Muffins and Muffin Tops…

In the last months, as I have followed more folks on Twitter, I have seen my Twitterfeed periodically overwhelmed by muffin bashing.  Two types of muffin bashing.  First, the outright disparaging comments about folks who carry extra weight around their middle, leading to belly overspill around the trouser / lycra waistband area.  And second, the chastising of those who dain to eat (gasp) muffins.

I am a generally positive person, with a positive outlook on life.  Therefore, I think it is entirely wrong to bash those who are getting off the couch, heading to the gym, and giving their all to change their health and fitness.  These fitness newbies may not (yet) equal your marathoning exploits – they may be following Couch-to-5k plans (just like me I may add), and this may be the first time in their life they have tried to exercise.  But there you go, in your public tweetfeed, making sweeping generalisations about how gross they look in their lycra.  Some people need support, encouragement, and community to take the steps to change their lives with fitness and food awareness.  Shame on you for tweeting over and over again how much you hate the muffin-tops.

**A personal disclaimer:  I have muffin-top genetics.  My mom called it a “rice belly”.  She had one.  There are photos of her as a young woman with an 18 inch waist, with a little “pooch”.  I had one when I weighed 98 pounds at age 16, and yes, it grew bigger as I gained weight without staying fit.  So I do have an interest in this topic…**

Now, always ending with a positive, I approach the general subject of the muffin, the food variety.  I have a great recipe for muffins.  I found it in Cook’s Illustrated (thanks @cpkimball for the awesome job you guys have done for years and years with the magazine) in 1997, and have not once looked back.  Starbuck’s muffins?  No way – why on earth would you buy a muffin, having no control over the quality of the ingredients or no knowledge of what is used to make the product, when making muffins is so simple and easy.  It is pretty much a Sunday tradition in my house, I make a bunch of muffins for the week.

My grandmother (age 92) has always said to eat with fresh ingredients and in small portions, so this is something I have taken to doing with my muffin making.  I prefer to use the mini-muffin tin for my baking.  This enables me to enjoy muffin goodness without muffin guilt, and simultaneously to keep an eye on my muffin-top belly fat potential.  I have taken the Cook’s Illustrated recipe and simplified it for you below.  And using I have calculated the calories for the basic batch I make, which measures in at 1,771 calories for the base batch.  Since this is enough for 2 dozen mini-muffins, this is about 75 calories per mini-muffin.  Note – the calorie count is for the base batch and does not include the “stuff” you add into the muffins, like banana/chocolate, or blueberry/lemon zest…

Ingredients for base batch

1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter (always use unsalted butter when baking!)
½ cup sugar (you can use sugar, caster sugar, or even demarara – I have used all combos!)
1 large egg
¾ cup plain yogurt (I never use low fat foods, I prefer to just eat less instead)



1. To save time, melt the butter.  Let the butter cool, the beat it with the egg.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and any spices you might add such as cinnamon or vanilla or lemon zest).
3. Add the butter/egg to half the dry ingredients.  Combine.
4. Then add ¼ cup of yogurt.  Combine.
5. Add half of the remaining dry ingredients.  Combine.
6. Add ¼ cup of yogurt.  Combine.
7. Add rest of dry ingredients.  Combine.
8. Add rest of yogurt.  Combine.
9. Then add your fruit or filling choices.  I sometimes add bananas (two medium chopped up) plus toasted walnuts.  Or I do blueberries with lemon zest.  I have also done raspberries plus almond butter.  Experimenting with the stuff is the fun part.  I sometimes blend the stuff into the mix (with bananas for example) and other times I create a “hole” in the center of the muffin for the “filling” – like a central depository for the raspberries or blueberries.  Like I said – this part is all about experimentation.
10. Spoon the mix into greased mini-muffin tins.
11. Bake at 375F / 180C for about 20 to 25 minutes (keep an eye on the muffins, take them out when golden and when a toothpick into the middle of one comes out clean or without muffin crumbs or muffin batter).

Enjoy – and remember what my grandma says (she is 92, I take her advice for a long and healthy life!) – eat a small portion.  You can enjoy muffin goodness without too much sacrifice on the healthy eating front.  And any leftovers can be frozen / defrosted for eating later so as not to waste the muffin goodness!

4 responses to “Muffins and Muffin Tops…”

  1. I am so laughing as I write this.  You are a trip.  You sound a bit like a teacher getting on to the students for being naughty. But you are right. If you are out there working your butt off who has the right to say ridicule you?  I was running down the towpath near Camden (never forget this actually) when I passed this girl and her boyfriend and she started shouting insults about the size of my butt. Of course she weight 5lbs but I am sure never exercise a day in her life. I wanted to throw her in the canal.  Still regret that I didn’t. Thanks for the post.

  2. Great post!  I have struggled with my muffin top and am genetically engineered to harbor one – even at my thinnest too.  And I LOVE muffins. With age, I’ve come to love my body and what I’m able to do with it.  Great point in that we need to be encouraging each other at all fitness levels!  Everyone has to start somewhere.

  3. LOVE IT!  I also have “muffin top genetics” and had that same pooch when I was 16 and weighed 90 pounds.  Narrow hips and a short waist = no room to absorb stuff in the middle!  I’ve stayed away from the “elitist” circles where any fat is looked down upon and you’re not a real marathoner if you can’t break four hours.  Anyone who’ll get out and move is good in my book!

  4. Ha ha!  I don’t mean to sound like a school marm, but hey, everytime I read another comment I think “that’s not fair” and I just couldn’t help myself!  I need to remember to try out running on the canals.  That is a good tip (and thanks for the great anecdote too!).  I have actually seen someone in a canal before, not a nice sight!

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