Contributor: Erin Castle, RD, LD
Blueberry cobbler, cherry pie, peach pie … summer celebrations often call for these staple sweet treats. Though they star antioxidant- and nutrient-rich in-season berries and fruit, they’re also traditionally loaded with sugar, cholesterol and saturated fat. We asked Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated dietitian Erin Castle to help guide these American favorites back to good health.
What’s the problem? The biggest ingredient offenders are the butter and shortening that fill most traditional piecrusts, explains Castle. When both are used—which is often the case, she says—the saturated fat and cholesterol content of the dish skyrocket. “On top of that, refined sugar is typically added to sweeten the fruit mixture and the treats are often served alongside big scoops of ice cream.”
The result: The Granny Apple Classic from Texas Roadhouse—a warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream and honey cinnamon caramel sauce—has 1,260 calories, 62g fat, 30g saturated fat, 170mg carbohydrates, 940mg sodium and 106g sugar.
The fix: To start, choose local, in-season fruits and berries for the biggest dose of nutrients. “Next, consider making a crisp instead of a pie,” says Castle. “With a crisp, you can enjoy a layer of crunch on top rather than several layers of crust.” Add oats, nuts and/or seeds to increase the fiber and protein of the crisp and try using a natural sweetener like pure maple syrup in lieu of sugar. When it comes to ice cream, you can opt for frozen yogurt (it’s typically lower in fat but nutritionally comparable otherwise), or reduce portion size. “Personally, I prefer to stick with regular ice cream and pay attention to my portion size, keeping it around a quarter of a cup,” says Castle.
Simple Berry Crisp
3 cups of blueberries or other seasonal fruit
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup steel-cut or old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped pecans or nuts of choice
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or preferred sweetener
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray an 8-inch square (or similar-sized) baking dish with cooking spray. Add blueberries and drizzle with vanilla extract. Stir together oats, pecans, flour, maple syrup, butter, cinnamon and salt. Once combined, spoon over the blueberries and gently press to cover. Bake for about 30 minutes.