Around Town

How did the donut craze fit itself into the “fit era?”

I don’t get the donut craze. First off, the interchangeability of “donut” and “doughnut” drives me nuts. (Just. Pick one.)

Second, I personally don’t eat them — half because they are often fried in animal products and I’m a vegetarian, and half because I prefer to avoid carb-heavy and/or fatty sweets so I feel good in my body.

And third, isn’t this the era in which diets like Whole30 and raw veganism and workouts like CrossFit, Flywheel and Beach Body Guide reign supreme? I assumed donut (doughnut?) shops wouldn’t really fit into this “fit era.”

Wrong.

Most of us have probably noticed Charlotte’s doughnut shop boom over the past couple of years — from Your Mom’s Donuts, to Duck Donuts, to MJ Donuts, to Sugar, to Joe’s Doughs. And there’s still Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts, of course.

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I asked Courtney Frye of Your Mom’s Donuts if she was concerned at all that her business venture (with Benjamin Frye) wouldn’t do well in the “fit era.”

“Not at all, because everybody likes a treat,” she said.

She sees the biggest rush on Saturday mornings from 9-11 a.m. She also tends to see a huge rush of CrossFitters coming in after their workouts.

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Joe Pepe, owner of Joe’s Doughs (which is opening its storefront in NoDa at the end of May) said his rush is also Saturday morning. And, like Courtney, he wasn’t concerned about not fitting into the fit era.

“I never thought about certain demographics or ages,” he said. “I am really surprised how well the fit community in Charlotte has taken to us. We get so many people coming to get donuts together post-workout.”

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But what about eater’s remorse? What about the rampant health kicks?

“Donuts and healthy usually don’t go in the same sentence,” Pepe pointed out. “With that being said, we fry everything in vegetable oil to vastly cut down on the greasy-ness of our product. Most people would be surprised by how little sugar there is in the actual yeast dough; most of it comes from the glazes.”

And Joe’s Doughs does have flavor options that are “lighter options,” he said. Like the Candied Lemon Donut and the Jelly Donut, which are about 250 calories each. Then there’s the Cinnamon Sugar Donut, coming in at only 150 calories.

For the health-conscious, Pepe said, “We’re always happy to share nutritional information with everyone. I’m a big runner so I’m always interested in caloric intake and nutrition.”

Even at Krispy Kreme, you can get all of the nutritional information for every doughnut online (it’s actually kind of a fun guessing game). And while not all calories are created equal (whether they are from sugars, fats, etc.), I was surprised to see that the Original Glazed Doughnut is only 190 calories and the Traditional Cake Doughnut is 230 calories.

At Duck Donuts — which is working to compile caloric info at the corporate level for their website, according to Dilworth store manager Tasha Frisbee — the Bare Donut would likely be the healthiest option. (Or you could fall victim to your craving for peanut butter icing topped with chocolate sprinkles.)

For now, the main website shares nutritional information like the fact that each doughnut contains about 310 calories, and the vanilla cake doughnuts are fried in a soy-based shortening and contain these key ingredients: wheat and corn flour, soybean oil, nonfat dry milk, egg yolks and beta carotene.

Over at Your Mom’s, Courtney said customers (like the CrossFitters) generally don’t even ask about calories.

This fits right in with sentiments in a 2015 article at CBSnews.com that shared how “flexible dieting” took off among CrossFitters, power lifters “and others aiming to look and feel their best without feeling deprived.”

And with the rise of Road Doughs, a biking event that ends at a doughnut spot.

“Our goal was just to make a treat that you didn’t feel guilty about eating,” Courtney said.

Her business makes everything from scratch with no artificial additives. Main ingredients include flour, butter, yeast, pastured eggs and milk (plus pork leaf lard for frying) to try to create what Courtney calls “as much of a wholesome junk food item as you can.”

Pepe added, “I think the best term is: Everything in moderation. Everyone should treat themselves sometimes.”

I like that. And it seems like Charlotte does, too.

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Photo: Katie Toussaint

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