It only takes a few small tweaks to trim calories and add nutrients to your fave apple pie recipe.

By Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN
Updated: September 23, 2017
Photo: Shutterstock

Apple pie certainly sounds wholesome, but in most recipes, apples are where the healthy ingredients stop. Pies are usually loaded with sugar, butter, and white flour-just one slice can set you back around 400 calories. Thankfully, a few brilliant baking tweaks can help make your favorite fall dish healthier, without sacrificing the flavors you love. (Up next: Healthy Apple Recipes for Fall)

Make a lattice top crust.

Aside from being freaking adorable, making a lattice crust instead of a full second crust will save you some calories. Less crust on your pie = fewer calories from crust. #Math.

Try a crumble topping.

If a lattice top sounds way too complicated, you could also do a complete crust change-up and try an oat crumble topping with a little oil instead of butter and flour. My go-to easy crumble topping recipe is:

  • 1 cup rolled oats (or ground-up oats as an oat flour options)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Mix ingredients until well combined and scatter evenly over the surface of the pie. The pie is done when the apple filling it soft and bubbling and the crumble topping is browned.

Use less sugar.

Because apples are already sweet, you can easily cut back on the sugar in any given recipe. If the recipe calls for one cup of sugar, use three-quarters of a cup. Chances are you won't even miss it. If your pie serves eight, that's a savings of about 1.5 teaspoons per serving, or about 25 calories-not huge, but not nothing.

Load up on spices.

Aside from being absolutely delicious, pie-friendly spices like cinnamon and ginger have been studied extensively for their health benefits. As a bonus, the extra flavor means you need to rely less on the sweetness of sugar.

Make it rustic.

For an earthy twist that's also higher in fiber, leave some or all of the apples unpeeled before you chop them. You'll retain all those nutrients in the skins (like fiber, for example) and get a more robust flavor and texture. For more variety, use a few different types of apples.

Flour fix.

Upgrade your crust by swapping in a whole-grain flour like white whole wheat (yes, that's a thing) or doing a mix of white flour and a whole grain. The texture won't be as flaky but will instead be rich and more filling, so you can get away with enjoying a smaller slice.

Add nuts and seeds.

Adding a few tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your crust is a great way to up the fiber factor while adding a rich, nutty taste and a tiny boost of omega-3 fatty acids. Using ground nuts in your crust in place of some of the flour is another delicious way to sneak in a little extra protein, heart-healthy fat, and fiber. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts-it's hard to go wrong! Again, this will make for a heartier, denser crust so you can enjoy a smaller piece.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the dough will be less elastic and may be slightly harder to roll out, so this would be a good one to use for the base and then to do a crumble topping.

Don't over-healthify.

All this said, eating is about pleasure and enjoyment. It is totally possible to overdo it with healthy tweaks and suck the life and soul from a favorite food. If a treat isn't satisfying, you might eat another serving or start poking around in the cupboard for more treats. If nothing but the old-fashioned double-crust, flaky-crusted, sugar-tastic classic will do it for you, enjoy a slice (with ice cream) and know that you can move right on with your life and enjoy your usual healthy fare, starting with your next eating occasion. (See also: Why the 80/20 Rule Is the Best)

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