Give your holiday cookies a healthy twist

There's a stark difference between cooking and baking - the importance of measurements.

It's often easy to make calorie-cutting adjustments as you prepare a dish for dinner, whether that means substituting ingredients or just using less of unhealthy ones. However, baking is much more of a science. Messing with the recipe can change the treat's texture and turn your delicious cake into something else entirely if you don't know what you're doing.

For those trying to make their annual batch of holiday cookies a bit healthier, check out these substitution recommendations.

Butter
This ingredient gives cookies the right texture, plus the rich taste that you expect from holiday treats. According to Cooking Light magazine, butter helps cookies spread and become crisp. This level of crunch can be achieved with a bit of corn syrup if you use less butter in your recipe.

There are several options for butter substitutions, but it's often best to only replace half of what the recipe calls for. In fact, Cooking Light explained that reducing the amount of fat slightly without adding anything is ideal for maintaining both texture and taste.

However, if you want to try an alternate source of moisture and flavor, you can use applesauce, cream cheese, yogurt or egg whites. The Mayo Clinic suggested incorporating shortening that's specifically for baking into the cookies for half of the butter.

Sugar
While sugar substitutes in drinks are a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle for seniors, using them in baked goods might not be as delicious. Cooking Light explained that these products might react differently in heat than pure sugar. Additionally, replacing the called-for sugar can make your cookies too dense.

To reduce the amount of sugar in your recipes, sweeten the dough with vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon. The substitution isn't 1-to-1 - you'll need to adjust for taste.

Flour
The easiest way to cut calories from the flour portion of your recipe is by replacing half of the all-purpose flour with a whole wheat variety. However, Cooking Light advised that flour measurements become much more important when you start adjusting the fat ingredients such as butter and milk.

According to All You magazine, black beans are an excellent substitution for flour in chocolaty treats. Drain, wash and puree a can of black beans for every cup of flour to cut back on calories and give your cookies a boost of protein.