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Fruit Crisp...is it possible to make it healthy?

I made strawberry-rhubarb crisp last night. It was good...sinfully good with all of that butter, sugar, and flour. Are there any healthier ways to prepare a fruit crisp?

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  1. I am not sure what you mean by healthy. You can make it with oats and nuts and very little flour, which will reduce carbs, reduce the glycemic index, but increase the fat. Is that healthier? I think of the basic recipe as fruit mixed with sugar, topped with a mixture of sugar, flour/nuts/oats, and butter. You can drastically reduce the added sugar to the fruit, but it's still high sugar if you are watching carbs (e.g. for diabetes). I personally would have a smaller piece rather than get into artificial sweeteners and the like, but it's all preference.

    1. Here are some suggestions:
      1. Use a higher ratio of fruit to topping.
      2. Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour.
      3. Use some rolled oats in place of some of the flour.
      4. Use less sugar than called for (I often find recipes too sweet anyway).
      5. Make cobbler instead of crisp -- it often uses less butter.

      1. We make fruit crisp that is almost 100% fat free-we make a batch of the topping and stick in the fridge and crumble it over fresh fruit and have crisp throughout the week. The topping recipe below probably makes enough to cover a couple of 8*8 pans-but you can even make it in single size serving ramekins-it does have sugar so it is not perfectly healthy but it has no butter and it is still crisp and crunchy.

        Mix in the food processor
        1 cup flour
        1 cup oatmeal
        1 cup brown sugar
        3/4 cup white sugar
        2 eggs
        2 Tablespoons baking powder
        2 Tablespoons cinnamon (optional)

        When it looks a little corn mealy, add about 1/2-1 cup walnuts or pecans and pulse a couple times, Remove and use at once or put in a container in the fridge-I would guesstimate that it will last a week or so.

        When making the crisp, just cut up the fruit of your choice into a oven ready dish, size dependent on amount of fruit. Sometimes we add sugar, honey, raisins OJ , lemon juice or a splash of liqueur-depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Crumble some topping of topping so the fruit is pretty well covered but resist the temptation to pat it down. Bake for about 35 minutes at 325 degrees until it is crisp and golden. Serve warm with frozen yogurt, if desired.

        We have fun trying different combination of fruits (last night was blackberry and strawberry with a sprinkling of sugar). While I don't think this will win any blue ribbons at a country fair, it sure hits the spot around here for an easy crispy and fruity dessert.

        1 Reply
        1. re: margib

          This sounds delicious.... but eggs and nuts are not fat-free. I agree that they're probably healthier for you than butter or shortening, but fat is still fat. That being said, I'm going to give your recipe a try!

        2. What do I mean as healthy? Well, here is a link to the recipe I used last night:


          Delicious, yes...Lots of fat, white sugar, and white flour, yes. I was hoping to figure out how to make an equally delicious crumble/crisp using less butter/sugar/white flour. I love the idea of upping the oatmeal, as it is a flavor that I very much enjoy. What I don't know is how to make something more healthful while preserving the decadence of the dish.

          4 Replies
          1. re: super_b

            Use whole wheat flour, agave nectar instead of white sugar, use half as much butter and sub in the other half with canola oil. It's not going to change your calorie/fat counts, but it will reduce the sugar spike and the sat fats

            1. re: super_b

              Well, you know people have different definitions of "healthy." To a person on Atkins, you can't make healthy fruit crisp. To a person on WW, you might be able to get away with lowfat butter substitute and Splenda. To a person who's gluten-free, it would take some tweaking but the butter and sugar could stay. See what I mean?

              To me, if it's made of food and not processed junk, it's on the healthy continuum. Oats and nuts? Healthy. Raw sugar? OK, healthier than white. Butter? Shoot, it's real food, ain't it? *grins* And you can put wheat germ in the topping which is delicious AND good for you. Heck, you could make it *almost* health food if you subbed ground flax seed for some of the butter! ;)

              IMO, better a decadent fruit crisp (made of real food) than a can of diet coke and a fat-free twinkie!

              1. re: LauraGrace

                <<Raw sugar? OK, healthier than white.>>

                Nah. Sugar is sugar.

                <<agave nectar instead of white sugar>>

                The health claims re agave nectar have been mainly dismissed as hype.
                The fructose/low glycemic claim is especially dubious.

                This Los Angeles Times article says some brands are no better than HFCS:
                "Agave syrup's benefits are in debate":

                Also see:

                1. re: LauraGrace

                  "Well, you know people have different definitions of "healthy." To a person on Atkins, you can't make healthy fruit crisp."

                  I eat very low carb, and I make rhubarb or strawberry rhubarb crisp. I sweeten with a combination of erythritol and liquid sucralose, thicken with xanthan gum and I make a topping from almond flour, chopped pecans, a little white carbalose flour, cinnamon, Diabetisweet brown sugar substitute, and dot with butter before baking.

              2. Moosewood Low Fat favourites has two variations I believe - one relies on egg whites and the other uses crushed gingersnaps. If lower fat is what you had in mind I can probably paraphrase from the cookbook for you. I have not tried either.

                1 Reply
                1. re: julesrules

                  This qualifies as healthy for me, because I'm most concerned with heart health. So the fact that there is no butter is key - although it's not that light on sugar. I wonder why people eat all that butter when crisp is great without it. You don't want to end up like me with a stent in your artery! Recipe is below and on www.whatwouldcathyeat.com

                  Apple crisp

                  Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together in a bowl:

                  2 ½ lbs. apples (about 7), peeled and thinly sliced
                  3 T sugar
                  3 T brown sugar
                  2 t. cornstarch, dissolved in 3 T. water
                  ¼ t. cinnamon
                  1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
                  1/8 t. cloves
                  2 t. lemon juice

                  In another bowl, mix together:

                  1 c. rolled oats (old fashioned, not quick cooking
                  )1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
                  1 c. light brown sugar
                  ½ c. chopped walnuts
                  ½ t. baking powder
                  ½ t. cinnamon
                  ¼ t. salt
                  Drizzle ¼ c. organic canola oil over the dry mixture and combine with your fingers until crumbly. Then, quickly mix in 2 T of water.

                  Put the apple mixture in an 8×8” glass baking dish, then sprinkle on the crumbly topping. This recipe makes quite a lot of topping, so you may want to hold some back … unless you’re a topping freak (I know a few of those.)

                  Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and the apples are tender.

                2. last year i played around with this...

                  i diced angel food cake, and let it sit in the oven on low til it dried out. i crumbled it up some, then mixed it with some wheat germ, oat bran, egg white, cinnamon, and a tad of Earth or Smart Balance. i sweetened the fruit with either a little stevia or agave, and mixed with some vanilla.

                  i did something similar with homemade macaroons as well.

                  1. i made one last week with traditional ingredients and found it too sweet and i'm uneasy using so much butter. i'm gonna try earth balance as the fat and agave as the sweetener and use spelt and whole wheat flour along with the oats. i'll let you know how it turns out,

                    1. As others said, it depends how you define healthy. I used the recipe that Bittman published last week in the NYT, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/din...
                      and then varied it earlier this week to reduce the sugar content because DH has diabetes by substituting Splenda for the white sugar (but did use some brown sugar in the topping). If I'd had whole wheat flour, I would have sub'd that too, but did not. I also added some strawberries in place of some of the rhubarb, and tossed one tsb of flour into the fruit mixture. Turned out well.

                      1. If you mean low-fat, you might be interested in my recipe/technique. I don't really follow a recipe anymore, more like ratio. Anyway:

                        I use apples or plums...or even berries (frozen, too!) and mix in lemon juice and sugar to taste (approximately 1-2 T lemon juice and max 1/2 cup sugar for 6+ cups fruit) and about 2 T flour + 1/2 tsp or more, to taste, of cinnamon. Mix and put in a pyrex/baking dish.

                        For the topping:

                        1/2 C flour
                        1/4 C white sugar
                        1/2 brown sugar
                        1 tsp cinnamon
                        (key, I think--it makes it seem like there's more butter than there is): a pinch of salt--either fine sea salt or kosher salt. I think I gravitate toward sea salt for this.

                        mix the above together and cut in--I use my fingers:

                        1-2 T cold butter

                        The mixture is pretty dry. What I do next is pretty much by feel, but I mix in a VERY LITTLE BIT of water at a time--like 1 tsp--with a fork, until you get crumbly bits that will squeeze together when you press them together. Careful, too much water and there's no going back!

                        After I get the desired consistency, I add a handful or so of rolled oats.

                        Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes, depending on how big the dish.

                        I know it's a bit "thrown together" and not much of an explicit recipe, but I really never have complaints. In fact, the opposite!
                        Hope it works for you!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jayaymeye

                          This sounds like my kind of recipe!

                          I kind of do the same thing with a cobbler. I make an unsweetened biscuit dough using only about two tablespoons of butter, and use it to top about 6 cups of fruit. Apples or berries or peaches get about a quarter cup of sugar; rhubarb gets about two thirds.

                            1. re: visciole

                              Could you share? Every time I try to make healthy biscuits, they come out terrible.

                          1. I have made the topping totally without butter---use a little canola oil. If you're concerned about carbs, use rolled oats for some of the flour. Don't overdo the sugar.

                            1. several thing you can do, increase the sweetness of the fruit you are using - add a sweet apple to your mix, add smaller amounts of sweetener to your fruit, try halving the amount specified try agave.
                              cook your filling on the stove top and bake your topping seperately - this will allow you to add as much or as little of the higher fat/sugar component

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tickmouse

                                Agave is fructose, and debatable as to "healthy." Healthy is subjective, by and large.

                                Baking fruit and topping separately is rather clever, akin to putting granola or streusel on top of baked fruit. I've baked apricots with no sugar at all, and found them quite delicious. We crumble over an amaretti cookie, which is admittedly quite sugary, and add some plain whipped cream, and call it dessert. You could even do without the cookie...

                              2. i did a trial run today for the bridal shower i'm cooking for on saturday--

                                i cored baby mini apples, and lined them in a baking dish. combined wheat germ and cinnamon with either chopped nuts, raisins or coconut, then poured in a little sugar-free maple syrup, tho i may do a batch saturday with honey or brown sugar for variety. then filled the apples. i poured 1/2 water / 1/2 unsweetened apple juice over them, then baked til soft and gooey. not quite a crisp, but healthy enough! might consider adding oats or oat bran as well... i have friends that love flax seed, so that's another option if cooking for them...

                                1. Some great suggestions here. I love a fruit crisp because I think it can be pretty healthy. I use very little (sometimes no) sugar in the fruit. For the topping, I might use a mix of whole wheat flour, oats, and maybe some ground almonds. I moisten the topping with egg whites and apple juice concentrate and maybe a T or so of oil. It's important not to overcook the topping, though--and it won't be decadent like one with all the butter, but it's tasty, a bit chewy, and for me the fruit is the star of the show anyway...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: chyakla

                                    Some good tips here. I use lots of organic steel-cut oats, sometimes no flour whatsoever. I do use lots of chopped walnuts or sliced almonds, and find it helps to use an egg or egg white(s) to bind all the pieces together. I also sometimes substitute almond meal for flour, and have even ground the oats into a powder, also as a sub for flour. I can use very little butter, but like to use a little, sometimes as little as 2 T. for an 8" square pan. It does get crunchy, and is quite satisfying.

                                  2. This recipe In the New York Times may be helpful: 78 calories, 4g fat; 1g sat.fat.

                                    Roasted Apricots With Almond and Breadcrumb Topping
                                    8 medium-size or 12 small apricots (canned apricots work fine, drain thoroughly)
                                    2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds, raw or toasted
                                    2 to 3 teaspoons raw brown sugar like turbinado sugar or Sugar in the Raw), to taste
                                    2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
                                    2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for the ramekins
                                    Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

                                    Paraphrased procedure:
                                    Find one cup ovenproof coffee cups (not mugs) or ramekins. Butter. Pit apricots, cut into four pieces. Put two apricots in each cup or ramekin. Mix almonds, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, butter and nutmeg, and put 1 T. on top of each cup/ramekin of apricots. At 400 F, bake 15-20 min. till bubbly and topping has browned slightly. Let cool 20 min. before eating. Can be prepared several hours before baking.


                                    1. imo, there is no way to make a "sinfully good" fruit crisp in a "healthy" manner. so instead i would just accept a goodly portion of fruit crisp as a well deserved splurge. if that doesn't calm the angst, perhaps budget your calories/fat allotment so that a well made, sweet and buttery fruit crisp can fit into your diet.

                                      1. I like one that isn't really a crisp but might be of interest.

                                        For the fruit, part, stir together 9 cups of fruit (I like blueberries with nectarines or peaches), 1 cup sugar, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/4 cup quick tapioca. Put in shallow 3 quart casserole.

                                        For the topping, mix in a food processor or large bowl 1.5 cups flour, 3 tbsp sugar, 1.5 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Add 1/2 cup cold butter cut in pieces. Whirl or rub until coarse crumbs. Add 1/3 cup low fat milk Whirl or stir just until evenly moistened. Shape into a ball. Roll or pat out about 1/4 inches thick or so. Cut into circles or hearts with a cookie cutter. Reroll and cut more. Place on fruit mixture in baking dish. Brush with egg white and then a little sugar.

                                        Bake at 400 degrees until bubbly about 40 minutes.

                                        The original recipe called you to roll out the biscuits to about 1/2 inch thick. The recipe says each serving has 9 grams fat (5 saturated) and 314 calories. But I roll out the biscuits thinner so I figure it's that much healthier. I think the biscuits are really good on this.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: karykat

                                          That'd be a cobbler. Sounds good though!

                                          1. re: rabaja

                                            That reminds me, there's a "healthier" ie/ lower fat recipe on epicurious for a strawberry rhubarb cobbler with cornmeal in the biscuit... it didn't do much for me.