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Tips for Creating a Healthier Pie

Mmmmm!  Pies are a wonderful dessert and they taste so good! Whether they’re filled with sweet fruit or a creamy concoction, they’re one of the world’s most popular desserts. Add a dollop of ice cream to the mix and you’ve got a real treat that’s hard to refuse.

But if you’re calorie conscious or trying to lose weight, chances are that you’ve eliminated this tasty confection from your menu. Pies can indeed be quite high in calories. The US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database notes that a slice equal to 1/6 of an 8 inch apple pie contains (on an average) a hefty 15 grams of fat and about 280-300 calories. Chocolate Crème Pie is even worse. A slice of the same size contains about 340 calories and 20 grams of fat. For someone counting calories, that’s a whopping portion of their intended daily intake.

So where are all the calories? They’re just about everywhere – both in the crust and in the filling. But, say those who’ve experimented with creating a healthier pie, there are ways to cut down on the fat and calories and come up with a pie that still tastes good.

A Healthier Crust

The crust of a pie usually contains the bulk of the calories. After all, it’s buttery and flaky and there’s lots of it on the average pie. But there are indeed ways to make pie crust that doesn’t add so much bad stuff to your diet.

First of all, search for a recipe that includes a fat that is lower in saturated fats than butter or shortening. For example, there are recipes available for crusts that are made with canola oil. The texture will be somewhat different but it’ll still be tasty. A traditional crust can also be made higher in fiber and, hence, healthier, by using half whole-wheat flour and half enriched white flour in the recipe.

Secondly, you might choose to bake a one-crust pie. By eliminating the top crust, you’re cutting out half the calories contributed by the crust. If your pie must have something on top, use less crust by laying a lattice-work pattern rather than a solid crust.

If you’re willing, you can eliminate traditional crust all together and opt instead for a crumb crust of some sort. For the bottom crust, simply coat the pan with cooking spray and cover with cookie crumbs (try graham crackers, light shortbread cookies, or even gingerbread or spice cookies for a holiday pie). For the top, mix crumbs with margarine and sprinkle lightly over the fruit filling.

A Healthier Filling

Basically, two things make pie filling unhealthy – sugar and fat – so those are the issues you’ll want to address when attempting to modify a pie filling recipe so that it is better for you but still delicious.

The most obvious substitution is taking out the sugar and using a product like Splenda® Sugar Blend instead. This item contains a mix of Splenda sweetener and pure sugar and is designed specifically for use in baked goods. At just 10 calories per teaspoonful, pies made with this product will contain about half the calories of those made with just pure sugar. (For substitution purposes, a ½ cup of Splenda Sugar Blend equals 1 cup of sugar.)

For cream or custard pies that call for either evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk, opt for the skimmed or fat-free variety of those ingredients. Choosing this option will generally slice about 25-40 calories from each piece of pie. Similarly, if your pie recipe calls for cream cheese, choose the low-fat version, which boasts one-third less calories than traditional cream cheese. (Note: Using fat-free cream cheese may result in watery fillings that are of an unusual texture, so avoid them.)

Finally, resist the temptation to garnish your slice with whipped cream or ice cream. Merely eliminating those items – or substituting them with a low-cal version – will result in a huge decrease in calories and fat.