Can cookies be healthy? { Recipe for vegan, gluten-free​ chocolate chip cookies)

Can cookies be Healthy?



Gluten free, vegan chocolate chip protein cookies



I am a big fan of moderation.  If you want the cookie, well then eat the cookie.  But what if you want a cookie every single day? If that is the case then it might be helpful to have a healthier alternative.

Something that:

  • Can help take the edge off a craving.
  • Something bite-sized.
  • With a little healthy fat.
  • And a little punch of protein.

These tasty morsels fit the bill.



Double chocolate protein cookies


Keep in mind, these cookies are tiny. That is by design.  The goal was something to help take the edge off those cookie cravings.  Not a full-on indulgence.  Got make the real thing for that.

The only knock on these tender morsels, is they do not keep. I do not advise doubling the recipe and making a big batch. Since they are made with protein powder they tend to dry out after about 24 hours.

These babies are tender and cake-like straight out of the oven.

Now I made these in the food processor, but you do not have to.  A hand mixer will work just fine.  And if you want to skip your arm workout this week, you can probably stir by hand even.

However, have you ever baked with a four-year-old? If so, then you know the drama of when they can’t keep the hand mixer deep enough in the bowl and you find yourself scraping the dough off the ceiling.  (true story!) The food processor contains the mess for you! (So if you happen to be cooking with kids, give it a try.  It helps with clean up! And they love pressing the button. )

So, can cookies they be healthy?  Well… let’s just go for healthier.  If the cookies never even make it into the oven and you eat the whole bowl of dough while standing in your kitchen, well then no.  You would have been better off eating ONE the real thing.

But just one tidbit has only 83 calories with 4 grams of protein.  If you just need a little something then these guys are for you!

Alright, enough chatter lets get to it.


Healthier Vegan, Gluten Free Mini chocolate chip cookies


¼ cup almond flour

2 Tb Brown Rice Flour

2 Tb coconut oil, melted

2 Tb honey

2 tsp natural peanut butter

1/2 cup Garden of Life Vegan Vanilla protein powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ unsweetened cashew milk (or milk of choice)

2 Tb mini chocolate chips (I used Enjoy life Vegan chips)


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment
  • Add all ingredients Except the chocolate chips to the bowl of the processor.
  • Mix until thoroughly mixed.
  • Fold in mini chocolate chips (I imagine pecans or walnuts would be great too!),
  • Scoop out one heaping tablespoon and roll into a ball. The dough will not be normal cookie dough. You will have to form it into a ball.
  • Then gently press into the middle to make a cookie like shape.
  • Bake for 6-8 minutes until the edges are just set. They won’t look done.
  • Move to a cooling rack to cool.
  • Enjoy!

**to make the double chocolate ones add 2 Tb Cacao powder.  You may need a splash of more milk.

Makes 12 bite-sized cookies.

Each cookie has 83 calories 5 grams fat, 7 grams carbs, 4 grams protein

gluten free, vegan




Cravings. What causes them and how to handle them. Part II

This is the second part in a multiple part series on managing cravings. In the first article we talked about the two main types of cravings and how they differ. I also went over when it is best to include these cravings in your diet and when it is best to abstain from them. (You can find the article here) In this article we will go more into the causes of cravings, what is food addictions and how it differs from cravings.  Also, we will go over an exercise to replace your cravings with a new healthy habit.

Cravings are an intense desire for a particular food or taste.  Commonly when I discuss food cravings people bring up food addiction.  Food addiction is when you have an overpowering urge to repeatedly eat something that provides a temporary relief while also having terrible consequences.  For it to be classified as true addiction there also needs to be 3 of the 7 following symptoms: withdrawal, tolerance of the substance over time, eating more than you intend, trying to cut back but can’t, your time is spent pursuing, using and recovering, you miss out on activities or you keep eating these foods despite knowing the consequences.   If this sounds more like what you are dealing with, I urge you to get help from mental health professional. No it doesn’t mean you are weak or don’t have will power.


Buttery salty popcorn is food many people crave and struggle not to overeat. 

Occasional overeating is not food addiction. You hear people claim to be addicted to everything.  A lot of the time, that is just an uncreative way of saying they enjoy something.  Just because you enjoy something does not mean you are addicted to it. Food addiction is the regular compulsion to eat something knowing that it can harm us.

There are different levels to our food cravings.  From “That sounds tasty” to “OMG I must eat that food” all the way to food addiction. If you would describe your cravings on a scale of 1 to 10 as 7 or higher, then you aren’t just talking about your average cravings and it is important that you get to the bottom of what is causing them.  We all have food we would like to eat. Sometimes that desire is strong, but other times that desire is out of control.

Cravings can be caused by many different things. Here are few things that need to be looked at if you feel you are having unbearable cravings:

Food Variety. Does your diet include enough variety? When people diet, they commonly deprive themselves of foods they enjoy.  They also deprive themselves of variety.  Both of these can led to more cravings.

Are you being too restrictive? Being over restrictive in our diet can cause cravings.  The reward we feel after indulging in our craving is stronger after going through a period of restricting. This is why binges are more common in overly restrictive diets.  One way to handle this is to include small amounts of foods throughout your week to help you feel satisfied.  (Read the 1st article on the series for more on this)

Too low of an overall food intake.  Those cravings can be your body’s way to telling it needs more food.  It can be important to listen to what our body is trying to tell us.  Not only are diets that are too low in calories unhealthy, but also they are hard to stick to for long periods of time. This make them unsustainable.

Your macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) intake.  We all have different needs for different percentage of fat, protein and carbohydrates.  While your friend may do great with no cravings on a low carb diet, your cravings may go through the roof on it.  Again these cravings are our body’s way of signaling us we need to change the way we eat.  First, make sure you are getting enough protein.  Then, alternate increasing carbs and fat until you find the point where your cravings diminish to a tolerable level. Once you have found your personal macro level, you can slowly decrease one macronutrient at a time, if fat loss is your goal.

Eating too much/too little carbs. As mentioned above, intake is a big reason for cravings.  It not just too little carbs, that can cause this.  Too much carbs can cause an increase in cravings.  Particularly if you are consuming hyper palatable foods.  Hyper palatable foods are foods high in carbs and fat or carbs and salt.  When we eat these foods, instead of feeling satisfied they make us want to eat more.  One reason for this when we consume these foods they stimulate the feel good chemicals in our brain, causing us to want to eat more of those foods while making us feel good.


Donuts would be considered hyper palatable foods due to their high sugar and fat content.


Not enough protein.  Most people think they are consuming a lot more protein then they really are.  A base amount 1.2 -1.6 g/kg body weight are ideal for optimal health for healthy adults.  (That comes out to 81-109 grams for 150 Lb. person). Athletes and people undergoing intense training and exercise will need more, up to 2-2.2g/kg (For more on protein see this article here)

Enough water and fiber. Both of these can help us feel full and keep hunger and craving down between meals.


Water can help with cravings, and not enough water in a day can lead to increase in cravings.

Stress levels. High levels of stress are associated with more intense cravings.  While we can’t always control what is going on in our lives we can control how we recover from it.  Leisurely walks, meditation, yoga, ta chi, reading a book, warm baths, time with friends, playing with a pet and some quality time with your significant other are ways to combat stress.

Lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can increase appetite and particular cravings for those hyper palatable foods (foods high in carbs and fat or high in carbs and salt) Try turning off the screens and going to bed earlier. If you have a hard time sleeping, you may need to look at your food intake (particularly over all calories and carbohydrates) and your stress levels.  Too low a calorie intake and too low a carbohydrate intake both can affect sleep.

Too much exercise. Over exercising increases cravings.  You do not need to be killing it in the gym for hours 5 days a week. Try replacing some of those sessions with low intensity activities like leisurely walks or restorative yoga (not power or hot!) or short (20 mins or less!) burst of high intensity training and see if that helps the cravings. I generally recommend 3-4 strength based workouts a week plus 1-2 10-20 min high intensity workouts and as much leisurely low intensity activity that you can fit in your day.

Weak satiety response. Satiety is the sensation of feeling full. For some there is a weak response to satiety, meaning they don’t feel full.  This could be caused by leptin resistance or genetics.

Another reason we experience cravings is because we are trying to use foods to replace what is missing in our lives.  We attempt to use food to replace fun, love and control.  Or we use food to try to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, like sadness, loneliness and worry. Most of us have inadvertently been taught to reach for food as a way to deal with emotions from a young age. Maybe we were handed a bag of salty snack after a tough day at school, or given a bowl of ice cream after a fight with friends. (Reminder for parents out there, food is not love) After repeatedly reaching for food  as a way to deal with emotions, a habit is created.


Why don’t we crave broccoli?

If your cravings are habit based (and you know your nutritional intake is on point) then you can deal with from a mental perspective. Below I outlined a little exercise to help you replace those cravings with a healthier habit. (Again, this is for habit based cravings and not cravings stemming from nutritional inadequacy)

Four steps to mentally handling our cravings.

1)Realizing what your cravings are. Sounds simple right?  You may know what your big cravings are, but there may be smaller ones you are not aware of.  I would give it at least a week. Do nothing but just pay attention to what your cravings are. Ladies, better yet would be to look at your cravings over your entire menstrual cycle. The normal fluctuations in your hormones do effect what you crave and intensity of them.

What do you crave? Is it chocolate?  Salty crunchy tortilla chips? Nut butters? Wine or alcohol? This is the 1st step, just knowing WHAT you routinely crave. You don’t need to do anything else right now.  Just notice and be aware. If you have a journal, write them down. Do not judge your cravings, just accept them. Pay special attention to the type of food you routinely crave; is it salty starchy foods (i.e. chips, pretzels) or high starch high fat foods (like desserts, candy, ice cream) or alcohol?

2.) Now that you know what your cravings are, when do you experience them?  Pay attention to not only what time of day, but what is going on in your life at that moment. Are you sitting in front of the TV at night? Coming home after a LONG day at the office? Maybe you are emotionally upset? Are you tired or stressed? Is it when you are celebrating? Or when you are out with friends?

3.) Identify what it is you really want when you reach for these foods.  What rewards are you really looking for when these cravings hit?  Maybe it has been “one of those days” and what you are really looking for is just to relax.  Or you want to numb out from that emotional or taxing day.  Or you are looking to have fun.  Becoming aware of what the real reward here is key! Do not rush through this step.

Now notice, after you had that pint of ice cream or bag of chips, did you get the reward you were searching for?  Do you actually feel more relaxed? Did you really forget about the bad news?  Or do you feel uncomfortable or angry at yourself? Most of the time, we do not end up getting the original reward we were searching for.

4.) After spending some time doing all this noticing and paying attention, it’s time to do the work. We now want to replace that food craving with a new craving.  I won’t lie, this is the hardest step. Pick your new “craving”.  Some ideas are a bath, a walk, meditation, light exercise, reading, cuddle time with a loved one or playing with your pet. Rest and relaxation type exercises are really good here, since majority of craving are tied to high stress levels.   This will be the hard part.  For 2 weeks, every time the craving hits, notice it. Be mindful of it, but instead of eating or drinking, do your new craving. Eventually that will become your new routine. The time it takes to install this new craving will be different for everyone.  It will partly depend on how long you have been using these foods to try and meet your needs.  We have inadvertently trained ourselves to believe we need the food or drink we crave in order to reach our goal (of numbing out, relaxing, etc.). We don’t, however, it’s just a habit we created.  And we can create a new one.

There is a direct correlation between our moods and our cravings.  Commonly we try to manage our moods with foods.  If we can change the habit of eating the food with something else, we create a new healthy habit.

Cravings run the gamut from “Man, that is something that sounds delicious” to true food addiction. It is important you differentiate between the two before trying to manage them. Cravings can be caused by a handful of things.   Before you try to change them or white knuckle your way through them, you need to address a few things like your food intake, stress levels, recovery and exercise amounts.  With some work and mindset, you can deal with habit based cravings.  Our cravings do not need to run our lives.



Dalton, M. H. (2015, Sept). Weak Satiety Responsiveness Is a Reliable Trait Associated with Hedonic Risk Factors for Overeating among Women. Nutrients, 7(9), 7421-7436.

Hill, A. (2007, May). The psychology of food craving. Proc Nutr Soc, 66(2), 277-85.

Kenny, P. (2011, Feb). Reward Mechanisms in Obesity: the new insights and future direction. Neuron, 69(4), 664-79.



How to Manage Cravings

This is part one of a two part article on cravings and how to handle them.

Its important you know that you are not powerless to your cravings, but they can be major deterrents to reaching your goals. You need to learn how to manage your craving, from both a mental and physical standpoint. Keep in mind what works of one person may not work for you.  Also, what works for one craving may not work for all of them.

Before we start talking about controlling your cravings, first we need to talk about why you might be having these craving.  If you would describe your cravings as “out of control” or “very intense”, then it is possible your cravings are not just run of the mill cravings that can be handled with some lifestyle changes.  If your cravings are off the charts they might  being caused by your food intake being too restrictive, one of your macronutrients (carbs, fat, or protein) being too low or your stress levels being too high.   You can try the tips below but if your cravings are beyond the “I would really like to eat this” feeling, then they may not work for you and your will need to balance whatever the issue causing the intense cravings first.  You can do all the hacks and tips in the world, but until you get those things in balance, you will not be able to manage your cravings for the long term. (If you would like help in seeing if your diet is causing your cravings, contact me here, and we can go over your diet together.)

When handling our cravings, we need to handle them from a physical perspective and a mental perspective. In this article we will go over to types of food we commonly crave and how to handle them from a physical perspective.  In the second part of the article we will discuss how to mentally manage your cravings.


A square of dark chocolate can help to buffer cravings.

There are two categories for foods people commonly crave.  The first one, commonly referred to as buffer or barrier foods are ones that we can eat in moderation and they help us from over indulging. The other category, commonly called trigger foods, are the foods  we cannot control ourselves around and lead to over eating.

Buffer foods are foods that we can have a small amount and we feel satisfied after eating them. It can help to eat these in moderation throughout the week.  Maybe that means having a tiny square of dark chocolate after dinner every night.  (Notice I said tiny square and not the whole bar.) Or maybe it is half a glass of wine a couple times a week.  The problem with these foods is when we label them as bad or unclean and ban them completely from our diet. This is a major reason why super strict diets tend to fail. Buffer food help take the intensity out of our cravings, allowing us to feel content eating a healthier diet and helping us stay motivated for making changes.

It can help to pre measure these foods into single size portions (when you can).  When you get home from the grocery store, grab your measuring cups or scale and some small Ziplocs.  Open that bag of chips/popcorn/crackers and measure out individual portion sizes.  Now, when you do indulge in the craving, you are not sitting down with the entire bag, but just one portion.


Homemade tortilla chips. Less fat and carbs then store bought chips.

The other type of food we crave is referred as a “trigger” food. Trigger foods are foods we struggle to eat mindfully. For me, nuts and tortilla chips are the top of the list. When I start to eat them I struggle to realize when I have had enough. With trigger foods you may find that you are not overly hungry, but after a few bites, you feel hungry and want more.  Commonly, these foods will either be combinations of starch and salt or starch and fat.  (Chips? Desserts?).  You may notice after certain meals that are high in starch and salt or fat, you never find yourself feeling full or satisfied or are hungry again with in an hour.

If you are dealing with trigger foods, then having these foods in the house may not be a good idea for you. For example, tortilla chips are a trigger for me.  If the bag is here I will eat it, all of it.   So, instead of buying a bag of chips, I keep fresh corn tortillas in my fridge. When I need tortilla chips for a recipe or to have some guacamole with, I can make up just  one size serving.  Now that big bag of chips isn’t hanging in my pantry tempting me every time I walk by.

Another way to physically deal with these cravings is to try and find the healthiest options.  Maybe chocolate cookies are your thing.  You can try replacing them with a dark chocolate square, cocoa drink or try something like my chocolate brownie bites.  If you love chips, you can try swapping them for air popped popcorn.  Or switch from ice cream to a higher protein frozen yogurt (love the Stonyfield one, btw!).  Don’t ban the less healthy food, however, just don’t eat it every night.  That is where your healthier alternative comes in.


Occasional “half pours” (2.5 oz) of wine sometimes is all you need.

Remember, your cravings are neither good nor bad they are just there. A mistake many make is labeling their craving food as bad and banning it. Some attempt to ban it forever, while other might ban it for every day except one predetermined cheat day.  The problem with this, is when we label food we give it power.  There is no good or bad food, some food is just more nutritionally dense then others. The problem occurs when we deny ourselves, all week long. Telling ourselves we have these items on a predetermined day.  Then that day comes, and we have the scarcity mindset, (scarcity mindset is the fear that there will never be enough).  And so we binge, we over indulge. The cheat meal turns into a cheat day, which turns into a cheat weekend.

Cravings can be a sign of stress.  Maybe your life is crazy right now.  They can also be a sign your diet is too restrictive.  Reevaluate you diet. Are you eating enough? Are you getting enough protein/fat/carbs? Are you doing too much hard core exercise?  Once you have a dressed those things, then you can address handling the cravings.

If you fear your cravings might be due to your diet being too restrictive or one of  your macronutrients being too low, drop me a line and let’s chat.  I would love to help you manage your cravings by first addressing your diet.





Brownie Balls (Vegan, Wheat Free and Paleo Friendly)

Chocolate can easily be part of a healthy diet. Also, regularly including some chocolate in your diet may help you from bingeing on it down the road. If you would like to learn more about chocolate, and how to include it in your healthy diet go check out this article here. Then make sure you come back and learn about how to make these decadent chocolatey brownie balls.

These vegan, wheat free, Paleo friendly brownie balls were quite the hit with my whole family.  They are rich enough, that one can satisfy a sweet tooth without completely ruining your calories or macros. Honestly, they taste like raw brownie dough, just without the whole raw egg thing.


Wheat free, vegan, paleo friendly Brownie Balls

While are delicious fresh, I like to keep mine in the freezer.  Not only do they keep longer this way, but also I am less likely to over indulge in them.  Out of sight, out of mind.

If you don’t want to make your own almond paste for this recipe, you could use pre-made almond butter.  I really recommend grinding up your own almond paste for this though, it tastes better and has a better consistency.  Plus, you’ll already be using your food processor.


Almond Paste. It is not processed all the way to butter consistency.

Brownie balls (Wheat Free, Vegan Paleo Friendly )

1.5 cups almonds, raw unsalted

½ cup hazelnuts

12 whole Medjool Dates

2 tsp vanilla extract

3-4 tb water

½ tsp kosher salt

½ cup cocoa powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and lay almonds on one half of a tray and hazelnuts on the other half.  Do not mix them up. Roast in oven for 10 mins.  Keep a close eye on them.  The hazelnuts may be done before 10 mins is up.
  2. Once roasted, place hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. Rub them with the towel, using the friction to remove the skins.  Then place all but 20 hazelnuts in a food processor.  Pulse till coarsely chopped. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. While the almonds are still warm place in food processor, and process till it is almond paste. (not quite almond butter state).  It will still thick like paste, not thin and runny like almond butter.
  4. Add dates and pulse in food processor until paste like.
  5. Add cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt and just 3 tablespoons water.  Process till combined, you may need to add an additional tablespoon of water to get it well combined.
  6. Using a melon baller or tablespoon, scoop out a portion, and roll it around one of the whole hazelnuts.  Then roll the ball in the chopped hazelnuts.
  7. They are perfect as they are or store them in the freezer.


Makes 20 balls.  Nutrition info for 1 ball:  127 calories, 7 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrate and 3 grams protein.


Inspired by a recipe for Cooking Light Magazine and my gal Emma over at




Chocolate Cravings

Did you know there is a physiological reason you may crave chocolate?  And that chocolate is not bad for you.  Actually, dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder is not only healthy but can also help to deal with food cravings.


My personal favorite dark chocolate, Divine Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt

If chocolate is one of the foods you crave, find out why you crave it and how to include in your diet without blowing your calories/macros.

First off, not all chocolate is created equal. It runs the gamut from the chocolate in a snickers bar to the bitter baking chocolate. So, let’s break it down:

Milk chocolate:  The chocolate found in most candy bars.   Has the most sugar and milk fat and the least amount of actual cocoa. The least nutritious.

Bittersweet, semi or dark: Has no milk powder and dark must have at least 35% cocoa solids.

Unsweetened (Bakers) Chocolate: made from 100% cocoa liquor and very bitter.  (As every kid who has ever stolen a bite from a bar they found in mom’s pantry knows.)

Cocoa powder: the ground crushed solid left after the coco butter is removed from the chocolate liqueur. Most is unsweetened.


Cocoa Powder

Cacao powder: it is much like its cousin; cacao is just processed at a much lower temperature. Its low temperature processing allows it to still maintain all its enzymes, vitamins and nutrients.  Also it is more bitter then cocoa, so keep that in mind when substituting in a recipe.

(By the way, white chocolate: not really chocolate, at all. Sorry, white chocolate lovers.)

The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the more benefits it has.  So dark chocolate, cocoa powder and cacao are your healthiest choices. This also correlates to the bitterness.  Usually the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant amount.

Chocolate with a high % of cocoa has a higher antioxidant content.  Raw cocoa has the highest amount of antioxidants of any food! One tablespoon of cocoa powder gives you half the total antioxidants you need in one day.  Antioxidants in food are measured using an ORAC value.  The higher the ORAC, the higher the antioxidants.  100 grams of cocoa powder has an ORAC value of 28,000.  For comparison blueberries is 2,400 and kale is 1770.

The antioxidants in chocolate are known as flavonoids.  Flavonoids are very bitter (anyone who’s ever tasted plain cacao nibs knows what I am taking about). This is also why people will add fat and sugar to chocolate, to help reduce the bitterness.


Cacao Nibs

The flavonoids in cocoa have been shown to reduce blood pressure, raise HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduce platelet stickiness.

Chocolate also has been known to have positive effects on mood. A chemical in chocolate called phenyethlamine help to release endorphins (feel good chemical) and can increase our dopamine.  Hence, why we crave during times of emotional upset, and when women are experiencing PMS.

Now, this is not permission to go overboard on chocolate. Too much is not good and will negate any health benefits.

If chocolate is your craving food, you may benefit from regularly including some in your diet. By have a little bit of your craving food, periodically BEFORE a big craving hits, you are less likely to binge later on. If you are trying to come up with some healthier ways to include chocolate here are some ideas for you:

  • Have a square or two of dark chocolate.  Remember the darker the chocolate the more health benefits it has.  (look for ones that contains at least 85% cocoa)

Since cocoa (and cacao) have no fat or sugar added to them (as long as you buy unsweetened cocoa, and not that drink mix with the bunny on the front) they are excellent ways to incorporate chocolate into your diet.

  •  Drink it. Add 2 tablespoons to hot water with a sprinkle of cinnamon and cayenne and an either a tsp of sweetener or drop of stevia.  Or tablespoon thrown in your favorite smoothie.
  • Mix it in your oats.  (I like it in my overnight oats with some raspberries. Recipe here.)
  • Mix it in chia seed pudding.  (I have a chocolate overnight chia seed pudding recipe coming soon).

Wheat free, Vegan Brownie Bites


Nehlig, A. (2013, march). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol., 716-727.