By Katie Jeffrey, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Pies and rich desserts are traditional holiday favorites for many. All foods can fit into a balanced, healthy meal plan by following three simple yet powerful principles: balance, variety and moderation.
Are you a pie-lover? If you are, you can choose healthier options by enjoying fruit or pumpkin pies. Even though pies are calorie dense, the fruit filling provides nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. For instance, blueberries are antioxidant superstars. They are rich in vitamin C and manganese, are a great source of fiber and provide a fair amount of vitamin E. Fiber is important when working to maintain a healthy weight this holiday season because it helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Antioxidants are natural defenders in the body that prevent or repair damage to cells, tissues and DNA (the blueprint for cell production) caused by free radicals (harmful unstable substances). These harmful substances can lead to various diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. So, enjoy fruit desserts (of course, in moderation!) to receive a variety of health promoting nutrients.
Enjoy pies such as pumpkin, with only a bottom crust because for many pies the crust is the main contributor of calories. Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A. Potassium is essential for maintaining a healthy blood pressure while vitamin A plays a role in eye health.
Try fruit crumbles instead of pies. Crumbles are usually healthier than pies because they do not contain a top and bottom crust. The crumble portion of the dessert is typically made with oats, flour, butter, and sugar. Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber which acts as a vacuum in your body removing heart unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol. Unfortunately, the other ingredients used to make a crumble are not nutrient-rich. However, a few simple substitutes can improve the nutritional content of the crumble without sacrificing taste!
Follow these guidelines to prepare a heart healthy and delicious crumble that is an excellent source of fiber, a good source of heart healthy fats and is nutrient-rich.
1. Make the crumble topping with one-third less butter than the recipe calls for or replace half of the butter with whipped butter and then use just a quarter of the amount of butter the recipe calls for.
2. To increase the protein and fiber content of the crumble topping, use white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour.
3. Replace the granulated sugar with light brown sugar. Brown sugar contains more moisture and nutrients (for example, calcium, potassium and iron) than granulated sugar. I also find brown sugar to have a more complex taste then granulated sugar and therefore, you can typically reduce the sugar quantity by one-fourth.
By choosing reasonable portions of richer desserts, enjoying fruit based sweets and making a few substitutes when baking to make foods healthier, you can enjoy delicious seasonal foods while still maintaining your nutrition and health goals this holiday season.