Praiseworthy Pie!

By Annie Denny

It’s National Pie Week and at the EYN Partnership we know that pie can be a family favourite. Sweet and savoury, you can have almost anything you fancy in a pie, but how do you go about making it a bit healthier?

Here are my top tips for pie perfection:

Potato your pie
Potato topped pies such as cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are a great choice for the family as they work for all ages, from weaning through to great grandma!

Potato topped pies are perfect for sneaking in some veg as most veg taste good with potato! Tinned tomatoes and chopped onion are good basics to add to the filling, but you can also experiment by adding diced carrot, sliced mushroom, grated courgette or frozen peas.

And using root veg as the base or part of your mash can mix it up nicely – mashed sweet potato, carrot, swede, parsnip and turnip are all economical and add great colour. Grated cauliflower is yummy too.

If you’re a potato fan but fancy a change from mash you could try sliced potato interspersed with sliced root veg!

Lighten up
Savoury crumble toppings and savoury scone toppings (cobbler) can be made using less fat than standard pastry. Make these with unsaturated fat spread rather than butter. 

If you’re making a traditional pastry pie, go for a one crust pie only (topping the pie with pastry and ditching the bottom crust) to halve the amount of pastry. Or if you’re desperate for two crusts, make a pastry lattice on top - you’ll use less pastry than covering the whole surface.

Young children don’t need to follow a low fat diet but it’s still a good idea to choose lighter pastry, which has 30% less fat than standard pastry. Introduce your little ones to filo pastry too – they’ll love the shapes it makes and, when used without butter, it’s under 2% fat.

Make your own healthier pastry at home by using wholemeal flour instead of white flour and unsaturated fat spread instead of butter. Don’t use low-fat spread (less than 38 per cent fat or 38g fat per 100g) as the higher water content will make your pastry tough.

On the pulse
So steak and kidney has just been voted the UK’s number one pie filling, do you always think of meat when you think of pies? Red meat is an important source of iron but we don’t need it every day.

Introduce your children to pulses by making a lentil shepherd’s pie or padding out your favourite meat-based pie filling with butter beans or black beans. Replacing some of the meat with pulses lowers the pie’s saturated fat content and adds valuable fibre for you and your child.

Pudding and pie
Fruit pies are popular with children and by making your own you can limit the sugar you add, compared with shop-bought puddings which often contain a lot of sugar. Some fillings – like stewed eating apples with raisins for added sweetness – require no added sugar at all. Mashed banana can be used to sweeten fruit pie fillings – be brave and experiment!

My favourite pudding pie ‘hack’ is to serve sweet pies with a dollop of greek yoghurt rather than cream, it provides calcium and protein but less saturated fat. Alternatively choose custard made with semi-skimmed milk.

Quick tips
Search out recipes on the internet for heathier pumpkin pie, healthier sweet potato pie and healthier pecan pie (although remember that whole nuts shouldn’t be given to children under 5). Whilst still a treat, these can be an interesting way to introduce young children to new flavours.

And finally, try and always serve up your pie with a side of steamed veg to sneak in more – and try new ones where you can!

So there are my top tips for you – I hope you will find inspiration here and indulge your passion for pie with a few tweaks!

Annie is the EYN Partnership Nutrition Development Manager. She is a postgraduate-trained public health nutritionist with a passion for children’s food and nutrition. She has over 12 years’ experience spanning nutrition charities and the food industry before joining the Early Years Nutrition Partnership in August 2016, shortly after its launch in April 2016.