Is Apple Pie Good for You?

Mmmm…apple pie!  That good ol’ American dessert evokes images of summer picnics and Thanksgiving feasts.  But sometimes, diving into a slice of homemade apple pie may leave you with a nagging sense of guilt as you wonder if it’s a healthy choice.   

In general, apple pie is not very good for you from a calorie and fat content standpoint.  While the apples offer limited health benefits, these are negated by the lack of nutritional value in the pie crust.  Eat apple pie infrequently and in small quantities.

If you’re craving a piece of apple pie but are afraid it may be packed with unhealthy ingredients, read on to discover whether all that deliciousness is good for you… or not.

The Nutritional Facts of Apple Pie

The old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is encouraging when you start thinking about apple pie. 

With all that healthy fruit inside, how could apple pie possibly be bad for you to eat? 

Surely Grandma wasn’t wrong about the apples!

In a nutshell (or a pie shell in this case), the benefits of the apple filling are overshadowed by the caloric fat of the pie crust.  Eating an occasional slice of apple pie is okay, but a steady diet of its high fat crust is not good for you.

The issue with apple pie isn’t the fruit. It’s the stuff we add to turn the apples into a pie:  processed sugar and, typically, a double crust, made from butter,  shortening, or lard. That’s what takes the “good for you” out of an apple pie.

The Food Network says that an average-sized slice of apple pie usually contains about 400 calories and 20 grams of fat, and that’s without adding ice cream or whipped topping. That’s nearly a quarter of the recommended number of 2000 calories per day.

So, let’s talk about what goes into an apple pie and what you should know about these two main components.

Apples and Filling

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, apples by themselves offer several health benefits because they contain vitamin C, fiber, and phytochemicals such as pectin and quercetin.

Health benefits include:

  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
  • Constipation preventative
  • Slight effect on LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
  • Possible prevention of chronic diseases like cancer or bowel issues

One apple eaten raw adds up to about 95 calories.  These calories contain about 1 gram of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and no fat.  The bulk of an apple’s makeup totals around 25 grams of carbohydrate with 19 grams of naturally-occurring sugar.

Turning apples into apple pie filling involves adding a few other ingredients such as cinnamon, lemon juice, and vanilla.  These low-calorie ingredients are used in relatively small quantities and don’t negatively impact the filling. In fact, cinnamon brings its own health benefits as an antioxidant and digestive aid.

Pie Crust

Now, here’s the culprit that turns healthy apples into not-so-healthy apple pie! 

Pie crust gets its delicious and delicate flakiness from the use of butter, shortening, or lard.  All of these ingredients are super high in fat.

Eating Well’s recipe for an ⅛ (or a typical slice) of a 9′ double-crust yields these nutrition facts:

Calories281
Total Fat 17.6g
* Saturated Fat11g
Cholesterol45.8mg
Sodium221.3mg
Potassium42.8mg
Total Carbohydrates 26.8g
* Dietary Fiber0.9g
* Total Sugar0.1g
Protein3.8g

How to Bake a Healthier Apple Pie

There are several ways to enjoy apple pie or apple pie-esque desserts that taste very much like traditional pie but without the guilt and extra calories.

Reduce Sugar in the Filling

Cut back on the amount of sugar added to the apples when you make the filling.  Let the natural sugar of the apples shine through to give your pie a sweet but slightly tart flavor.

Use a Lattice Crust on Top

Cut the second pie crust into strips rather than covering the top of an apple pie with a whole crust.  Lay these strips across the top in a checkerboard pattern to cut down on the total number of calories and create a pretty pie top.

Make a Galette

Offer guests the unexpected by making a galette.  A galette is a flat round pastry cake topped with fruit. It’s similar to an apple tart but has only a bottom crust.  Using only one crust cuts calories and fat in half.

Experiment with Crust Ingredients

Instead of using traditional flour and butter, try making pie crusts with a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flour. You’ll still need some butter, but experiment with replacing some of it with plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream to reduce calories. 

Finely-ground oats are another option to consider mixing in with the flour.

Conclusion

The apples in an apple pie offer some health benefits, but the usual pie crust is not all that good for you.  Eating an occasional slice of apple pie isn’t going to wreck your fitness level or send your diet plan down the tubes. As with most foods, moderation is the key.

If you still want to enjoy apple pie on a regular basis, try your hand at baking one with less crust to avoid the high fat and calories of traditional-style apple pie.

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