Recipe: How to pumpkin spice without derailing your fitness goals

I do not have enough fingers and toes on which to count the number of times the term "Pumpkin Spice" has come up in conversation with clients this fall. Lattes, cookies, cake and fudge spiked with artificial pumpkin spice flavoring, cheap soybean oil and loads of sugar are ridiculously tempting this time of year, but they're cinnamon-y landmines if you're trying to eat more healthfully. For example, the ubiquitous Grande (16 oz) Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, even with non-fat milk and no whip, contains a whopping 49 grams of sugar—that’s 98% of your daily allotment of added sugar in a 2,000 calorie diet (based on a the American Heart Association recommendation of max of 10% of calories from added sugar).

Is it possible to enjoy the autumn joy that is pumpkin spice without consuming a day's worth of sugar? And could you even--dare I say it--find a way to make pumpkin spice a healthy choice? I say YES! and the proof is below...

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Pumpkin Spice Dip

Makes 1 serving but is easily multiplied

  • Make the Pumpkin Spice by shaking up these spices in a small jar (you could also use a commercial mix, but why would you?!):
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of cloves
    • Pinch of allspice
  • Make the yogurt dip by blending these ingredients with a whisk or spoon:
    • 2 Tablespoons of unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (I used Anita’s Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative, or you could use Kite Hill Plain Unsweetened Almond Yogurt Alternative) OR an excellent quality Greek or Icelandic plain yogurt
    • 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin (make sure it's plain pureed pumpkin, not canned pumpkin pie filling)
    • Prepared pumpkin pie spice to your liking: Start with about a teaspoon and add more to your taste
  • Add a topping if you choose:
    • Drizzle a teaspoon of natural peanut or almond butter
    • Sprinkle a Tablespoon or two of muesli (I used Michele’s Toasted Muesli--made locally in Baltimore!)
    • Add a Tablespoon of raw seeds or nuts
  • Slice up some apples or pears and enjoy as a tasty dip, or eat it with a spoon for breakfast or a snack.

Introducing...AvoUnicorn Toast!

Neon and rainbow colored "Unicorn" foods have been devoured on social media feeds for weeks now, peaking with Starbucks' obscenely artificially flavored Unicorn Frappuccino. I found myself completely drawn in by image after image of Unicorn drinks, smoothies, and especially toast created by food stylist Adeline Waugh featuring a rainbow of colored cream cheese (ugh). I also picked up a new cookbook while on my travels in London featuring recipes from the fabulous hotspot Mildred’s and I found a recipe that inspired me to create my own neon toast creation. I am thrilled to introduce my Frankenstein... 

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AvoUnicorn Toast!

First you have to make this lovely Beet & Dill Dip, slightly adapted from Mildreds: The Cookbook. Simply use an immersion blender or pitcher blender on the following ingredients

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 8-oz package of steamed beets (like Melissa's), drained and patted dry
  • Handful of fresh dill
  • Zest + juice of half a lemon

Then make avocado toast with about 1/4 of an avocado mashed over one piece of toasted sprouted grain bread, like Ezekiel Bread. Then ever-so-artistically spread your beet yogurt over the avocado. Add a sprinkle of chunky salt and hemp hearts, and voila! AvoUnicorn Toast with whole food ingredients, no junk. 

Savory Start

Oatmeal with raisins & brown sugar and smoothies made of flavored yogurt & fruit sound like better choices than, say, a visit to the doughnut shop, but they're loaded with sugar, coming perilously close to maxing out the daily recommendations for added sugar. Have you tried a savory start to the day?

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I ran 50 miles, so now I can eat anything...right?

"You ran 50 miles? Man, you can go crazy at the Thanksgiving table!"

I have heard some version of these sentences about 15 times since my 50-mile race on Saturday. So exactly how much of a caloric deficit did I create and how quickly could I blow it? 

Over the course of 50 miles, someone of my size burns somewhere around 4,500 calories. There may also be a post-exercise burn where my body continues to burn calories quickly, so I'll be generous and round up to 5,000 calories burned. 

By just existing--breathing, heart beating and systems running--my basal metabolism is somewhere around 1,100 calories, so we'll subtract that from the 5,000 to get the caloric deficit:

5000 - 1,100 = 3,900 deficit

Between gels, bananas, sugary drinks and other food on the race course, I at somewhere around 1,200 calories, so that gets subtracted as well... 

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3,900 - 1,200 = 2,700 calories. Let's spend extra those calories! 

3 giant slices of greasy cheese pizza at the finish would run 1,200 calories

A slice of frosted cake would hack off another 350 calories

A big breakfast the morning after of waffles + syrup and hash browns would run around 1,000 - 1,200 calories depending on how greasy the grill was.

Serious waffle photo courtesy Waffle House, where arteries go to get clogged.  

Serious waffle photo courtesy Waffle House, where arteries go to get clogged.  

...and that's it. The deficit is spent, and now it's back to healthful eating in reasonable, non-maple-syrup-coated portions. Seems like that level of effort should have enabled a runner to drag out the party for days, but unless your exercise habits are like those of a professional athlete, working out for hours day in and day out, exercise doesn't really enable us to eat whatever we want and maintain or lose weight.

 

But if you're exercising solely so you intake more calories, you're overlooking all of the wonderful benefits of exercise:

  • Building strength that will carry on well into advanced age
  • Boosting energy
  • Reducing stress
  • Reducing symptoms of depression
  • Building self-esteem (it's not just kids who need that boost!)
  • Protecting our brain
  • Helping us to sleep better
  • Protecting our heart as HDL, the "good" cholesterol is increased, and trigylcerides--fat in our blood--are decreased, leading to better functioning of the heart
  • Managing blood sugar for diabetics, both juvenile diabetes and later onset diabetes brought on by lifestyle

Many of these benefits of exercise you will be tapping into not just today but 10, 20, 30 years into the future! 

Who needs pizza when you have this rich + tasty soup on the table in less than 45 minutes?! 

Who needs pizza when you have this rich + tasty soup on the table in less than 45 minutes?! 

And sure, with a little extra caloric deficit, exercise does afford us the ability to enjoy a treat here and there, but after a little splurge, I'm very happy to reward my hardworking body with a meal loaded with vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Click here for this recipe for Red Lentil Soup.