"It's like taking a nap on that little rug when you were in kindergarten."

Thanksgiving, Kids, and Counting Pumpkin Calories

Thanksgiving … it is one of the great American holidays, and its activities are excellent sources of alliteration: Food, football, festivities, friends and family (at your own risk, in some cases).

For me, I’m very grateful, even thankful, for the many blessings received throughout the year – wonderful people whose paths have crossed mine, the love of family and friends, and good health.

And yet, pumpkin pie seems to overshadow almost everything. Yes, I’ve written about it before (here), it is my second great love – after MLB, of course – but it is oh-so-fattening.

Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, whipped cream

Some of you may know that I try to stick, largely (no pun intended), to a protein-based diet. It works well with my metabolism and tends to keep the weight off. But as I get closer to Thanksgiving (and then Christmas), my favorite food – pumpkin pie – ends up being a blessing … and a curse.

– vitamins – full of vitamin A, and also has vitamins C, K, and E
– antioxidants, in particular alpha and beta-carotenes
– minerals – magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium, and iron
– fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids

– can eat it obsessively
– piles on the calories, and therefore the pounds
– did I mention, I WILL eat it for all three meals; oh … and for a “snack”

Years ago, when MLB and I were on a super-strict version of high-protein eating, we were trying to be good even through Thanksgiving. This weekend, I was going through a box of things from our youngest son’s childhood, and ran across this hand-scrawled note – from the 3rd grade – about his upcoming Thanksgiving:

thanksgiving, letter, carbohydrates, kids

I didn’t realize how much the kids really paid attention, until I read this.

If I had read this in elementary school, I’m pretty sure I would have laughed so hard the milk would have come through my nose, and maybe even bits of mac & cheese as well. Ewwww!

“Usually you’d have all the 5 food groups. But my parents are on a fater [fatter] diet and they can’t have any carbohydrates.”

I love the fact that he was thinking about us, lamenting the fact that we couldn’t have “the good stuff,” and that a “fater” diet was bad. Kids are the best!

I can assure you that his third grade body didn’t miss out on any of the carbohydrates that we did!


What  are you looking forward to doing, or eating, over the holidays? 


  1. Theres that pumpkin pie again… We don’t do thanksgiving… Maybe we should…. Mmm, pumpkin pie… What else were to saying, I lost track after pumpkin pie.

  2. LOL…love your son’s school paper. I have some from my kids that I will never get rid of.

    Thanks to you, my eye doctor, and my sister and her husband, I’ve been doing some research…and settled on something called carb cycling. Four days a week I pretty much eliminate carbs. Two days a week, it’s 100-200. And then the 7th day is 400-600 carbs…but low fat.

    I would say that would put me out of luck for the holiday pumpkin pie…but you know what? I’m only making one pie. My daughter will nab most of it…and I just don’t care. I’ll be good most of the time, but I’m just not going to sweat it for special foods around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter (which is the day for coconut creme pie…and a huge curse because my kids hate coconut. I just buy a slice from the Big Boy restaurant rather than eat an entire pie myself).

    Limit yourself to ONE pie, MJ, and even if you eat the entire thing yourself (over a couple of days) the damage won’t be too bad. We only live once. Gotta have treats once in a while.

    And we all know the truth…holidays are LARGELY about the food. :)

    • I love those kid papers. So much fun to look back on.

      Hmm, carb cycling – haven’t heard of that. I’ve been taking in more carbs than I did back in that day. Carbs are okay if kept low. Sugars are pretty bad. I probably eat around 120 a day, these days. I doubt I ever go over 200 unless I eat frozen yogurt at my favorite shoppe (yum, BTW!).

      I definitely won’t be skipping the pumpkin pie this year. And I’ll eat more than one, I’m afraid (not really). The Harvest pie at Coco’s – if you have those in MI – is quite a treat. It’s like three layers of pumpkin scrumptiousness.

      I’ll throw a few dollops of whip cream on top of my PP just to make sure I “carbo cycle” correctly. ;D

  3. J Timothy Quirk says:

    That’s why I eat pumpkin pie…for the potassium. And when i have a second helping…it’s for more potassium.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Don’t make crust and use artificial sugar.

    • Funny you mention that, Carl – if that’s you – I actually don’t eat the crust at all; only the filling. So, thanks for the reminder, now I can have more since I’m reducing calories on the crust. Yes!

  5. I make 6 pumpkin pies for our yearly feast–but share only 2 with the relatives The other 4 my own family (mostly me) graze on all week. Best way to eat it–cold out of the fridge, slice after slice….calories? fugedaboudit!!!! Life is too short–so bake at least 6 this year and ENJOY!!!!!

    • I hate to give out my secret, but the Costco PP’s are really great. MLB makes a mean PP, but it’s so much easier and the flavor at Costco is close to hers. Google “Costco pumpkin pie” and you’ll see how well-liked they are. People try to duplicate them all the time. At $5.99 for like 32 oz, you just can’t beat it. Right??

      Back to the point – yes, I will definitely be enjoying the pie. I’ll try to spread it out – you know, one piece at lunch, one at dinner, one for desert after dinner. hehehe.

  6. I LOVE pumpkin pie but only with LOTS, and LOTS of whipped cream!! Your youngest son’s note is priceless! :)

  7. Mmmm! Pie! Did you have to remind me? I can’t wait! I love all pies, but chocolate is my fave. And turkey above all. Especially fried turkey. I’m thinking that is not on your diet either. :-)

    • I like chocolate cream pie, but pumpkin is my favorite. And I’m afraid even the protein in the turkey, for this protein lover, can’t compete with pumpkin pie.

      And fried turkey’s not a problem on my plan. :)

  8. Aw, I love that note! So funny. I look forward to my mom’s pumpkin pie. She’s always made the best crust, too. I’ve tried to make my own, but it’s just not the same. And of course, I have to pile on the whipped cream on top. Between Halloween candy and Christmas, my diet is pretty much sunk.

    • I know it’s bad, but I skip the crust so I can have more of the pumpkin. :)
      I like the taste of it, but if I can have more pieces …

      Okay, so maybe it’s just rationalization.

      Great, thanks for mentioning Halloween candy. I try to avoid it as much as I can so I have more calories available for pie. See, I’m a thinker that way. Well, kind of.

      Do send me a piece of mom’s pie, will you?

  9. I’ve already made 2 pumpkin pies and it’s only 10/19….this is not good. They were gone within seconds…also not good. I’m glad the second one was consumed by my teenage son & his friends who are also known as bottomless pits. One of the other perks is the house smells amazing when they are baking.

    Kids really are more in-tuned than we think. My son gave me something for mother’s day one year and it said “My moms favorite food is lettuce” also written during a bout of dieting…lol

    • Wow, I’m coming over to your house, my friend! I need to get one, stat!! I feel like I’m way behind now.

      Loving what your son said about your favorite food. I didn’t realize they were paying attention, unless it got them something good. Ha.

  10. I’ve learned that my kids are always paying attention. I turn around and there they are, listening in. Makes me scared to think what they could bring home from school!

    Hope you get to enjoy plenty of pumpkin this fall.

    • You better watch yourself, MM. Yeah, no telling what they hear or see in school today. It’s gotten more “open” at school for sure. Parents can be pretty hard on teachers, and teachers have to be careful what they do to keep things in check.

      Rest assured, with all of life’s troubles, I will definitely get my share of pumpkin. :)

  11. I can sympathize, Michael. Pumpkin anything is my downfall. Today a student brought me an empanada, a colleague brought me pumpkin cake with a yummy topping, and I had a ginger cookie at Barnes and Noble. I’ve been dieting since June … and now, I’ll be fighting off the well-meaning enablers until after Christmas.

    • I’m coming your way, Judy. You’re naming my tune. I can say no to cookies, cake, other sweets, but not pumpkin. All the best to you on your eating plan through the holidays.

      If you start to feel too guilty, just send the pumpkin my way. 😉

  12. Mmmm, pie. Most any is good, pumpkin is awesome. And apple. And lemon meringue. And turkey pot pie. Just put anything in a crust (or on bread, or in pasta) and I’ll eat it. I would not survive a no-carb – or even low carb – diet. Or at least my sanity wouldn’t.

    Our thanksgiving pie was a couple of weeks ago. Now looking forward to Mom’s Christmas pudding! That, and stuffing, make the holidays for me.

    Signed, carb addict not-so-anonymous.

    • It’s tough redirecting your mind to other foods when you go low carb. I LOVE bread, pasta, pizza, potatoes, and corn. That made it super-tough the first time I did this. It’s gotten easier now. I do eat those things, but in very small quantities.

      Except for the pumpkin pie, of course!

      I remember Canadian Thanksgiving from some of my Canuck (sp?) friends, like you. Hope it was a great one. Is your Christmas pudding like the English Christmas pudding?

  13. Out of the mouths of babes…I love that thanksgiving piece. I have never eaten pumpkin pie: we all view pumpkin with some suspicion here in the UK. Can an orange vegetable really taste nice in a pie?

    • I know, it’s just precious, in a not-too-sachariney way.

      You must get on the pumpkin train, Kate. I think you’d love it. When we lived in the UK our English friends never did understand it either.

  14. Have you ever checked out the nutritional label on a Costco pie, my Shucker friend?? I hate to dash your spirits, but a serving is 1 piece of 12 slices of a pie. Entirely TOO SMALL of a serving for this farm girl. One little sliver has 310 calories. Of that, 99% are fat calories. There is 370 mg of sodium to cause your blood pressure to skyrocket to heart failure, and 30 grams of sugar to send you to a diabetic coma.

    I vote for MBL to create a healthier version. There are not too many of us HUSKER fans out there and I don’t want to be standing alone!!

    • You know me, Lori – I’m in it for the long haul. I’m good, usually, other than the pumpkin pie, around the holidays.

      Oh, I’ll probably have a few more pieces than one, but, but, but, I don’t eat the crust, so that’s like a million calories and fat grams fewer, right?? I’ll avoid the sugar other than the whipped cream and pie around the holidays.

  15. My husband is a huge fan of pumpkin pie. He often asks for it for his birthday instead of cake. Eat up! But you might want to make it yourself. See littlesundog’s analysis of those you buy at the store. Not as healthy as when you cook it up yourself.

    • I’ve always liked your husband – even though I haven’t met him.

      I know, something about calories, fat, yada yada. But think about all those healthy things I’d be getting:

      – vitamins – full of vitamin A, and also has vitamins C, K, and E
      – antioxidants, in particular alpha and beta-carotenes
      – minerals – magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium, and iron
      – fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids

      Yeah, that’s it – the vitamins and minerals! 😉

  16. I think you already know this but for the last two years we have taken advantage of the girls school scheduled break for the week of Thanksgiving to take a vacation. We have been to and through Las Vegas both years on our way to our final destination (once it was our final destination). We have been to Zion National Park and Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire just outside Vegas and this year is no different. We are headed to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ. Since we drive our faithful Honda Accord everywhere we tend to go where there isn’t a lot of snow on the ground. Our challenge is where to eat on Thanksgiving every year. We have had some fantastic meals and the hunt is part of the fun. Being on vacation is fun but by not cooking at home we miss out on the leftovers, the best part!

    • Hey Kricket, that Honda Accord is a great vehicle. So are you staying local this year or venturing out again?

      The adventure of being somewhere else on Thanksgiving – with your kids though – sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t think we ever did that.

      Leftovers are overrated in my opinion. You can always bake a turkey when you get back. Pumpkin pie can be picked up anywhere. Hope it’s a great one for you all!

      • Yup, we’re heading out to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ. It would still be fun to travel to Las Vegas with you guys sometime. You have a much shorter drive now :O)

  17. Coleen Patrick says:

    Thanksgiving and the carb coma. Gotta love it. And kids always catch more than we think they do!

  18. Hi MJ, I love pumpkin pie, too. Before we moved to the United States, I did not like to eat anything that was related to pumpkin. Today, just like you: I could eat pumpkin pie all day long. And then still would ask for a bit more pumpkin pie….

    Now that you had this pumpkin pie slice picture, I cannot think of too many other things, than eat one. But if my wife complains why I want to eat pumpkin pie, at least I can blame it on your blog now… :-)

    That old note from your son is great! Must have brought back memories. Just as you mentioned, it is amazing what details kids can capture from the family life and what they would repeat back.

    Get ready for Thanksgiving (it is almost here…) and enjoy your pumpkin pie! :-)

  19. Hey MJ, I’ve been missing you. I’m also on the fatter diet and what astounds me is that it’s more expensive to eat healthy than conveniently. Phooey. I suppose I should just give Thanks. Happy Halloween. (Chocolate is not on the fatter diet)

  20. I’m loving your recipes. It is really great that you mention the value of certain healthy ingredients. It makes the dishes taste even better. Now I feel that I am ready for Thanksgiving)

  21. What a gem of a find!! I’m looking forward to all the food. I don’t discriminate!

  22. Hey MJ!

    I’m thankful for family and loved ones; excellent health and continuous learning. :) [We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the Philippines though.]

    Your son’s essay is quite astounding. I wonder if my parents kept any of my letters. It would be fun to read those again. And we always skip the fatter diet during the Holidays.

    Have fun with your family over your Holidays! :)

  23. Hi mj,
    There is a huge difference between store bought apple pie, and homemade apple pie. I’ve never tasted store bought apple pie that was worth the calories. Pumpkin pie is is different. Homemade is great, but I can’t tell the difference between homemade and store bought, so we either let guests bring one, or we buy one for Thanksgiving. The whipped cream, however, does need to be homemade. We throw a couple of dollops on, for a balanced diet.

    Nice to hear from you–it has been a while!

  24. That would be one of the best parts about being an elementary school teacher– reading and listening to what some of the kids say! Love that you found that note.

    We already had our Thanksgiving up in Canada, but I always enjoy the transition back to warmer, denser foods in winter. Nothing says ‘fall’ to me like a homemade vegan minestrone soup– YUM!

Love to hear from you.

%%POSTLINK%% is a post from: mj monaghan