Fit Life Essentials for Real Life

My Favorite Fit Girl Dessert (A Blueprint for Enjoying Treats Without Going Overboard)

I love pumpkin pie.


Throughout my childhood, pumpkin pie was basically the entire point of Thanksgiving.

Chocolate’s great, ice cream is fun, blueberry cobbler is amazing.  But pumpkin pie … is … heaven.

This, of course, is breaking all the rules of sound blogging.  It’s February.  Pumpkin obsession season is October 1 through December 1.

On a side note, pumpkin-mania HAS gotten out of control in recent years, hasn’t it?  I’ll accept pumpkin lattes and pumpkin smoothies, and maybe even pumpkin yogurt.  But pumpkin spice gum, chips, bagels, water???

Anyway, I don’t care that this is not the “right” time to talk about pumpkin pie.  My love of pumpkin pie transcends all seasons. 

Now, one thing I do care about is fit living, so I’ve worked to learn how to enjoy treats in moderation.  This was a terrible struggle for me for many years because I existed in an “all or nothing” mode.  Either I was super strict and denying myself any kind of treat, or I was completely off the tracks and eating everything in sight.


Moderation has two requests of us:

  1. The Goldilocks Rule – not too much, not too little of a good thing
  2. Be mindful of calories

Let’s talk about each one.


Everyone gets “too much,” but too little?  Yes, it is possible to get too little of a good thing. 

Dessert 1.0 is to just say no.  We can do that for a while, but most of us will eventually break down because we feel deprived and left out.

That’s no fun.  Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Far better is Dessert 2.0, which is getting that juuuuust right amount.  Typically this will be the smallest amount that makes us feel good.

This does depend on the person.  For someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, a small slice of dessert on a holiday or other special occasion may be perfect.

But for those of us who love our sweets, we need to experiment to find our just right amount, and then practice enjoying it mindfully.

What does it mean to eat mindfully?  Mindfulness is simply being aware and connected to our inner and outer worlds.  For the outer world, this means we truly taste food and notice how it looks, smells, and feels.  For the inner world, mindfulness means we notice if we’re hungry and we’re aware of our emotional state (happy, celebratory, anxious, bored, upset, and so on).

One of my favorite peeps in the online fitness world, Neghar Fonooni, has a helpful rule of thumb for eating mindfully: the First Bite Rule.

You know how the first bite of anything we love – dessert or otherwise – is incredibly delicious and fun?  At some point, though, the enjoyment begins to wear off, and we get less and less enjoyment.  Despite the diminishing returns, it’s easy to keep eating because there’s still more, out of habit.

The First Bite Rule says we eat so long as every bite feels just as good as the first.  When that’s no longer true, we stop and either share or leave the rest.  It takes practice and attention, but is a wonderful way to learn to truly enjoy delicious food.


There’s no need to actually count calories, but we should be mindful of just how decadent a dessert is.  Generally speaking, the simpler, the better.

Common sense can guide us here.  If we can enjoy a bowl of berries with a touch of ice cream, there’s no need to add whipped cream, chocolate sauce, cake, or sprinkles.

On the other hand, if chocolate sauce makes life worth living, then by all means, add a splash. 

Applying this to my beloved pumpkin pie, it’s really the filling that makes my heart sing.  I do love a good pie crust, but I can live without it most of the year.

Additionally, I’ve found I can enjoy the filling — essentially a pumpkin custard —with any kind of milk and with less sugar than most recipes call for.

A wide variety of milks can work well in pumpkin custard.  I’ve done plant-based milks, including almond milk, coconut milk, and the new “Ripple” product (which is made from peas).  Coconut milk does tend to impart a coconut flavor, so I don’t recommend it.  For cow’s milk, an evaporated skim milk works, as does the new Fairlife® ultra filtered milk.  Filtered milk is great because it’s higher in protein than regular milk.

I do love whipped cream, so I add just a touch for a whopping 15 calories or so but a whole lotta love.


This is adapted from the “Libby’s® Famous Pumpkin Pie” recipe.  True confession: I usually google this recipe and then adapt on the fly, like so:

  • 1/2 cup sugar (Libby says to use 3/4 cup; see if you can enjoy the custard with less)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 3 eggs (Libby says to use 2, but I like a little more protein)
  • 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (a beta carotene bomb)
  • 12 fluid ounces of your favorite milk (your choice; I won’t judge)

Make your pumpkin treat a reality:

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Mix together the sugar, salt, and spices.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl; add the pumpkin and stir in the dry mixture.

Slowly pour in the milk while stirring.

Pour the whole delicious thing into a glass dish – I use one of those square Pyrex® 9×9 baking dishes.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn oven down to 350° F and bake another 40-50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

I have eaten this warm, but enjoy it most nice and cold.  Ideally, cool it on a wire rack for about 2 hours and then refrigerate.

Violà!  A pumpkin custard treat that serves up some beta carotene, a touch of protein, giddy taste buds and happy memories.

Bonus: Stella is one of the dreaded pumpkin pie haters, so more for me.  🙂 

ABOUT FIT ENERGIES: Knowledge is kinda like food – we need juuuust the right amount to thrive.  Too little and we falter; too much and it’s hard to focus on anything but sitting on the couch.  Ironically, the fitness world suffers from a terrible case of infobesity.   

Fit Energies is on a mission to find the sweet spot by collecting the most essential info, skills, and strategies for fit living.  To inform, to celebrate, to inspire, to remind, but most of all, to be useful in our shared quest to eat well, move often, and navigate life’s little adventures with grace.

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