Tips and tricks for a better way to enjoy America’s favorite dessert.
“It’s as American as apple pie.” This familiar saying
speaks to the best of American culture: Our history, or people, our food.
And of all the recipes associated with America, apple pie towers above
the rest – and it’s easy to see why. Few desserts are more
comforting than a warm, delicious slice of home-baked pie, with its steaming
fruity aroma and inviting golden crust.
Unfortunately being overweight is an all-too-familiar American characteristic
as well – over two thirds of Americans are considered overweight
or obese, which contributes to a wide variety of preventable conditions
like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
While pie is not the primary culprit behind obesity, clearly having too
much of a good thing is part of the problem. And in an era of pop-up pie
shops offering temptation, it’s become almost too easy to eat one
too many slices. But there are still ways people can
enjoy pie, just in a healthier, more nutritious way.
Make Your Own Pie
As daunting as this may sound to inexperienced cooks, baking a pie doesn’t
have to be a monumental challenge. It is actually a fairly simple process,
and can be made even simpler by using healthier, prepared ingredients.
But the key idea behind making your own is: You control the ingredients,
and can make them with far
less sugar and fat than commercially-made pies. Many people would be shocked to know
that frozen pie has the highest percentage of calories and unhealthy fats
per serving than any other item in the freezer case. Plus, these desserts
typically contain high amounts of added
refined sugars for flavor, and chemical additives you don’t necessarily want to
feed to your family. Once you understand the basics of
making pie – crust + filling + baking time -- you can make them with healthier
Replace unhealthy crust ingredients. Most pies require a crust, which contains flour, fat and flavorings. If
you start with a sugar-free crust (like the one used
here for a tasty pumpkin pie), you’re well on the way to having healthier
dessert. Coconut flour and sugar-free graham crackers can reduce the calorie
count. And while traditional pie crusts call for lard or shortening, you
can also make light, tender crust with cholesterol-free olive oil. Next,
replace refined white flour with whole wheat. Whole wheat flour provides
vitamins B1, B2, B3 and E, plus calcium, folic acid, copper, phosphorus,
zinc, iron and fiber. Many of these ingredients actually help
control weight as well as provide overall health benefits. And to cut crust calories
in half, you can always make a pie that doesn’t have a top crust.
Still intimidated by making pie crust? There are some brands of commercial
frozen pie crusts that are surprisingly low in trans fats, and bake up
perfectly every time. And commercially-made filo dough is lighter still.
Compare labels, choose a crust with the lowest calories and trans fats,
and bake away.
Replace unhealthy filling ingredients. Not all pies have to be calorie-bombs like chocolate chiffon, pecan and
French silk pie. Among Americans’ favorite pies are actually some
of the healthiest, with good old apple pie topping the list. Apples are
high in important nutrients and are full of flavor, which means they may
require less sugar than other fillings.
Pumpkin pie is considered roughly equal to apple in terms of nutrients and calories,
but the main thing is to use less sugar and fat in any filling. No matter
which kind of pie you make, most pies taste the same when you use 1/4th to 1/3rd less sugar. So look for recipes that require less sugar, and use fruits
whose flavors compensate for ‘missing’ sweetness. You can
also try sugar replacements like honey or palm sugar, or replace white
sugar with light brown sugar – it tastes sweeter than white, so
you use less. Choose fruit that is high in natural flavors and sweetness,
like plum, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, peach and raspberry. And
avoid creamy layers and cream toppings; for that creamy taste, add a dollop
of lightly sweetened Greek yogurt.
Make smaller pies. Finally, remember you don’t have to make several pies at once like
grandma did, or even one 10-inch pie. You can make individual portions
with small prepared tart shells, or “tartlets” that don’t require crust at all, but use wonton wrappers.
And look for mini-pie recipes that use oats, crushed nuts or even beans
instead of traditional pie crust.
Any way you slice it, you can still enjoy pie in a healthier way, especially
when you make it yourself.
Do you have any healthy pie tips? Leave a comment here.