Food Spotlight: Pumpkin


When most folks hear the word pumpkin, Halloween jack-o-lanterns or Thanksgiving Day pumpkin pies are the first things that spring to mind. Fortunately, pumpkin has much more to offer than festive illuminated decor and calorie laden desserts.

Pumpkins come in many shapes and sizes as well as many different colors. Cinderella pumpkins are a deep orange in color and look like a “regular pumpkin” that has been smashed to become more flat, where Japanese pumpkins are more of a turban-shaped pumpkin with deep and pale green stripes. The best pumpkins for eating (which my grandma used to referr to as pie pumpkins) are the ones that have more flesh and less seeds.

In our day and age however, and to save time, you may prefer to use  the unsweetened canned pumpkin puree for your holiday dishes. Make sure you don’t confuse it with canned pumpkin-pie filling, which typically sits right next to it on the grocer’s shelf and has a lot of sugar.

Why Pumpkin is Good for You:

Pumpkin is rich in vitamin C, as well as iron, fiber, and the carotenoids beta-carotene (that helps with the orange color we often associate with pumpkins) and lutein. Pumpkin  flesh isn’t the only part that makes pumpkin such a superfood either! Pumpkin seeds provide vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc, which makes them a healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. On the other hand, pumpkin is high in natural sugars and starches, so you need to enjoy it in moderation. A serving of pumpkin is 3/4-cup  or if you’re going to eat the seeds, 3 tablespoons.

Incorporating Pumpkin into Your Diet:

  • Pumpkin soup for dinner anyone? It’s super easy and a nice change. Just add some chicken stock to canned pumpkin puree to thin it out,  season with cumin or coriander and freshly ground pepper then heat it up and dinner is done. Top it off with a little bit of reduced-fat sour cream and some finely chopped apple.
  • Add diced pumpkin to a chicken or vegetarian chili. It’s especially good in white bean chicken chili!
  • Place cubed pumpkin  on a cookie sheet and roast in  a 350 degree  oven for about 35-40 minutes. Yummy!
  • Make pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. These are my kids favorites!! They turn a fun orange color which is perfect for any day! All you have to do is add some pumpkin puree to your whole-wheat pancake mixture (I also add some pumpkin pie spice to the mix for a little bit of flavor).
  • Use finely diced pumpkin as a healthy mix-in for homemade muffins or breads.
  • Roast pumpkin seeds and add them to your trail mix or granola. Or you can  eat them by themselves, they are good that way too.

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Okay, you should know by now that I love my oatmeal.It’s easy, quick and good for me. I discovered this variation on my morning bowl of goodness just a few weeks ago while experimenting… Mwa-ha-ha! (Just kidding with the whole evil scientist laugh). Seriously though, you should try this oatmeal! It’s scrumptious!

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 2 Tbs.  canned 100% pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbs.  dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. chopped almonds
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbs.  agave nectar
  • 1 scoop high quality  vanilla flavored protein powder

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy the heck out  of it! I did.

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