Now that fall is here, we are seeing seasonal and limited edition treats everywhere from Starbucks to the local grocery store. More specifically, pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING! Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin Oreos, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin ice cream… just to name a few. While some of these indulgences can certainly add up in calories, pumpkin itself provides many health benefits and it can be used as a low-fat substitute in your favorite recipes.
Did you know that canned pumpkin puree can be bought year-round? You can reap the nutritional benefits of pumpkin any time (not just after Labor Day when you begin frequenting the nearest Starbucks several times per week). Canned pumpkin can be found in the baking aisle at any supermarket, but be sure to purchase pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling which contains a substantial amount of additives. In case you need some convincing, here are a few reasons why you should be eating more pumpkin:
Great source of vitamin A–this fat-soluble vitamin promotes a healthy immune system, maintains proper functioning of the heart, lungs, and kidneys, and is highly important for vision.
Low calories–in a ½ cup serving, pumpkin puree has 40 calories, 0.5g of fat, 9g of carbohydrates, 2g of protein, 5g of fiber, and only 4g of sugar. As a naturally high-fiber food, consuming pumpkin can help you meet your daily recommended fiber intake—about 25g per day for women and about 35g per day for men. Fiber is an essential micro-nutrient that aids in digestion and will help to keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.
Healthy alternative–not only does pumpkin add a great amount of nutritional value to your diet, but it can be used as a substitute for recipes requiring higher-fat ingredients (such as oil or butter). Here are a few recipe ideas to get you pumped about pumpkin!
Pumpkin oatmeal: This is a great option for students looking for a quick meal. Simply mix in pumpkin puree and cinnamon to your morning oats for a fall-flavored and satisfying breakfast. Also try baking your pumpkin oats or preparing it the night before, refrigerate, and enjoy it as a cold treat in the morning.
Pumpkin protein shake: Add 1 scoop of whey protein, ½ cup pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ice, and water (to desired consistency) to a blender or Magic Bullet for a protein-packed snack that will satisfy your milkshake craving and leave you feeling guilt-free!
Easy pumpkin brownies: Have a box of your favorite brownie mix, but no oil or eggs? No worries! Just add a 15oz can of pumpkin puree to the boxed mix and bake as directed for a lower-fat option and tasty twist!
Pumpkin cheesecake dip: Mix together: 15oz can of pumpkin puree, 1 container cream cheese-style spread, 2 tsp cinnamon, ¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1.5 tsp vanilla extract, sweetener of choice to taste. Enjoy with fruits, vegetables, graham crackers, etc. (recipe adapted from http://www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com)
Pumpkin peanut butter: Combine 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, ½ tsp cinnamon, peanut butter (or any nut butter) to consistency, and sweetener to taste. (recipe adapted from http://www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com)
By: Melissa Falzarano