Healthy Eating: Festive muffins for a healthier holiday

Cranberry pumpkin muffin

Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the season — bigger than Christmas and New Year’s put together. In fact, Thanksgiving kicks off six weeks of celebration: Office parties, family gatherings, hanging out with friends.

It’s easy for eating and drinking to add on the pounds without even trying. I recommend getting outside and taking a daily walk if you can (even if it rains). The fresh air will bring renewed energy to your body, mind and spirit and the exercise will help you maintain you current weight. Believe me, I understand. I have had many losses in my life recently and the holidays can be challenging in terms of “stress eating.” It’s nice to have a way to “treat” yourself that doesn’t break the nutritional bank. Here’s something that you can enjoy without guilt.

This is a healthy recipe that you can make to have on hand for guests or serve the day after Thanksgiving as part of a holiday brunch. These muffins freeze well and are a healthy option for breakfast or lunch boxes. Since this recipe only uses 3/4 cup of canned pumpkin, remember to freeze the unused portion of the pumpkin so that you can add it to a soup or casserole. Canned pumpkin “hides” nicely in macaroni and cheese or a tomato based pasta sauce.

I hope that you and your family have a delightful Thanksgiving. Enjoy your feast and remember that you can always enjoy leftovers! (You don’t have to go back for seconds!) Most importantly, while you are eating enjoy your food, give thanks for its nourishment.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins


2 cups flour (feel free to use 1 cup white/1 cup whole wheat)

¾ cup sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

¾ tsp. allspice

(You can choose to use 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon and allspice)

⅓ cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

¾ cup canned pumpkin

2 cups fresh or frozen chopped cranberries (You can also use dried cranberries that have been soaked in hot water…make sure you drain the water before adding to the batter)

OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients (flour through allspice) and set aside.

Beat oil, eggs and pumpkin together until well blended.

Add the wet ingredients (pumpkin mixture) to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir until moistened.

Fold in chopped cranberries and nuts (if using)

Spoon into paper-lined muffin cups.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Do NOT over bake.

Makes 12 muffins

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at [email protected].


  1. Your recipe looks good however there is a spice often used in pumpkin pie that I don’t like so I avoid it. Once in a while I get a taste of pumpkin that doesn’t have that one flavor and I love that pumpkin pie. (I know what clove and cinnamon are and that’s not it.) Do you know what other spices are in pumpkin that might give it that unusual flavor? And is it likely to be in the canned pumpkin or added. I know this is a bit vague but I rather liked the pumpkin pie with the ?? spice.

    • It is common for bakers to make pumpkin pie using canned pumpkin pie filling which has spices already added. This is different than getting canned pumpkin puree (which has no added spices). I recommend that you use the plain pumpkin puree for this muffin recipe and simply add the spices that you enjoy. People use a combination of these spices in pumpkin pie: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, mace, cardamon, and ginger. Leave out what you do not enjoy. You could go to a place like PCC which has jars of spices in their bulk section. Smell the different spices to see which one you think might be the flavor that you do not enjoy. I hope this helps.


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