smiling gingerbread man

It’s a time-honored holiday tradition: Bake festive cookies, eat festive cookies, eat more festive cookies, eat one more festive cookie in the middle of the night, die of guilt. I’m proud to take part in this tradition every year, and I hope you are too.

Like me, you might occasionally try to make “healthy” cookies, only to discover that, while they help ease the “guilt” part of the tradition, they also cut down on the “festive” part. Sometimes I don’t even “eat” them. Turns out, a low-fat, low-sugar cranberry nut bar is not a cookie.

So for the sake of our bodies, minds and sweet teeth, I offer these five festive and delicious cookies that are healthy enough to eat without dying of guilt (or a heart attack).

The Trend: Macarons

Macarons are all the rage this year, and with good reason: They’re tiny, light and adorable almond-flavored confections that bridge the divide between candy and cookies. They also happen to be gluten-free and, thanks to their meringue-like outer shell, relatively low-calorie. Just watch how much ganache you stuff in the center; that stuff uses heavy cream.

Try this recipe for Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate-Orange Ganache. They’re a big undertaking to make, but the results are spectacular.

The Classic: Meringues

If we’re counting calories, meringues blow every other cookie out of the water. Less than ten calories per cookie? Gimme!

Meringues are frothy, fluffy dollops of egg white and sugar (and not much else) that literally melt in your mouth. They’re relatively easy to make and fun for kids and adults alike. Try these Peppermint Meringues for the holidays.

The Edgy: Vegan Cookies

Now listen. Thanks to ingredients like almond butter and coconut oil, vegan cookies are rarely low-calorie or even low-fat. But they are often more moist, rich and flavorful than traditional cookies, and they are undeniably guilt-free. Raw vegan cookies are ridiculously easy to make, and ethical enough for your choosiest friends. Try these Vegan No-Bake Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The Traditional: Springerle

If you haven’t heard of springerle, you really must try them. This centuries-old recipe is still a traditional Christmas cookie in Bavaria and Austria. Delicately laced with anise, springerle are low in both fat and calories. Keep them moist by storing them with apple slices; the longer they sit, the better the flavor.

Try this Authentic Springerle Recipe. For extra authenticity, pick up a decorative rolling pin from a thrift store, and roll out your cookies with traditional designs.

The Fickle Friend: Gingerbread

Gingerbread cookies can be a gamble: Healthy recipes often come out hard as a rock, while soft gingerbread cookies tend to be high in fat. Try these Healthy Gingerbread Cookies — or choose a traditional, low-fat recipe and store the cookies with your springerle and apple slices.

image: Lali Masriera

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