Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

After-School Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies after a hard day at school? Just the thought conjures wonderful childhood memories. But more often than not, cookies are made with white flour, white sugar and hydrogenated vegetable shortening, not to mention boxed cookies often come with preservatives, artificial colors and other added chemicals.

The good news: With some simple changes in ingredients, you can turn a favorite, not-so-healthy cookie recipe into one you’ll feel good about serving.  


Most cookies – homemade or store-bought — are made with all-purpose white flour. In your recipes, it’s simple to substitute natural, whole grain flour for some or all of the white flour. Consider using whole wheat pastry flour along with barley, buckwheat or brown rice flour. Basic Whole wheat flour and oat flour may be too heavy for cookies, and many children won’t like the texture or flavor. Whole wheat pastry flour is a better option for baking as it is lighter in texture. Mix and match whole grain flours for fun and an assortment of flavors and textures. Here’s a helpful guide for using a variety of Natural and Whole Grain Flours.


Instead of bleached white sugar, there are plenty of less refined options available, including natural cane sugar, Sucanat, granulated maple sugar and coconut palm sugar. When white sugar is a must, natural cane sugar is not bleached and it works very well. Remember, many recipes call for more sugar than is actually needed. Experiment by reducing the amount by 1/4 to 1/3. Use dried fruits such as raisins, dates, bananas, cranberries, etc. in place of sugar for good nutrition and natural sweetness. Here’s a post on Natural Sweeteners.

Fats and Oils

Personally, I love butter and coconut oil for baking, but if a recipe seems a little too fatty, consider using half the amount called for and substituting with equal parts apple or pear sauce, or mashed banana. In many cases, cookies can be baked with chopped or ground nuts in place of added oils. Fat-free cookies bake up cake-like and are softer than cookies made with added fat.

Bake up some of these cookies for your family’s after school snack.

Carrot Walnut Cookies – These gems have no added sugar, plus the benefit of rolled oats, walnuts and whole wheat pastry flour. 

Tahini Oat Cookies – These are made with maple syrup and whole wheat pastry flour.

Honey Granola Cookies – Honey sweetened and made with low-fat granola.

Ginger Cookies – These cookies can easily be made with whole wheat pastry or spelt flour and a little less sugar (try natural brown sugar or Sucanat).

Thumbprint Cookies – Perfect just as they are!

Mincemeat Cookies – These have added whole wheat pastry flour and no added sugar.

Mexican Tea Cookies – These are delicious when made with a little whole wheat pastry or barley flour. The only sugar they contain is for rolling after baking. You can control the amount. The addition of raisins or chopped dates makes these cookies naturally sweet.

Spicy Cut-Out Cookies – The kids may want to help with these. They are made with whole wheat pastry flour and dried grated coconut.

Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal Cookies – These are delicious. In place of brown sugar, try some coconut palm sugar or granulated maple sugar.

Got a good after-school cookie recipe your kids love? Let us know.


Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.



Rosie says …

Where's the peanut butter cookies? My favorite!!

Renee' Culver says …

Question: I'm wanting to use these tips to cut down on the sugar and use better sweeteners, so these recipes are exciting to me, BUT I have to make them gluten-free and dairy-free. I think the dairy-free will be easy with Earth Balance and fruit purees, but what would you recommend in these recipes to substitute for the wheat pastry flour used?

Helene Furst says …

My kids love nut butter cookies. Simple and quick, we often make these and triple the recipe. They stay fresh for several days in a sealed Tupperware container or can be frozen once cooled completely). 1 cup peanut or almond butter (or your favorite nut butter) 1 cup sugar (vegan cane, Florida Crystals or Raw Turbinado; all work well) 1 large egg 1 Teaspoon pure Vanilla extract Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Drop rounded teaspoons onto a lightly sprayed cookie sheet. Flatten the top with a fork in a criss cross pattern. Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottom of cookies are golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Store in a tightly sealed container.

Juana says …

I think the Mexican tea cookies are more commonly known as Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies (pastelitos de boda, en español.)

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RENEE - I was able to get in touch with Alana for her recommendation. Here is what she said: "There are several gluten free flour substitutes (often called baking mixes) that are available. They work well and you simply use them one for one… one cup gluten free baking mix in place of one cup wheat flour. As well, any or a combination of gluten free flours are good, including brown rice, buckwheat and millet. These are generally one for one as well, but sometimes a little more of these flours is necessary for the best outcome and it may be necessary to use just a bit (maybe quarter teaspoon) of Xanthan gum to help hold the cookies together." I hope this helps!

Anna Crosby says …

Great tips, thank you! I am experimenting with low sugar baking too, my son and husband both love my raisin cookies sweetened with apple juice http://www.toddler-recipes.co.uk/raisin-cookies.html I'm definitely going to try some of these out!

Hannah says …

I want your power cookie recipe! Can you send it to me or post it on here? I absolutely love them, but want to make them without chocolate chips! Pleeeeeease :-) Thanks, Hannah Muller

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@HANNAH - Is this something made in house at your local store? If so, I would suggest reaching out to them directly to see if they have a recipe to share!