Celebrate with health in mind

 A healthy chocolate cookie for celebrations

Next time you have a birthday to celebrate, swap the cake for this Chocolate Happy Birthday Cookie. It’s one of the recipes included in this year’s Heart and Stroke’s recipe book Kids Edition Volume 1 to be released this March.

This cookie is perfect in place of a birthday cake because it is “shiny and smooth, perfect for decorating” says Amanda Nash, Registered Dietitian and Community Nutrition Manager for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Kids celebrate with health

How do these cookies stack up against the ones you can buy at the store?

“When you compare it to your typical commercial chocolate cookies these are much healthier” says Amanda.  “Commercial cookies contain double the calories, three times the saturated fat and more than double the amount of  sugar”.

She also suggests keeping in mind all nutrients. For example, you might not think sweet treats such as cookies include  sodium, but commercial cookies can include up to five percent of the recommended sodium intake. The amount in these cookies are much lower. “The best option is always to make it at home” Amanda reassures us.

Appropriate serving sizes, using canola oil (an unsaturated heart healthy fat), using an adequate amount of sugar and added fibre make these cookies a guilt-free birthday treat.

Here is a quick look at what you get when you purchase cookies vs. make your own at home:

 Store Purchased  Homemade
 Mrs. Fields
Triple Chocolate Cookie
 Chocolate Happy
Birthday Cookie
 Serving Size   1 cookie (48 g)   1 slice (25 g)
 Calories   210   100
 Protein   2 g   2 g
 Total Fat   10 g   4 g
            Saturated Fat   6 g   1 g
            Cholesterol   15 mg   0 mg
 Carbohydrates   28 g   15 g
            Fibre   1 g   1 g
            Sugar   19 g   9 g
 Sodium   170 mg   45 mg

Even when you double the portion size of the homemade cookie to match the way to big serving of the store purchased cookie you still make out better.  The overall calories remain similar but where they come from is very different.  You get double the fibre and double the protein for two thumbs up.  You also get one-third of the unhealthy saturated fat because you baked with heart healthy canola oil.  It’s a good reminder that you need to read the entire label and not only look at one component.

What about the chocolate?

Using cocoa powder, which is also an antioxidant,  decreases the amount of sugar required. Amanda explains that using mini chocolate chips instead of the regular sized ones allows for “less added sugar from the chocolate, but you still get that chocolate burst in every bite.”

Decorate with fruit

Whether you make these cookies for a birthday or just as a treat during heart month avoid adding extra sugars and decorate them with fruit instead. “Only four percent of Manitoba youth meet the fruit and vegetable requirements set by Health Canada” Amanda tells us  (see table below for requirements by age group). “Adding fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks helps your body get the nutrients it needs, lowering your risk for heart disease and stroke.”

Eat Well…Wendy

Canada’s Food Guide recommended number of servings per day for fruits & vegetables




Age in Years








Girls and Boys







Fruits & Vegetables










Source: Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, Health Canada, 2007