By Ashton Jackson, RD, LD/N
“The Great Pumpkin” Is Back with a Vengeance…
Just in case you haven’t heard… the pumpkin spice latte is back. Chances are, you are no stranger to this news; after all, this beverage has a persona of its own – including an official Twitter account! The pumpkin spice craze doesn’t stop there: Trader Joe’s is offering approximately 70 different pumpkin spice products in stores, and General Mills has even released a pumpkin spice variety of Cheerios. The nostalgia of these products can make them an emotional eating nightmare. For many this craze symbolizes the beginning of the “legal eating season” with Thanksgiving and Christmas in sight.
Many of you may ask – what’s the big deal? Pumpkin is full of nutrients!
Indeed, this decorative and delectable variety of squash is chock-full of beta carotene, which may slow aging processes in the body and protect against some forms of cancer. Moreover, pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are a great source of healthy unsaturated fats, magnesium and zinc. The problem is, we dilute this nutrition powerhouse by loading it with sugar and fat and transforming it into high calorie beverages and baked goods.
Here are a few examples of the “not so great” nutrients you will ingest from your favorite fall treats and tips on how to transform them into low fat coffee drinks:
- The amount of flavoring included in a 16oz version of a traditional recipe Pumpkin Spice Latte contributes the equivalent of 12.5 sugar cubes!
- No matter what size or flavor of beverage you choose, you can always request that your barista include only “1 pump” of the syrup to reduce your sugar intake even further.
- Interested in skipping the morning rush at the coffeehouse and saving yourself some calories with low fat coffee drinks? Try out this recipe for a homemade, reduced sugar version of the famous fall beverage.
Other Fabulous Fall Pumpkin Treats
- A “muffie” or muffin top is an improvement over a standard-sized muffin strictly due to its reduced portion size. The high carbohydrate, low protein content still leaves much to be desired for those who are trying to follow a weight management program.
- While the carbohydrate load is still hefty, the fiber content of oatmeal makes it a better choice than a muffin for blood sugar control. You are far less likely to experience the morning “crash” if you consume whole grains rather than a baked treat that’s filled with refined flour and sugar!
- An even better way to get your fix? Make a pumpkin-packed alternative at home. This baked pumpkin oatmeal yields 4-6 servings. That’s a week’s worth of breakfasts in one dish!
This fall, I encourage you to think outside the box and remember that the insides of those adorable jack-o’-lanterns adorning your front porch offer powerful nutrients that shouldn’t be wasted on sweet beverages and decadent treats! Here are a few more ways that pumpkin can steal the show on your gorgeous autumn table….
Toss pumpkin puree in a high-protein, fiber-packed chili and serve it with a side salad: Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Roast all of those pumpkin seeds and enjoy them on a salad or in your favorite homemade trail mix: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
Dip seasonal fruits like apples or pears in a protein-rich dip for an afternoon pick-me-up: Pumpkin Spice Fruit Dip