With another Halloween in the books and Thanksgiving on the horizon, one thing is certain: It’s hard to ignore the pumpkin craze in America. Fueled by the success of the popular Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) from Starbucks, which even has its own twitter account now, pumpkin flavored food and drinks are everywhere. As with any food trend, it’s important to be able to decipher between the healthy and not-so-healthy choices.
The Nutrition Facts
Many pumpkin flavored foods and drinks are loaded with added sugar and “pumpkin spice flavor” (e.g. pumpkin spice toaster pastries, pumpkin spice cereal, pumpkin spice coffee cream). Some may not contain any actual pumpkin at all. Nevertheless, REAL pumpkin is a good choice. This includes whole pumpkin that you buy and carve, as well as 100% pure canned pumpkin puree. Pure pumpkin is low in calories and saturated (unhealthy) fat and is an excellent source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin C. Both Vitamin A and Vitamin C play a role in immune function, which plays an important role during cold and flu season.
To Indulge or not to Indulge?
If you’re a fan of seasonal dishes, try to include pumpkin in your everyday creations. Pumpkin itself doesn’t have a strong flavor (that’s what the pumpkin spice is for). It can easily be added to dishes, like chili, without anyone noticing. It will mostly add a creamy texture more than changing the flavor profile. Here are some other healthy pumpkin spice creations:
Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Smoothie
90-second Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Quinoa
Pumpkin Spice Latte Overnight Oats
Healthy No Bake Pumpkin Spice Latte Bites
Chicken with Pumpkin and Mushrooms
The Best Slow Cooker Pumpkin Soup
When it comes to the more saturated fat and sugar-laden pumpkin flavored creations, everything in moderation! Think of these more as an occasional indulgence rather than an everyday staple of your diet. Look for food/drinks with less than 8 grams of added sugar. If you want to feel like you’re indulging without actually indulging, take it a step further and try to create healthier versions of your favorite store or restaurant bought pumpkin spice treats. For example, below we compare a homemade pumpkin spice latte with one from Starbucks.
Homemade PSL Ingredients:
• 8 ounces (1 cup) hot coffee
• 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
• 2 teaspoons maple syrup
• 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
• 2 ounces (1/4 cup) whole milk
You are sure to encounter pumpkin flavored ‘everything’ at the grocery store and at restaurants, so use this blog as a guide to make the healthiest choice! It is possible to enjoy pumpkin and pumpkin spice flavored food and drinks while still eating healthy.