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Dietitian's Choice: Healthy Holiday Apple Crisp

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

What’s the difference between a ‘crisp’ and a ‘crumble’? Well, the debate is hot, but either

way there’s a streusel topping involved. There’s flour, there’s butter, and there’s sugar. Does it really matter what’s it called? Fortunately, crisps and crumbles are made with fruit, which imparts a natural sweetness and removes the need for excess added sugar. They’re also a great opportunity to make ingredient substitutions based on your particular nutrition needs or preferences.

When sweet treats are consumed, sticking to ones made with whole foods is a good way to up the nutritional profile and lighten the possibility of undesirable impact. In this recipe, whole apples are used, peel and all. The peel offers extra fiber, extra vitamin C, and extra vitamin A. Leaving the peel on also significantly decreases preparation time, and who doesn’t love that?

This recipe does contain some added sugar in the form of maple syrup in the topping and brown sugar in the filling. It’s important to use pure maple syrup, which is a minimally processed and natural sweetener. Most syrup products on grocery store shelves are made of high fructose corn syrup and unwanted additives. If possible, use brown sugar that is as minimally processed as possible. Raw sugar is pretty accessible at stores now and is a good alternative to traditional brown sugar, and coconut sugar (it doesn’t taste like coconuts!) is also a great substitute for brown sugar.

This treat can be made gluten-free and/or dairy-free with the use of gluten-free oat flour instead of whole wheat flour and extra virgin coconut oil instead of butter. Enjoy it with your holiday celebrations or year-round!

Apple Crisp



1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/3 cup chopped walnuts


5 medium-sized apples, cored and chopped

2 T. brown sugar

1/4 t. salt

1 1/2 t. cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly greases an 8x8-inch baking pan with butter. Set aside.

For the topping, stir together the oats, flour, salt, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and maple syrup and mix well. Add the chopped nuts and lightly stir until incorporated. Set mixture aside.

In the baking pan, combine the chopped apples, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Toss or stir until ingredients are mixed well, then spread the apple mixture evenly in the pan. Spoon topping over apple mixture.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. Serve warm.


Bake time can be increased or decreased depending on preference. A decreased bake time (~30 minutes) will yield a firmer apple filling and a softer topping. An increased bake time (~45-50 minutes) will yield a softer filling and crisper topping.


Additional spices may be added to the apple filling for a more complex flavor profile. Consider adding 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ginger, cloves, or allspice.

Pecans or almonds can be substituted for walnuts.


Apples in their whole form are a good source of fiber, which supports digestion and blood sugar control. They’re also a good source of vitamin C, which we know to be a powerful antioxidant. Oats are a great source of fiber and contain many vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, biotin, chromium, zinc, and more. They’re also a good source of protein. Walnuts contribute omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain and cardiovascular health.


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