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Is eating pie for breakfast as healthful as eating fruit?

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OK, you know you’ve done it. Even the healthiest eater has fallen under the spell of pie. Possibly it was the day after Thanksgiving when the pumpkin pie jumped at you from inside the refrigerator. Or maybe you “passed” on dessert last night and now it’s breakfast.
Then you think to yourself, could this be one of my fruit and vegetable servings for the day? You know and I know that really is stretching the idea.
The latest dietary guidelines for Americans advise most people should have 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables every day. For most Americans, this means more than doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables they are eating right now.
Why? One of the reasons you should eat more fruits and vegetables is they contain many nutrients that are under-consumed in the U.S., including vitamins A, C and K, as well as potassium, fiber and magnesium.
Fruits and vegetables may also reduce your risk of getting many chronic diseases. Eating at least 2-1/2 cups of vegetables and fruits per day helps reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.
Some fruits and vegetables may also be protective against certain types of cancer. To top off the reasons why we should eat more fruits and vegetables, they are relatively low in calories and should be eaten instead of higher calorie foods.
The overall recommendation is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. That’s easy when you have plain fruits and vegetables, but what happens when they are combined with other foods, like pie crust and sugar?
Back to the question: Is pie a fruit or vegetable serving? You’ll have to do some investigating of your own. If it’s homemade pie, can you count the amount of real fresh fruit used in the filling? Divide that amount into the number of pieces of pie. If your recipes calls for 6 cups of apples and you get six servings from the pie, you really do get one cup of raw fruit in a slice.
If it’s a commercially made pie, you’ll have to do some additional research. What’s the amount of real fruit in the filling? Usually one-half cup of those thick, sugary fruit pie fillings will prove to be only one-quarter cup of real fruit.
In general, most dietitians say the fruit and vegetables in pie don’t count because of the high fat and sugar content that’s also in the recipe. That apple pie that has 6 cups of apples also has 1 cup of sugar and almost a cup of solid fat in the two crusts.
Another part of the Dietary Guidelines recommends we choose foods with little or no added sugars or fats. One of the major reasons for this recommendation is these sugars and fats may fill us up and take the place of other foods that may be healthier for us. A major source of solid fat in our diets is cakes, cookies, pies and other desserts made with butter, margarine, shortening or lard.
Oops…there goes the pie.
But don’t panic yet. The recommendations go on to say every now and again you can have pie or other dessert items. They recommend doing this “less often” and when you do, “choose a smaller portion.”
The guidelines suggest selecting fruit for dessert and eat less high calorie desserts.
One way that you can get the flavors (and satisfaction) of pie without all the added sugars or fat is to modify your recipe. Fruit crisps and cobblers are a good choice because they usually only have one crust (so less fat). Quite often you can also reduce the amount of sugar without changing the flavor (let the natural sweetness of the fruit come out).
Here’s a recipe for blueberry cobbler from a book called “Fruit Tooth by Food and Health Communications Inc.” It has only 120 calories per serving compared to 350 calories in a grocery store blueberry pie.

Blueberry Cobbler
2 cups blueberries
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
2 low-fat cereal bars, chopped into fine pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss blueberries with sugar, cornstarch and water. Place into ceramic baking dish. Top with low-fat cereal bar pieces. Cover with glass lid or foil and bake for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly. Divide between four dessert bowls.
References: Produce for Better Health Foundation www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org; Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 health.gov; and Fruit Tooth from foodandhealth.com.
Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at 253-2610.