIFY!” (here).
I highly recommend you read an exposé by Pulitzer prize winner journalist Michael Moss, entitled: “The extraordinary science of addictive junk food” that will give you a reality check on how the food industry willfully engineers its products with salt, sugar and fat to make them cravable, a euphemism for addictive! There is a reason you can’t eat just one: it’s actually by design!
Take this little test (click HERE) designed by www.healthyfoodamerica.org to estimate how much stealth sugar you could be consuming each day! It’s such a clever and cute visual too –it take 5 seconds–your kids (and you) will have fun with it and will learn something from it, no doubt!
Needless to say, my family and I have been eating variations on the theme of these cookies ever since. Much less sodium, much less sugar, and still delicious. That’s one of the many makeovers you’ll find in my honest-to-goodness cookie recipes. Do note that if you are used to that usual salt in your sweets, it will take you just a little adaptation not to miss it, but eventually, and surprisingly quickly, if you go back to those desserts that have added salt in them, you will find them…too salty! REALLY!
Here are other “makeovers” I have also incorporated in my cookies to give them my honest-to-goodness seal of approval:
The source of fat: I never use butter, or shortening because they contain harmful saturated fat or transfat. Instead, I use either sources of fat from wholesome nutritious ingredients such as nuts and seeds and even dark chocolate (unsweetened is best), or organic expeller-pressed canola oil with omega 3 or organic smart balance, which is a spread made of healthy non-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Here I discuss the health reason behind those particular choices.
The wholegrain content of my flour: I hardly ever use plain white flour (my one and only exception is for my biscotti and I explain why!)— I use whole wheat pastry flour instead, which is made out of wholegrain, to increase the fiber content and nutritiousness of my cookies. Here I discuss the health reasons for using whole grains. The reason I choose whole wheat pastry flour, rather than regular whole wheat flour is that the former is made out of soft wheat, still rich in fiber, but much lighter in taste and just perfect for cookies.
I not only cut down on the sugar by taking out the salt, as discussed above, but I also often use ripe fruit such as bananas, apple sauce or pureed pumpkin, or unsweetened dried fruit as a natural source of sweetness. I sometime use the natural lactose found in fat-free powdered milk (although I don’t use that technique in my newer recipes as I am trying to move toward a more vegan diet) as a sweetener to replace some of the sugar content, when it doesn’t affect the texture of the cookie. I talk about this in one of my favorite posts: “Put Sugar In Its Place…!”
Let’s face it, cookies are sweet indulgences! That’s OK!
We don’t eat cookies to “fuel” our bodies (our soul, on the other hand is another thing!). Honestly, it’s OK for cookies not to represent the most nutritious aspect of our diet! So, my seal of approval is awarded to those cookie recipes that I have “tweaked” as much as possible to upgrade their nutrition while keeping their sweet luscious satisfying melt-in-your mouth feel-good value .
I think that’s the honest to goodness “sweet spot”, and NOT the craving-maximizing “bliss point“!
….and that’s the way the cookie crumbles!