Healthy Tips and Twists on Classic British Pies

We can’t wait to celebrate British Pie Week in March – the healthy way!

They are one of the nation’s staple dishes, but if not eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet, too much pie can be particularly bad for your digestive health.

These digestive problems could be signs of an underlying food intolerance, which is a delayed biological reaction to one or more specific ingredients as they pass through your body. Since this takes time, a wide range of symptoms can come and go for days after consuming trigger foods, which may well make British Pie Week a miserable one for some sufferers.

Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy ingredients that pie-lovers and food intolerance sufferers can eat to make the most of British Pie Week. We’ve put together a list of our favourite twists on classic British pies so everyone can celebrate one of our country’s most iconic dishes.

british pies

Is pastry bad for you?

Pastry is often classed as the unhealthiest part of a pie thanks to the fat, salt and sugar that goes into it. The easiest way to cut down on the unhealthy crust is to put pastry on top of your pie, but not around the sides or underneath. This alone can reduce the saturated fat per portion by 40 per cent and the calories in each portion by a quarter.

Another option is to swap your shortcrust or puff pastry for filo, which is the lowest-fat pastry by far with only 2.9g of fat per 100g compared to 26.2g of fat for puff and 31.4g for shortcrust. Filo can be bought fresh or frozen and is very easy to use; simply place the sheets on top of your pie once you’re done with the filling, pop it in the oven and it should crisp up perfectly.

What are some pastry alternatives?

There are plenty of healthy and delicious alternative pie toppings to traditional pastry. Mashed potato makes for a smooth pie top and crisps well in the oven, whereas sliced potato is good if you want a bit more bite from it. Choosing potato can make for a fantastic gluten-free pie.

You can also mix up your mash by combining potato with winter root vegetables like parsnip, swede, carrot and even cauliflower for a different flavour and texture.

Believe it or not, a crumble can be just as tasty on a savoury pie as it is on a sweet one. When making your own, use unsaturated spread instead of butter and try adding oats into the mix as a healthy and tasty alternative.

Dried herbs will give your crumble that extra punch and if you’re adding cheese, using a mature, full-flavoured variety means you won’t need as much.

What are the healthiest pie fillings?

A pie isn’t a pie without its filling and these, too, can be made healthier. If meat is on the menu, try using lean cuts or extra-lean mince. A selection of fresh vegetables will ensure your pie is full of the nutrients that the body needs.

It’s also a good idea to mix in some tinned lentils or beans, as replacing some of the meat with pulses will lower the pie’s saturated fat content whilst adding protein and fibre, too.

If you need some inspiration, try our favourite savoury pie recipes for some healthy takes on British classics.

Are sweet pies healthy?

If you’re making a fruit pie, get into the habit of tasting the fruit for its natural sweetness before adding any sugar. The riper it is, the less sugar you need.

Other healthy ways to sweeten your pie include adding dried fruit to the filling and spicing them up with sugar alternatives like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or citrus zest.

sweet pie

Is cream unhealthy?

The majority of the fat in cream and ice cream is saturated fat, so it’s healthier to accompany your sweet pies with low-fat yoghurt or custard made with low-fat milk instead.

Yoghurt also makes for a quick, refreshing and protein-rich, no-bake pie centre. Swap to soya or almond yoghurts if you’re dairy-free or lactose intolerant.

What should I eat with my pie to make it a balanced meal?

Whether you go sweet or savoury to celebrate British Pie Week, be mindful of your portion size as even healthier pies can be calorific. Take a look at our advice on keeping your diet nutritionally balanced when you’re food intolerant for a detailed breakdown on the nutrients we need.

Instead of snacking on a pie throughout the day, enjoy your pie as part of a proper meal with a side of cooked vegetables. It will make a smaller slice of pie go much further at dinnertime!

Are pies related to food intolerance?

The amount of ingredients that we put into our pies can make it difficult to work out your exact trigger food(s). For example, you may suspect it’s the milk you’re reacting to in a steak pie, but it could actually be a beef intolerance. It’s also possible to be intolerant to a number of the ingredients in popular pies and the symptoms of food intolerance can come and go for days, so it’s something of a challenge to pinpoint the problem.

If you’re at all worried about food intolerance but want to enjoy British Pie Week, YorkTest’s Food&DrinkScan Premium distinguishes between reactions to over 200 possible trigger ingredients, which means you should be able to enjoy your pies without worrying about food intolerance† reactions afterwards.

† YorkTest define Food Intolerance as a food-specific IgG reaction. YorkTest do not claim to treat or cure symptoms and recommend that you discuss any medical concerns you have with a GP before undertaking a YorkTest programme.

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