Store-Bought Cookie Guide: the Healthiest Cookies We Found
I still believe that the healthiest cookies are the ones you make at home. You can bake cookies with the highest-quality, natural, organic ingredients. But I know many of you are busy moms like Maia and you don’t have time to bake. Who doesn’t love a cookie-and-milk or cookie-and-tea snack?
When looking for the healthiest cookies, I often first look at the amount of sugar they contain. I try and stay away from highly refined flours, refined sweeteners, heavily processed, low-quality oils, and sketchy additives. I am fine with gluten in my cookies, but I do look for brands that use whole wheat flour or spelt flour. (At home, I usually bake with sweeteners like maple sugar, coconut sugar, or honey. For fat, I prefer butter or coconut oil .)
I also prefer organic ingredients in anything I buy, including cookies.
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. While there might be other brands that are arguably even healthier than these, there are the best tasting cookie on our approved list.
Bad Ingredients in Most Cookies
Some of the brands of cookies I looked at while researching this guide didn’t contain a single ingredient I would call Good Stuff. Still, there are a few types of ingredients that I’m particularly concerned about, with sweeteners and fats being at the top of my list.
The problem with many cookies is that the sweetener they use. You’ll see not only highly refined white sugar, but also high fructose corn syrup, in most cookies you can buy in a regular grocery store.
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 the sweetener of choice in most big cookie brands. Any cookie we reviewed that contained corn syrup was immediately deemed Bad Stuff or Sneaky Stuff.
You’ll find cookies in our Okay Stuff category that contain sugar, but you’ll notice that it’s always cane sugar. While cane sugar and white sugar are both made from sugar cane, cane sugar juice does not undergo the same degree of processing that refined sugar does. Cane sugar therefore retains 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. (For comparison, maple syrup has a much lower fructose content than agave.)
Of all the cookies that you’ll see we recommended below, the one with the lowest sugar per serving is the Simple Mills (4 grams of sugar).
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 prostate, diabetes, infertility, Alzheimer’s, obesity (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). But you’ll still find transfat 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 can add up in our diets—this is especially true for kids.
Canola oil is another popular fat in packaged cookies. 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 try to avoid canola oil when possible.
Sunflower oil is also used in many baked goods, and while it does confersome health benefits, it is less healthful 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. Experts recommend low-heat cooking methods when using sunflower oil. Baking is considered a medium heat method, which is better than high heat (such as deep-frying). I eat some sunflower oil because it is in so many snack foods. I try to keep it minimal.
You’ll see when we go into more detail below that many of the Good Stuff brands use coconut oil as a fat for their cookies. If you want a cookie that uses good old fashioned butter, check out Highkey or Tate’s (both only Okay Stuff for other reasons!).
Are the Healthiest Cookies Gluten-Free?
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 skip the most problematic sugars and oils, too. That said, there are plenty of gluten-free cookies that we consider Sneaky Stuff. Glutino cookies, for instance, list sugar as the first ingredient, and contain rice flour (which comes with arsenic concerns), soy lecithin, and natural flavors.
Almond flour is a very healthy ingredient found in some of the the better gluten-free cookies. Unfortunately, none of my grandkids like almond flour cookies! This is another reason that we favor Butterfly Bakery–these are the healthiest cookies that the kids in our lives actually like.
Hu is the healthiest grain-free cookie we found. And if you are really just wanting a white flour freaking cookie (been there), then your best bet are Annie’s Cookie Bites. I like Partake cookies for those of you with allergies.
What Are the Healthiest Cookies?
Store-bought cookies can be Good Stuff, but in most cases they should still 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 found plenty of store-bought cookies that I can call Good Stuff and Okay Stuff. Keep reading to learn about the six brands that I believe are making the healthiest cookies in 2023.
(You’ll notice in this post that I’ve linked 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 this time around!
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 Butterfly uses spelt flour instead of wheat. Spelt is an ancient grain and contains more protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals than even whole-grain wheat. This is what makes Butterfly Bakery cookies among the healthiest you can buy. Still, this is a sweet cookie, with 11 grams of sugar in three crisps.
While these cookies do need to be sliced and baked, I wanted to include Capello’s here because so many of you asked about this brand. The ingredients here, while not entirely organic, are very healthy–these cookies are mostly almond flour, maple syrup, and coconut oil. A serving size is only one cookie (one-eighth of the tube of dough), but only has 5 grams of sugar.
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 seven cookies, which has 7 grams of sugar.
This brand was not on my radar because I began the discovery phase of this updated guide. I am so pleased to say they are Good Stuff! While not everything is organic here–this is a great ingredients list, including oat flour, flax seeds, and coconut sugar. These cookies have 10 grams of sugar per serving, which is two cookies.
I am a fan of Siete snacks generally, and their cookies are no exception. These are a grain-free cookie that’s sweetened with coconut sugar. I do with these cookies were organic. A serving size is six cookies, which has 6 grams of sugar.
While not entirely organic, Simple Mills makes some of the healthiest cookies we found. The ingredients here 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 we like that they use coconut oil instead of sunflower.
A serving of Simple Mills cookies is 4, which contains 4 grams of sugar.
The brands listed here are cookies I would enjoy as a treat without feeling bad about it. They don’t make our Good Stuff list because they either contain too much sugar, junky oils, not enough organic ingredients, or all of the above.
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 8 grams 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.
One nice thing about these cookies is that they are small and pre-portioned into 7-cookie servings. I tried Lemon Drop, Oatmeal, and Chocolate Chip flavors. They are all tasty and fairly 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. These cookies are mostly white flour and cane sugar, although each flavor contains whole grains–either oats or whole wheat flour. I would probably choose the Oatmeal because they not only have whole grain flour but also whole oats. I thought the Lemon Drops were the tastiest!
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 worst of the Okay Stuff, but not quite Sneaky Stuff. One serving, which is one cookie, has 9 grams of sugar. The maple flavor contains sugar in addition to maple syrup, which feels unnecessary. I want to call these cookies Good Stuff because my grandchildren love them, but they are only Okay Stuff at best.
These are comparable to Simple Mills cookies, and in one regard are even better because 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, for the reasons explained above. A serving size of Emmy’s cookies is between 5 to 7 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor.
These cookies contain rice flour, and natural flavors–both which we don’t love. They have 10 grams of sugar in just 2 cookies, which is on the high end. None of the ingredients is organic so we these cookies are definitely only Okay Stuff. While we don’t think Enjoy Life are the healthiest cookies, we do appreciate that they are a good choice for people with severe allergies.
These cookies are sugar-free and Keto-friendly. I like that they use real butter as the fat source, but I don’t like that Highkey doesn’t use any organic ingredients. These mini cookies have 0 grams of sugar because they sweetened with stevia and monk fruit. I can’t imagine these taste very good, but let me know if you’ve tried them!
These checkerboard 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 here is cane sugar. One serving has only 5 grams of sugar, which is low.
These cookies are not grain free, but they 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. One serving—which is 4 cookies–has 9 grams of sugar.
I have been eating this brand’s Ginger Snaps for decades (they do make other flavors now, too). I suppose I fell for the advertising about the Swedish-style, old-world recipe, and the flour and sugar being organic. Plus, they’re crunchy and yummy. Sadly, MI-DEL cookies contain no whole grains, the fat is canola oil, and there are 12 grams of sugar per serving (five cookies). They are far better than most cookies you’ll see at the grocery store, but we can only call them Okay Stuff.
These cookies are a good gluten-free option because they don’t contain rice flour. I’m not calling Partake cookies Good Stuff because the contain sunflower oil and fructose. Most of the ingredients are organic. One serving—three cookies—contains 8 grams of sugar. We like that this is a Black-owned business!
These cookies hit all the right notes—very short, clean organic list that includes coconut oil and almond flour. One cookie contains 5 grams of sugar, which is on the low side.
These are very popular in New York, where Maia lives. One thing we like about Tate’s is that they are one of the only brands 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 in Tate’s are organic.
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. We love that these cookies contain mostly organic ingredients and pack a lot of fiber and protein. A serving of these–about two cookies–contains about 7 grams of sugar. We are calling these cookies Okay Stuff mostly because we don’t know enough about jaggery to determine if it is much healthier than plain old sugar.
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. They are still Bad Stuff thanks to the fats– hydrogenated vegetable oils and “interesterified soybean oil,” a new fat that I hadn’t seen before. My research revealed that interesterified fats are being used by some manufacturers to replace trans fats. These oils are highly processed and 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 giant vegan cookies. I was prepared to like them because my friend who own a health food store told me to check them out. I admit they taste delicious. However, these cookies are FULL of sugar. One cookie—two servings—has 24-38 grams of sugar; that’s as much as 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, 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 is Sneaky Stuff, with sugar as the first ingredient, plus rice flour, soy lecithin, and natural flavors.
Goodie Girl Cookies list cane sugar as the first ingredient. These cookies also contain rice flour, sunflower oil, soy lecithin, and natural flavors. At 11 grams of sugar per serving (two cookies), these are among the sweetest we reviewed.
Lenny & Larry’s cookies are ubiquitous in New York City delis and bodegas. One thing to know is that if you eat the whole cookie it’s considered two servings, and that packs 24 grams of sugar. These have a protein blend that’s kind of weird (pea protein and rice protein), natural flavor, and 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 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.
Trader Joe’s makes tons of different cookies, and some of them are better than others. As a whole, we have to call TJ’s cookies sneaky. Many of them contain white sugar (as opposed to cane sugar), and in some cases it’s the first ingredient. TJ’s cookies aren’t organic, and all are made with white flour and contain natural flavors. Trader Joe’s cookies also tend to be very sweet, with upwards of 10 grams of sugar per serving. Trader Joe’s gluten-free cookies all contain rice flour. The very worst Trader’s Cookies might be their little packs of mini chocolate chip cookies, which pack a whopping 23 grams of sugar in each pouch. The best Trader Joe’s cookies are the Belgian Butter Waffle Cookies, which, while not organic, have a very simple ingredient list: sugar, flour, egg, butter.
To your health,
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