Pie: Tips & Recipes for Healthier Pies (cont.)

Creamy and custard pie fillings usually call for evaporated milk -- not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk, which pops up in fancier pies like Key lime and Kahlua cream pie. You can use evaporated skimmed milk in recipes that call for evaporated milk, and fat-free sweetened condensed milk in recipes that call for sweetened condensed. Either switch will trim about 25 calories per slice (if you get eight slices per pie), and in a pie, every little bit helps!

Cream cheese is another creamy filling ingredient that can be replaced with a lower-fat variety. I personally I find the color and texture of fat-free cream cheese unappetizing, so you may want to go for low-fat or light cream cheese instead. If your filling calls for an 8-ounce package of cream cheese, you can shave about 37 calories and 5.5 grams of fat per serving (when 8 servings per pie) by using light cream cheese.

Tips for the Pie Topping

Now for pie toppings! You didn't think I was going to stop at filling, did you?

When it comes to topping options, you're basically looking at more crust, whipped cream, meringue, crumb topping, whipped toppings (such as Cool Whip), and then, of course, there is the a la mode option (with ice cream).

All of these toppings will cost you calories. Some are high in sugar, and some are high in fat. You can switch to a lighter option, like fat-free or light whipped topping. Or you can use half as much of the real thing (your best option if your topping is whipping cream).

Here are some more light topping options:

  • If the recipe calls for meringue (egg white and sugar), cover the pie with a nice, modest blanket of the white stuff. You don't have to make a mountain of meringue!
  • Instead of a top crust, top your fruit pie with a higher-fiber, lower-fat crumb topping (see recipe below).
  • If ice cream takes the cake for your pie, choose one of those great-tasting light vanilla ice creams on the market (with around 4 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving), and use a cookie-dough size scoop (about 1/4 cup of ice cream when rounded).

This completes our "pleased as pie" trilogy; we've covered pie crust, filling, and now the topping. Let the pie season begin!

Crumb Topping for Fruit Pie

3/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
Slightly heaping 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Slightly heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup less-fat margarine (with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon)
1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk (add one or two teaspoons more if needed)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or the temperature recommended in your pie recipe.
  • Add oats, flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt to a large mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer on low speed to combine. Add margarine in chunks and beat on medium speed, cleaning margarine off beaters several times, until a nice crumb has formed.
  • Drizzle buttermilk over the top of oat mixture and blend with mixer just until your crumb mixture has moistened nicely. Add a teaspoon or two more buttermilk, if needed.
  • Spread topping over pie filling and bake as directed in your pie recipe (usually about 30 minutes). If your recipe calls for baking more than 30 minutes, cover the top of the pie with foil for the first 20 minutes. Remove foil from the pie and bake for another 24 minutes or until crust is golden.

Yield: Enough topping for one 9-inch round pie

Per serving (if 12 servings per pie): 90 calories, 2.5 g protein, 13.5 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.2 g fiber, 102 mg sodium.

Light Canola Pie Crust - No Rolling Required

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or regular whole-wheat flour)
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lite pancake syrup
5 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk

  • Add flours and salt to medium bowl and blend well with electric mixer (on LOW).
  • Add the pancake syrup and canola oil to mixing bowl and beat on low speed until the mixture looks blended and crumbly. Pour in the buttermilk and mix on low speed just until the dough is moist and holds together well (about 15 seconds). Stir in a teaspoon or two more buttermilk if the dough seems a little too dry.
  • Using your hands, press dough evenly into your deep-dish pie plate. If the dough is a little thicker around the pie plate rim, you can pinch the dough into scallops or make the rim double thickness and press it with a fork around the circle, as desired.
  • Proceed with your recipe for baking. If you need a prebaked piecrust, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, poke the crust several times with a fork, and bake for about 20 minutes.

Yield: One 9-inch, deep-dish single pie crust

Per serving (if 12 servings): 111 calories, 2 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 151 mg sodium.

Light Cinnamon Whipped Cream Topping

8 ounces light whipping cream (liquid)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups fat-free Cool Whip or similar whipped topping
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (add more to taste)

  • Add chilled liquid whipping cream to cold, small, mixing bowl and beat on medium-high until nicely thickened.
  • Add powdered sugar, the fat-free whipped topping, and cinnamon and fold together well by hand -- using a spoon or spatula.
  • Keep chilled in a covered container until read to serve!

Yield: About 4 cups of topping (about 16 servings)

Per 1/4 cup serving: 70 calories, .5 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 10 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 59%

Published November 10, 2006.


Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2006 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.