Pumpkin Avocado Pie Recipe

Avocado and almond milk replace evaporated milk in this healthy take on a holiday classic. But this nutritional upgrade can be your little secret…no one will be the wiser.

Pumpkins are super high in beta-carotene and recent research shows that adding avocado to carotene-rich veggies not only boosts absorption of the nutrient but also aids in their conversion to vitamin A.

As an experiment, I replaced the evaporated milk in the standard pumpkin pie recipe with a blend of almond milk and ripe avocado and served it to guests without tipping them off. Not only were they none the wiser, but the superior flavor and light, mousse-like texture of the filling prompted several requests for the recipe.

Here’s my recipe for Pumpkin Avocado Pie. The fact that it contains nutrient-boosting avocado (or that it has 25% fewer calories and 40% less sugar than the standard recipe) can be your little secret.


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 inch piece of ginger root (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 1 9-inch pie shell (unbaked)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 4250F.
  2. Combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. Place almond milk, avocado, vanilla, and ginger into blender and blend on high speed until smooth.
  4. Add eggs to blender and blend on low speed until combined.
  5. Add avocado mixture and canned pumpkin to sugar mixture and stir until combined.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared pie shell and bake at 425 for 15 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes. Pie will be slightly jiggly but set.
  8. Cool on a rack and serve with whipped cream if desired.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories 220, Total fat 10g, Saturated fat 2.5g, Cholesterol 45mg, Sodium 310mg, Total carbohydrate 28g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 14g, Protein 4g.


Carrot Avocado Soup Recipe

This soup tastes rich and creamy but only has 100 calories per bowl. Avocados boost the absorption of the beta-carotene in the carrots and also help your body convert it into vitamin A.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound carrots, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ripe avocado (plus more for garnish, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Heat oil in large saucepan until shimmering and add onions. Cook over low heat until golden (5-10 minutes).
  2. Add spices and cook until fragrant (1 minute)
  3. Add carrots, stock, and soup and simmer gently until carrots are tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Transfer soup to blender along with avocado, cover and blend until smooth. (Use caution when blending hot foods!)
  5. Taste and add salt, if needed. If your carrots weren’t very sweet, you may also want to add a teaspoon of honey or other sweetener.
  6. Serve warm or chilled, garnished with plenty of fresh cilantro and a thin slice or two of avocado, if desired.

Serves 6

Eat Better, Age Better: A Nutrition Diva Playlist

Healthy eating habits are important throughout life. But as we get into mid-life (and beyond), they offer a unique opportunity to set ourselves up for awesome aging.

Here are a handful of episodes from the Nutrition Diva archives focusing on nutrition for the second half of life: Eat Better, Age Better playlist

Of course, nutrition is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. For more on all the other things that go into living your best and healthiest life, check out this special series from the Change Academy podcast.


Nutritional comparison of plant-based chicken

image of chickens in a grass yard
Photo by Thomas Iversen on Unsplash

In an recent episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast, I talked about the pros and cons of plant-based chicken.

As  a supplement to that episode, I’ve put together a comparison of key nutrients and ingredients in several leading brands of plant-based chicken (as well as actual chicken).

The first table compares breaded nuggets, which is the most common format.  The second compares the one brand of unbreaded plant-based chicken I could locate with boneless, skinless chicken breast (cooked).

Note: The values in these tables may not match the numbers that you’ll see on the Nutrition Facts labels of these products. That’s because the manufacturers’ serving sizes ranged from 2.5 ounces (70g) to 3.5 ounces (95g). In order to make the comparisons fair, the tables below show the nutrient values for 3 ounces (85g) of each product.

Plant-based chicken nuggets (breaded)

3 oz servingChickenDaringMeatless FarmBeyond MeatImpossible
Fat (g)117131311
Sat fat (g)312.521.5
Carb (g)1519221617
Fiber (g)04222
Sugars (g)0221<1
Protein (g)1410121412
Iron (mg)13212
Potassium (mg)191196370265510
Sodium (mg)379610400475430
Gluten freeNoNoNoNoNo
Soy freeYesNoYesYesNo
IngredientsChicken, water, wheat flour, contains 2% or less of the following: brown sugar, corn starch, dried garlic, dried onion, dried yeast, extractives of paprika, natural flavor, oat fiber, salt, spices, wheat starch, white whole wheat flour, yellow corn flour. Breading set in vegetable oil.Water, Soy Protein-Concentrate, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Natural Flavor, Spices (Paprika, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Mace, Cardamon), wheat flour, canola oil, water, yellow corn flour, potato starch, rice flour, salt, leavening (cream of tartar, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate), sugar, dextrose, garlic, onion, yeast.Vegetable proteins (Water, Wheat Protein, Wheat Flour), Cornflakes (Corn, Sugar, Salt, Barley Malt Extract), Water, Sunflower Oil, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Flour, Pea Starch, Pea Protein, Sea Salt, Natural Flavors, Yeast Extract, Bamboo Fiber, Methylcellulose, Potassium LactateWater, Faba Bean Protein, Breading (Wheat Flour, Rice Flour, Salt, Corn Starch, Pea Proteinᵗ, Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Paprika, Spices, Dextrose, Leavening[Sodium Acid Phrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate], Sugar, Sunflower Oil, Dried Onion, Dried Garlic, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors), Breadcrumbs (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Sea Salt, Dried Yeast), Vital Wheat Gluten, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Flavors, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Pea starch, Methylcellulose, and 1% or less of Yeast Extract, Refined Coconut Oil, Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Sodium Phosphates, Spices, Titanium dioxide (for color), Sunflower Lecithin.Water, Wheat Flour, Soy Protein Concentrate, Soybean Oil, Sunflower Oil, , 2% or less Of: Potato Starch, Methylcellulose, Salt, Natural Flavors, Cultured Dextrose, Wheat Gluten, Yeast Extract, Yellow Corn Flour, Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Spices, Leavening (Cream of Tartar, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dried Yeast, Paprika Extract (for color), Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant) Vitamins and Minerals: (Zinc Gluconate, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12).

Plant-based chicken vs chicken (plain)

3 oz servingChickenDaring
Fat (g)32
Sat fat (g)10
Carb (g)06
Fiber (g)06
Sugars (g)00
Protein (g)2617
Iron (mg)0.54
Potassium (mg)332416
Sodium (mg)44480
Gluten freeYesYes
Soy freeYesNo
IngredientsChickenWater, Soy Protein-Concentrate, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Natural Flavor, Spices (Paprika, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Mace, Cardamon)

Bright Line Eating: Diet or Disordered Eating?

Many of you have asked me to weigh in on an approach to weight loss known as Bright Line Eating. Some people claim that this approach has helped them lose weight when all other methods failed.

The approach was developed by Susan Peirce Thompson, who has a Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Science and claims that her approach is grounded in cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience.  According to promotional materials, Bright Line Eating is “very structured and takes a liberating stand against moderation.”

Instead of “very structured,” I’d describe it as “extremely rigid.” And if the phrase “a liberating stand against moderation,” sounds a bit Orwellian to you, well, you’re not alone. This zero-tolerance approach could be considered “liberating” in the same way that a maximum-security prison might liberate you from a life of crime.

This article is also available as a podcast. Click to listen.

There are four so-called Bright Lines:

Bright Line #1: Foods containing any form of sugar, sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, or concentrated fruit juices are strictly forbidden. Forever.  Although it’s not mentioned specifically in this rule, elsewhere in the materials, alcohol is equated with sugar and is, therefore, apparently included in this prohibition.

Bright Line #2: Also forbidden are foods containing any type of flour, including whole wheat flour, and flour made from any other grains, seeds, or nuts. Is it your wedding day? Sorry, no cake for you. This is a bright line.

Bright Line #3: You must eat exactly three meals a day, absolutely no snacking, and no exceptions—not even to check the seasoning of something you might be cooking. Helpful tip: Put a piece of tape over your mouth while cooking to prevent accidental breaches of protocol. (No, I’m serious. This is actually recommended.)

Bright Line #4: You must weigh or measure every single thing you eat, forever. Heading to a restaurant? Pack your scale. There are no exceptions to this rule. The type and amount of food at each of your three meals is strictly dictated and adds up to about 1200 calories a day—a bit more if you are a man but otherwise, it’s one size fits all.

And that’s it: Just follow these 4 simple rules to the letter—forever—and you too can be happy, thin, and free!

I’m being facetious, obviously. (Although that is the subtitle of Dr. Thompson’s book: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free.)

And I want to acknowledge that one’s willingness to embrace such a draconian approach will probably depend on the degree of suffering you feel that your weight is causing you. If this approach succeeds where everything else has failed, it’s certainly your prerogative to decide that abiding by these constraints is worth it to you.

But if you are simply curious about how this approach might stack up against other options, I think it’s worth taking a closer look at the scientific rationale.

Does Science Support Bright Line Eating?

Bright Line Eating purportedly “works with the brain” in three specific ways:

1. By reducing your reliance on willpower.

Willpower, they claim, is depletable and unreliable. I agree! Relying entirely on willpower is like trying to parallel park a car without power steering. It’s possible, but it’s a lot of work. Creating solid habits and engineering your environment to reduce temptation and to make the healthy choice the easy choice are great strategies for building a healthier lifestyle.

Read More:  Why Willpower Isn’t Enough

What I don’t quite see is how these extremely rigid rules reduce your reliance on willpower. It seems to me that maintaining this degree of restriction on an ongoing basis would require quite a bit of willpower.

The authors also claim that exercising “uses up a tremendous amount of willpower and is not effective as a weight-loss tool.” If you do not exercise, you are encouraged not to start. If you already exercise, you’re encouraged to reduce the intensity of your current regimen.

I agree that the primary benefit of exercise is not weight loss. But I don’t agree that it necessarily uses up a lot of willpower, unless, perhaps, you’re forcing yourself to do exercise that you don’t enjoy. But I’d rather encourage you to explore different ways of being active than discourage you from exercising.

2. By bringing leptin “back on board.” 

According to the Bright Line Eating website, following the BLE rules will allegedly “bring leptin back on board so you finally feel satisfied.”

The role of leptin in appetite and body weight regulation is still poorly understood by the actual scientists who study it—and grossly oversimplified and wildly misrepresented in the popular press. Leptin levels are directly related to body fat stores. They drop when you lose weight or when food intake is restricted, which in turn stimulates your appetite. If you gain body fat, leptin levels go up, which decreases the desire for food. It’s the body’s way of maintaining the status quo.

But because it’s popularly known as the “satiety” hormone, people imagine that leptin turns your appetite on and off on a meal-by-meal basis. But in reality, leptin works to regulate appetite and body weight over a longer time frame, not in response to individual meals.

You might also be led to conclude that higher leptin levels would be a good thing. More leptin, less appetite. But people who suffer from obesity tend to have very high leptin levels (because they have high amounts of body fat). The problem is not that their leptin levels are too low but that the body becomes resistant to the appetite-suppressing effects of leptin.

My point is simply that the relationships between leptin, body fat, and appetite are complex and—despite what you read online—not easily manipulated by diet.

In a paper published in Current Developments in Nutrition, Thompson reports that her program’s participants (95% of whom are white women of high socioeconomic status) rate their hunger and cravings lower after following the program for 8 weeks. However, it’s unclear whether this has anything to do with leptin, or how long this effect might persist.

3. By “rewiring and healing the addictive centers of the brain.”

The entire Bright Line Eating philosophy leans hard on the concept of food addiction. The idea that people can become literally addicted to food is highly controversial. Just because the taste of something sweet activates the same area of the brain that lights up in response to cocaine, it does not follow that this creates psychological or physiological dependence. However, telling people that they are chemically addicted to food and therefore powerless to control themselves can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Read More:  Sugar and the Science of Addiction

Thompson has even invented a quiz that allegedly measures your vulnerability to food addiction.  A high score on her “Susceptibility Scale” supposedly suggests that you are unable to exercise restraint and will only be safe by “liberating” yourself from any form of moderation.

Diet or Disordered Eating?

In the end, I find it somewhat ironic that this approach was developed by a psychologist. Because to my eye, it reinforces such psychologically unhelpful—even damaging—beliefs. For example:

  • In order to be happy, you must be thin.
  • Being thin is more important than anything else, therefore whatever you have to do to achieve this is worth it.
  • You are incapable of exercising judgment and self-control.
  • You cannot be trusted.
  • Certain foods are more powerful than you are.

In my own work as a weight loss coach, we spend a lot of time dismantling many of the beliefs that Bright Line Eating seems determined to instill.

If you buy into the idea that you have some sort of defect that makes it impossible for you to control yourself, this take-no-prisoners approach might seem like your only hope. And, apparently, many people who embrace it succeed in losing weight. But as one former adherent of Bright Line Eating wrote on her blog:

“I was thin but I was far from happy and definitely not free…I [had been] 100% sold on BLE as my forever way of eating [but] I reached a point where peace was more important than pounds.”

If someone came to me for nutrition counseling and described some of the behaviors endorsed in this program (such as taking a scale to restaurants to measure your food or putting a piece of tape over your mouth to prevent yourself from eating), I would probably refer them for evaluation for an eating disorder. Thompson discloses that she herself has a history of eating disorders including bulimia and binge eating. But the solution that she advocates still has many of the hallmarks of disordered eating, such as extreme inflexibility and black-and-white thinking.

Read More:  A Dietitian’s Review of Bright Line Eating

As anyone trained in the treatment of eating disorders knows, achieving a healthy weight does not necessarily mean that you have recovered from disordered thoughts about food (or about your body).

That’s my take on Bright Line Eating. No doubt, it will rub some people the wrong way. It’s certainly not my intention to undermine anyone who feels that Bright Line Eating is making their life better. But, if you’d like to experiment with a (really) different approach, check out the Weighless Mindset Reset, a free 7-day minicourse that I developed with Brock Armstrong, in which we investigate some of those underlying beliefs.

Originally published at QuickanddirtyTips.com

Nutritional comparison of beef and plant-based alternatives

In this week’s episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast, I explore how plant-based meat alternative compare with meat in terms of the nutritional and environmental aspect, along with new research on their effect on the microbiome.

Here are nutritional and ingredient details for three of the most common meatless brands, as well as two types of ground beef.

4 ounces (113 g), uncookedMeatless Farm GroundImpossible BurgerBeyond BurgerGround beef (85% lean)Ground beef (grass fed)
Calories (kcal)250240230240224
Total fat (g)1614141714.4
Sat fat (g)58576
Protein (g)19192019.422
Carb (g)119700
Fiber (g)33200
Cholesterol (mg)0006970
Sodium (mg)54037039074.676.8
Potassium (mg)210610330305327
Iron (mg)
IngredientsWater, Pea Protein, Vegetable Oils (Canola, Shea), Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, and less than 2% of: Potassium lactate, Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Caramelized Carrot Concentrate for color, Potato Fiber, Potato Starch, Vegetable and Fruit Extracts for color, Salt, Molasses, Dried Vegetable (Potato, Onion), Sunflower Oil, Carrot Concentrate for color, Tomato Paste, Ascorbic Acid (Antioxidant), Concentrated Lemon Juice, Black PepperWater, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% Or Less Of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant), Soy Protein Isolate, Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12. Water, pea protein*, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavors, dried yeast, cocoa butter, methylcellulose, and less than 1% of potato starch, salt, potassium chloride, beet juice color, apple extract, pomegranate concentrate, sunflower lecithin, vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, vitamins and minerals (zinc sulfate, niacinamide [vitamin B3], pyridoxine hydrochloride [vitamin B6], cyanocobalamin [vitamin B12], calcium pantothenate).Lean ground beefLean ground beef

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How to Avoid Overeating This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family, be grateful for all we have,  and stuff ourselves silly. I’m not that concerned about the long term consequences of this. As I’ve said before, a single day of excess isn’t going to make you gain weight any more than a one-day juice fast is going to make you lose weight.

Nonetheless, it’s no fun to push yourself away from the table and realize – too late! – that you’ve eaten to the point of discomfort.

Here are 5 strategies that can help you enjoy this year’s feast without regrets:

This episode is also available as a podcast. Click to listen.

Thanksgiving Tip #1: Keep the Appetizers Light

The traditional Thanksgiving menu features a lot of heavy, rich dishes – lots of starches, creamy casseroles, and everything is dripping with butter and gravy. It’s not a light meal. Unfortunately, the pre-dinner snacks tend to be just as heavy and rich as the main event! All too often people sit down to dinner already half-full from the snacks they’ve been nibbling all afternoon while dinner is prepared.

Rather than filling up on calorie-dense appetizers like cheese and crackers, clam dip, nuts, and bacon-wrapped pineapple chunks, keep the pre-dinner snacks light: crisp radishes and snow peas with a yogurt based dip, kale chips, and steamed edamame, for example. Clearing away all the snacks about an hour before dinner will also help ensure that people sit down to the table with an appetite.

Thanksgiving Tip #2: Use Smaller Plates

Research shows that when we use smaller plates, we serve ourselves smaller portions, consume fewer calories, but feel just as satisfied as we do after eating more calories off of larger plates. Now consider that the average size of dinner plates has gone from 9 to 13 inches over the last 30 years and our rising rates of obesity don’t seem that surprising.

See also: Why We Overeat

Do yourself and your guests a favor by setting the table with smaller plates. Grandma’s china is probably a lot smaller than your modern dinnerware. Alternatively, the salad or sandwich plates from your oversized set might be perfect.  The same holds true for things like wine glasses and forks: They larger they are, the more we consume. Downsizing your serving ware will not only help you eat a bit less without even noticing, It’ll also make your table less crowded.

Thanksgiving Tip #3: Serve the Vegetables First

If you start by filling your plate with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and candied yams, you’re likely to be out of room by the time you get to the string beans, Brussels sprouts, and carrots. Reverse the trend by helping yourself to turkey and all the vegetables first, leaving less room on the plate for the starchy fillers.

If you’re in charge of all or part of the menu this year, try to ensure that there are at least as many vegetables as starches – and resist the temptation to smother them all in cheese, cream of mushroom soup, and/or fried onions. Some crisp and colorful vegetables, lightly steamed and topped with a bright squeeze of lemon juice or fresh herbs, provide a welcome contrast to all the other dense and heavy dishes.

Some of my favorite vegetables sides for Thanksgiving include steamed carrots lightly glazed in ginger and a bit of butter, tender-crisp green beans tossed with cilantro and garlic, and a very lightly-dressed coleslaw or pickled vegetables.

Thanksgiving Tip #4: Choose Your Starch

One of the things that makes Thanksgiving dinner so devastating is all the redundant starches.  During the rest of the year, a dinner menu might feature a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. Or, at my house, we often skip the starch altogether and have a second (or third) vegetable instead.

But the traditional Thanksgiving menu includes a bird stuffed with bread, at least one or two types of potatoes, rolls – and often several other starches as well. And research shows that we eat more when we have a greater variety than we do when our choices are more limited.

If you are cooking this year, consider reigning in the madness a bit. Stuffing and potatoes might be non-negotiable, but would anyone really miss the rolls? Is it really necessary to serve mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and scalloped potatoes?  Even if you have no control over the menu, you can also choose to eat only one of the many starch dishes this year instead of all of them.

Thanksgiving Tip #5: You Don’t Have to Sample Everything

When we go to a restaurant, we don’t feel that we have to order every single thing on the menu just because the chef has prepared them. We choose our favorite item, and feel no sense of loss or deprivation. But somehow when faced with a Thanksgiving buffet of 20 different dishes, we feel duty-bound to sample every single one.

By all means, marvel over the beautiful array of colors and aromas and compliment the chef(s) on the amazing spread. Then, just as you would when handed a menu full of delicious options, choose what you’d like to enjoy that evening…and enjoy the heck out of it. Likewise, when it comes to dessert, it is not necessary to have a “small” piece of all 5 desserts any more than you’d order every item on a dessert menu.

There’s a sort of madness that sets in at Thanksgiving, as if this will be the last pumpkin pie we will ever see. But Thanksgiving actually comes every year – and the menu doesn’t change all that much! Barring catastrophe, your life is likely to include many more pumpkin pies, all of which will taste very similar to the dozens of pumpkin pies you’ve had before.  When I remind myself of that, it seems to put things back into perspective, allowing me to make my decision based on how much room I actually have left in my stomach and which dessert looks particularly appealing or unusual.

Originally published at QuickandDirtyTips.com

Are decorative pumpkins and gourds edible?


Jessica writes:

“We just threw out the pumpkins we had on our porch as decoration, and it made me wonder whether we could have eaten them. I bought them at the grocery store after all! 

Can you eat/cook any type of pumpkin? (I had a mix of regular, Cinderella, and maybe Yokohama.) If you can eat them, how long after you put them on your porch will they be edible? I’ve only used canned pumpkin to date, is the process of making your own challenging?”

Continue reading “Are decorative pumpkins and gourds edible?” >