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Healthy Store-Bought Cookie Guide


1. Hu / 2. Butterfly Bakery / 3. Maxine’s Heavenly / 4. Cappello’s / 5. Siete / 6. Simple Mills


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Suzanne-Headshot |Gimme the Good Stuff
Written by Suzanne, Chief Health Officer and Resident Grandmother

Since I wrote this a few years ago, I decided to take another look at store bought cookies and see if there are any new ones or maybe some that are gone. I still believe that the healthiest ones are ones you make at home. You can bake cookies with the highest-quality, natural ingredients that are organic. It is a challenge to find all the best ingredients in store bought cookies. I know that Maia and many of you are busy moms who don’t have the time to bake, or maybe you just don’t like baking, but you like to offer your kids cookies from time to time. Who doesn’t love a cookie-and-milk or cookie-and-tea break?

The first thing I look at is the ingredients and the amount of sugar. I try and stay away from highly refined flours, refined sweeteners, heavily processed, low-quality oils, and sketchy additives. I also prefer organic ingredients. (At home, I usually bake with sweeteners like maple sugar, coconut sugar, or honey. For fat, I prefer butter or coconut oil .) I used to only look for whole wheat flour, but I understand that we all want our families to love the cookies and spelt or white wheat flour is lighter and can make for a better cookie.

My Top Pick for Healthiest Cookies

As you’ll see when you read my full review below, I am hooked on Butterfly Bakery cookies, especially the raspberry almond ones. This is not a gluten-free cookie, but the flour used is a whole wheat spelt.

Butterfly Bakery of Vermont Organic Cookies from Gimme the Good Stuff Raspberry Almond

When I lived in Vermont, there was a store-bought cookie that I loved because they used maple syrup as a sweetener. We now stock Butterfly Bakery of Vermont in our warehouse in PA!

Bad Ingredients in Most Cookies

Some cookies I looked at didn’t contain a single ingredient I would call Good Stuff. But there are a few major types of ingredients that I’m most concerned about, with sweeteners and fats being at the top of my list. And whether any of the ingredients are organic.

Sugars

The problem with many cookies is that the sweetener is not only highly refined white sugar, but also high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product, far from a “natural” substance. It’s cheaper than sugar because of government subsidies and therefore it’s often a sweetener of choice in the standard cookies that you buy at the grocery store. The Mayo Clinic says, “As use of high-fructose corn syrup has increased, so have levels of obesity and related health problems.”

I have added some cookies to the Good Stuff column even though they use sugar, if they are organic and they’re using cane sugar as an alternative to refined sugar. While both sweeteners are made from sugar cane, cane sugar juice does not undergo the same degree of processing that refined sugar does and therefore retains a few more nutrients. I understand that maple, honey, and coconut sugar are still sugar, however, all of them offer some benefits either from nutrients or a slightly lower glycemic index.

And what about agave? This sweetener ranks relatively low on both the glycemic index and glycemic load scales because it has a high content of fructose. Fructose doesn’t spike blood sugar levels because the body doesn’t metabolize it efficiently, but research show that fructose is bad for our livers and causes obesity. And agave contains more fructose even than high fructose corn syrup so should probably be avoided. Maple syrup has a much lower fructose content than agave.

Fats

My other major concern with most store-bought cookies is the type of fat used. Partially hydrogenated oils (vegetable, soybean, cottonseed, etc.) are a source of unhealthy trans fats. These oils are used widely in fried and packaged foods because they’re cheap and they greatly extend a food’s shelf life. Unfortunately, they’re really bad for us.

Trans fats raise the risk of heart disease by raising LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and lowering HDL (“good cholesterol”). Human milk contains trans fat if the breastfeeding mother consumes it; the more she eats, the higher the concentration of trans fat in her milk and in her baby’s blood. Trans fat is implicated in cancers of the breast and prostatediabetesinfertilityAlzheimer’sobesity (even with similar caloric intake), depression, and other maladies.

Partially hydrogenated oils have been banned in several countries (such as Denmark and Switzerland), states (California), and cities (Calgary, New York City, and others).

You’ll still find them in lots of packaged cookies!

Note: Be wary of packages that say “0g trans fats (per serving).” This does not mean that the food is trans-fat free. It just means that there is a half gram or less of trans fat per serving. (Thanks, labeling laws!) If you look at the ingredient list, you may still see partially hydrogenated oils listed. And even though the amount may be relatively small, trans fats are bad and can add up in our diets—this is especially true for kids.

Another popular fat that is controversial is canola oil. The vast majority of canola oil (if it’s not organic) comes from genetically modified rapeseed plants. Canola oil is the product of a lot of processing, involving chemicals and high temperatures that can compromise the fatty acids, even hydrogenating some. It’s only been part of our food system since the 1970s. I do try to avoid canola oil.

Sunflower oil is used in so many baked goods and snack foods today that it is one of the main reasons I prefer to make my own cookies at home.

Sunflower oil does confer some health benefits, but like many oils it has detriments especially when heated. Sunflower oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are oversupplied in the Western diet, while the crucial omega-3s are undersupplied. The resulting imbalance contributes to cardiovascular disease and inflammatory response in the body. When heated, sunflower oil produces toxic substances called aldehydes that may increase one’s risk of cancer. Deep frying produces the most aldehydes, but sunflower oil generates more aldehydes than other oils regardless of the cooking method. Experts recommend low-heat cooking methods when using sunflower oil. Baking is considered a medium heat method, which is better than high heat.

There is no perfect answer here when it comes to eating cookies. Like so many choices it is always healthier to make your own. I eat some sunflower oil because it is in so many snack foods. I try to keep it to a limit. When I first found Butterfly Bakery they were using butter as a fat and maple syrup. I am sure they switched to sunflower oil because it is less expensive and easier to work with and some think it’s healthier than butter.

Is Gluten-Free Healthier?

Most of the cookies we recommend in this guide are either gluten-free or grain-free. This is not because we believe that flour is toxic, but rather that the brands that use gluten-free ingredients tend to also skip the most problematic sugars and oils in their recipes. That said, there are plenty of gluten-free cookies that we consider Sneaky Stuff, such as Glutino’s, whose FIRST ingredient is sugar, and which contain rice flour (which comes with arsenic concerns), soy lecithin, and natural flavors.

So Are There Healthier Cookie Brands Available?

Short answer: Yes!

Cookies can be Good Stuff, but should be enjoyed as a special treat. You already know that I’m biased in favor of cookies made at home with high-quality, wholesome ingredients (here are my favorites, but you don’t have to come to my house to get Good Stuff cookies. I did find some store-bought cookies that I call Good Stuff and Okay Stuff.

(You’ll notice in this post that I’ve linked a bunch some products to Thrive Market. Thrive is a Costco-meets-Whole-Foods-meets-Amazon model, with hard-to-find healthful foods delivered, for free, at steeply discounted prices.)

The good news is we found a few more brands of cookies that we consider Good Stuff besides our own Butterfly Bakery ones that we sell.


Butterfly Bakery of Vermont Cookies

All of these cookies are handmade in Vermont and sweetened with just pure maple syrup. The gingersnaps are Maia’s kids’ favorites, and really all of the flavors are delicious. I like that they use spelt flour instead of wheat. Spelt is an ancient grain and a distinct type of wheat. Spelt is an ancient grain and a distinct type of wheat. Whole-grain spelt flour contains more protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals than even whole-grain wheat.

  • Butterfly Bakery of Vermont Organic Cookies Maple Ginger from Gimme the Good Stuff 001
    Butterfly Bakery of Vermont Organic Cookies – Maple Gingersnap
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Hu

Hu’s whole line of cookies is squeaky clean–the ingredients include organic coconut oil, organic cocoa butter, cassava flour, cashew flour, free-range eggs, and flax seeds. The thing that makes Hu’s cookies the best of the Best Stuff is that they are sweetened with dates rather than any sugar at all. A serving size is 7 cookies, which has 7 grams of sugar.

hu healthiest cookie brands gimme the good stuff

Simple Mills

While not entirely organic, the ingredients in Simple Mills’ line of cookies are very clean, in addition to being grain-free. The flour is a blend of nuts, the fat is coconut oil, and the sweetener is coconut sugar. We think that these cookies are tasty, and like that they use coconut oil instead of sunflower.

A serving of Simple Mills cookies is four, which contains six grams of sugar.

Amazon

Annie’s Cinnamon Grahams

We love s’mores in the spring and fall when we have fires outside (we use these marshmallows with no corn syrup or other questionable ingredients), so I had to review Annie’s Cinnamon Grahams. They have 8g of whole grains and 9 grams of sugar per serving (two full cracker sheets). I like that they have whole grain wheat flour and honey and molasses. They are much better than traditional graham crackers from companies like Nabisco and Honey Maid. And there is no way I am making my own graham crackers.

Amazon

Annie’s Cookie Bites

are my favorite cookies from Annie’s because they are small and the serving size is 6-7 cookies. I tried Lemon DropOatmeal, and Chocolate Chip flavors. They are all tasty and sweet (7-8 grams of sugar per serving). The ingredients in Annie’s Cookie Bites are organic except for the fats, which are palm and sunflower oil. The first ingredient is wheat flour (which means white unless it says whole wheat) and the second ingredient is organic cane sugar. They all have whole grain, either oats or whole wheat further down the ingredient list. Each package says, “4 g of whole grain per serving.” I would probably choose the Oatmeal (although it looks like the oatmeal bites are not available) because they not only have whole grain flour but also whole oats. I thought the Lemon Drops were the tastiest, but for kids I liked the Oatmeal.

Amazon

Cadia Maple Sandwich Cookies 

These cookies are made of white flour and cane sugar, so there is nothing especially healthy here other than that they contain organic ingredients. The soy lecithin and natural flavors make these the worsr of the Okay Stuff—almost Sneaky Stuff. One serving, which is one cookie, has 9 grams of sugar. Instead of just having maple syrup, they have sugar AND maple. I want to call these cookies Good Stuff because my grandchildren love them, but they are only Okay Stuff at best. 


Emmy’s

These are comparable to Simple Mills cookies, but and in one regard are even better becasue the almond flour they use is organic. The one thing I do not like here is the agave syrup, which may be better than pure white sugar, but really shouldn’t be considered a healthy sweetener. A serving size of Emmy’s cookies is between 5 to 7 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor.  

Amazon

Enjoy Life

These cookies contain rice flour, natural flavors and nothing is organic so we can only call these Okay Stuff.  

Amazon

Highkey Cookies

These are sugar-free and not organic. They are Keto-friendly, with butter and 0 grams of sugar because they sweetened with natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit. I can’t imagine these taste very good, but let me know if you’ve tried them!   


Jovial- Einkorn Checkerboard Cookies

These cookies use a more nutritious flour—einkorn. Einkorn is the original wheat, genetically pure and quickly becoming the wheat of choice among the gluten sensitive due to its very weak gluten. The sweetener is cane sugar. One serving has only 5 grams of sugar, which is low.  


Made Good

These cookies are not grain free, but are gluten free. Their ingredients are organic. The brown rice flour in the blend—while nutritionally rich—raises the concern of arsenic contamination. I do like that these cookies have veggie extracts and chia seeds. Natural flavors isn’t ideal, nor is sunflower oil. The sweetener here is cane sugar. 4 cookies has 9 grams of sugar. One serving—which is 4 cookies–has 9 grams of sugar.  

Amazon

MI-DEL Ginger Snaps

I have been eating MI-DEL Ginger Snaps for years. They were the only remotely healthy cookies I could buy a few decades ago when I started looking for food that didn’t have trans fats. I fell for the advertising about the Swedish-style, old-world recipe, and the fact that the flour and sugar are organic. Plus, they’re delicious, crunchy and gingery. But alas, they are not really that healthful. They have no whole grains, the fat is canola oil, and there are 12 grams of sugar per serving of five cookies. They are far better than most cookies you’ll see at the grocery store, but from the health perspective, I would choose other Okay Stuff (or Good Stuff).

Amazon
Mi-del gingersnaps from Gimme the Good Stuff

Partake

These cookies are a good gluten-free option that don’t contain rice flour. Sunflower oil isn’t my top choice, and not all ingredients in these cookies are organic. They also contain pure fructose, which really isn’t healthful. Most of the ingredients are organic. One serving—three cookies—contains 8 grams of sugar. We like that this is a Black-owned business! 

 


Public Goods

These cookies hit all the right notes—very short, clean organic list that includes: Organic Coconut, Almond Flour and Organic Coconut Oil.  

Unfortunately, we decided anything with agave would be only Okay Stuff.  

 


Tate’s

These are very popular in New York where Maia lives. One thing we like about Tate’s is that they are the only brand we’ve found that uses butter instead of oil. They do contain all real ingredients and are also Kosher. A serving is two cookies, which packs 9-12 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor. None of the ingredients are organic.  

Amazon

The Greater Goods

This is another grain-free cookie. The sweetener here is jaggery, which is derived from sugar cane but is less refined and therefore contains more vitamins and minerals.  

Amazon

Keebler Fudge Stripe and E.L. Fudge Elfwich are both Bad Stuff. The Fudge Stripe has partially hydrogenated palm oil and high fructose corn syrup, and the E. L. Fudge Elfwich has high fructose corn syrup and TBHQ, a food additive which studies show increases the incidence of tumors in rats.


Sorry, but you knew that Nabisco Oreo Cookies would be on the Bad Stuff list! Oreos are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, and the fats in Oreos are palm oil and canola oil.


Nabisco Chips Ahoy cookies contain Bad Stuff like white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.


Nabisco Honey Maid Teddy Grahams are some of the least concerning cookies made by Nabisco because they don’t contain trans fats or high fructose corn syrup. However, they are very sweet, thanks to white sugar, honey, dextrose, and maltodextrin. With the exception of the honey, all of these sugars are highly processed.


Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies don’t contain high fructose corn syrup, but they are Bad Stuff thanks to the fats– hydrogenated vegetable oils and “interesterified soybean oil,” a new fat that I hadn’t seen before. According to Dr. Mercola, interesterified fats are being used by some manufacturers to replace trans fats. These oils are highly processed and we don’t fully know health effects, but early studies show similar risks as trans fats.


Stauffer’s Animal Crackers don’t contain trans fats, but they are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and white sugar. They also contain white flour and soy lecithin.


Alternative Baking Company makes vegan cookies. I was prepared to like them because my friends who own a health food store told me to check them out, and they are definitely delicious. However, these cookies are big and full of sugar. One cookie—two servings—has 24-38 grams of sugar; that’s 6-8.5 teaspoons of sugar per cookie! I like that they use unrefined cane sugar, but that’s still a lot of sugar! Also, not every ingredient they use is organic, and their ingredient lists are long. I call these cookies Sneaky Stuff because the packaging promotes vegan diets as having a profoundly positive impact on your health. I don’t think eating a cookie with that much sugar and unbleached wheat flour is good for you. If you still want to try them, go ahead, but plan to share the cookie, and perhaps choose the Peanut Butter or Oatmeal to slow down the sugar rush!


I wanted to like Back to Nature Honey Graham Sticks because I am a “back to nature hippie” from the 1970s. Back to Nature makes several types of cookies, and I was surprised that none of their ingredients are organic. This means that their cookies contain pesticides, GMOs, and who knows what else. One small pouch has 8 grams of sugar, but I give them some points for the fact that they use honey and brown rice syrup rather than more refined sweeteners.


Glutino – This brand is sneaky


Goodie Girl Cookies

The very first ingredient here is cane sugar, so that’s a bit much. Also rice flour, sunflower oil, soy lecithin, and natural flavors. At 11 grams of sugar per serving  (2 cookies) is the highest of any cookie we reviewed.  


Horizon Cinnamon Grahams get points for being organic. But because they contain soy lecithin, a widely used and controversial additive, I would choose Annie’s Cinnamon Grahams instead.


Lenny & Larry’s

These cookies are ubiquitous in New York City delis and bodegas. One thing to know is that if you eat the whole cookie that’s considered two servings, and packs 24 grams of sugar. These have a protein blend that’s kind of weird (pea protein and rice protein), natural flavor, guar gum. Overall these are pretty processed, not organic, and therefore Sneaky Stuff. 


I have to call Mavericks cookies Sneaky because at the end of the day these cookies are made of white flour and sugar (plus “natural flavors”) and nothing is organic—yet these are marketed as a health food cookie for some reason.


Newman-O’s from Newmans Own Organics are a hit with my grandsons, and I’ve been a fan of the company (and Paul Newman himself) for a long time. But they’re basically Oreos made with processed organic ingredients like white flour, refined white sugar, and palm and sunflower oils. They’re better than Nabisco’s Oreos, but not much.

To your health,

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8 responses to “Healthy Store-Bought Cookie Guide”

  1. I REFUSE!! = I refuse to utilize web sites that direct me – ONLY – Amazon. I find this practice to be unfair to other vendor who are just as good, if not better than Amazon!!!! (Ebay, Target, Walmart, etc.)

  2. Lauren

    Could you take a look at the Costco animal crackers and let me know how bad they are? Thx!

  3. I just recently found these cookies and like them pretty well. What’s your opinion of them?

    Bitsys Brainfood Smart Cookies, Orange Chocolate Beet, Sweet Potato Oatmeal Raisin & Zucchini Gingerbread Carrot 5 oz (Variety Pack of 3) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0108ORPQY/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_t2SwybNGAY9YT

    1. Hi Sharon,

      I haven’t ever seen this brand. They have some “Good Stuff” and they are organic. The second ingredient is brown sugar so I wouldn’t recommend them as an everyday food. Also, the fat is palm shortening which has some issues. Certainly better than cookies that aren’t organic and ones that contain sugar without any “Good Stuff”.

  4. Tracy Graziano

    We recently went on a mission trying to find cookies without palm oil. As you may be aware, palm oil is the major culprit for habitat destruction in many rainforests throughout the world and is THE reason why we may lose orangoutangs in the wild. After looking at many many brands of cookies, I got rather dizzy reading the ingredients lists in the stores and decided no more store bought cookies for us.
    There is much more to “good stuff” than just the ingredients–we also have to consider how our actions can impact the world around us and therefore the wellbeing of our children for the future. Can you imagine a world without wildlife?

    1. Yes I agree there is more than just our own personal health. Palm oil is a problem environmentally and for that reason not really “good stuff”. I also agree it is much better to bake your own cookies, then you can know what’s in them. I buy local flour, local butter, and local maple sugar.

  5. Rick Davis

    Does the “local” store have a website? Thanks for the tips.

    1. I did not list a website for a local store because everybody’s “local” is different. My local is http://www.lemonstreetmarket.com

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