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With apple season here and the holidays fast approaching, it’s hard not to crave homemade apple pie, but all the fat and calories can help pack on the pounds over winter. How about some lighter options?
A modest slice of apple pie has more than 400 calories and about 20 grams of fat (five of those come from the less-healthy saturated fats). Add some ice cream or whipped cream, and you’re looking at well over 500 calories, which knocks out 25% of the average 2,000-calorie diet. Skipping the toppings is a good place to start, but there are ways to adjust the main ingredients and still satisfy that apple pie urge.
The fruity filling is the least problematic part of your average apple pie; the crust is another story (more on that below). Most fillings are made from apples, a small amount of sugar and some low-calorie flavorings like cinnamon, vanilla or lemon juice. Watch out for recipes that call for gobs of butter — save that for the crust. The ingredients may include a sprinkle of flour to help thicken the filling; that’s not going to make a significant difference on the calories or fat so don’t worry. Some folks pile on loads of apples, which can cause the calories to climb. One apple has about 70 calories — you really shouldn’t need more than half to three-quarters of an apple per person in a slice.
Butter, shortening and lard are three things that help make a flaky and tasty pie crust — unfortunately, they contribute oodles of fat and calories. Your smartest option is to use half of the crust by making a galette, which is a rustic, open-faced apple tart. You can have all the apple pie flavor (with the same ingredients) in much more figure-friendly portions.
Pre-made refrigerated pie dough is an option for in-a-pinch baking, but I prefer to make my own from scratch. Use a combo of all-purpose and whole-wheat pastry flour for a nutty flavor and some extra fiber. Of course, you will need some butter, but replacing some of it with plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream can help make a lighter but still flavorful crust.
Beyond a galette, try using light, airy (and much lower calorie) phyllo dough to make apple turnovers, or make a warm apple crisp with a crunchy topping made from oats and a few nuts. For fall dinner parties, I like to make individual apple crisps in ramekins for my guests. With all the calories saved, there’s room for a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
Order this classic dish at a restaurant and you’re in for a 900-calorie meal (that’s without appetizers or dessert!). Opt for frozen and you won’t do much better at around 700 calories a pop. For both options, fat ranges from 40 to 60 grams and sodium can double the recommended daily amount. Instead, cozy up to a homemade version Healthy Eats style.