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Heart-healthy apple crisp – Sweet Spot Nutrition

Heart-healthy apple crisp – Sweet Spot Nutrition

When I was a teenager I typed up my mother’s favourite recipes (with an actual typewriter!) and put them in a binder in sheet protectors. Thus my famous recipe collection was born. No surprise, one of our favourites was this apple crisp.

Over the years, I’ve made it many times. It’s so easy, and you can feel good eating those apples and oats, right?

I’ve played with less butter and sugar, more nuts, but decided it was time to really commit to perfecting a heart-healthier version.

You may like this one, but if not, no worries! A regular apple crisp, or any dessert really, is fine, and sometimes that’s what you really want.

But if you have a serious heart concern and are keen to find something a bit more consistent with the evidence for vascular (heart) health, maybe something you want to enjoy more often, this variation is a bit easier to slide into a heart-healthy eating pattern.

How I tweaked it

There are lots of variations on this classic, but I wanted to use common household staples and keep it simple for you. Here’s what I did, in terms of the principles of heart-healthier eating:

  • More vegetables and fruits – apples for dessert are awesome to start with. You could even add a couple more to this recipe, if you want it to be more baked apples, less apple crisp.
  • More whole vs refined grains – the rolled oats are fantastic too. Plus I swapped the regular flour for whole wheat. If you have whole wheat pastry flour, even better (for texture that is).
  • More nuts and seeds – I added lots of chopped walnuts. Or you could use pecans, pumpkin seeds, or almonds if that’s what you have.
  • More unsaturated vs saturated fats – the nuts help, and I traded in the butter for canola oil. People get fussed about how it’s refined, but it has a much heart-healthier fat profile and it has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. You could substitute a little butter or a non-hydrogenated margarine if you miss the taste.
  • Less free/added sugar – I cut back as far as I reasonably could. If you have it, you can use coconut sugar, which has a lower glycemic index, but reducing the amount is the main thing. With sweet apples, you don’t need much. You could also replace some of it with a sweetener like erythritol/monk fruit, but this only has about two teaspoons of free/added sugar per serving, which is quite reasonable.

apple slicing

Have it for breakfast!

I’m not kidding. Look at those ingredients: oats, apples, nuts. How is this different from your typical oatmeal breakfast? It has less sugar than many popular cereals. I would top with a generous dollop of plain Greek yogurt for protein and totally call this breakfast.

(In fact I will be this week, since I’ve made five test batches of apple crisp in the past two days!)


Heart-healthy apple crisp

Our favourite fall classic with more nuts, whole grains, and fibre, healthier fats, less sugar and refined grains.

Prep Time 15 mins

Cook Time 45 mins

Total Time 1 hr


  • 4 cups apples* , chopped (not peeled)
  • 2 tsp granulated (white) sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


  • 2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.

  • Toss the apples with the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a bowl.

  • Transfer the apples to an 8×8 baking dish. (Add a thin layer of oil if you like, but I don’t usually bother.)

  • Toss all of the crumble ingredients well in the same bowl.

  • Top the apples with the crumble, distributing evenly so all of the apples are covered.

  • Cover with tin foil* and bake for 40 minutes.

  • Remove the tin foil and turn the heat up to 400F. Bake for 5 more minutes, or until crispy and brown on top.

  • Use sweet apples like fuji, ambrosia, gala, or honeycrisp so you can cut back on the added sugars.

** The tin foil is key. Without butter drizzling all over your apples, they can get dry while baking. The tin foil helps keep moisture in and almost steams them.  A few minutes in a hotter oven at the end crisps them up nicely.
Nutrition for 1/6 of the recipe: 270 calories, 16g fat, 1.4g saturated fat, 31g carbohydrates, 4.5g fibre, 17g sugar (8g added/free sugar), 0mg cholesterol, 53mg sodium, 4g protein.

What do you think?

If you try it as is or make some tweaks, share with us in the Sweet Spot Heart-Healthy Cooking Club on Facebook!

(And thank you to Frances in that group for some suggestions that went into this post. One of many knowledgeable serious cooks in there.)