Enjoying the Flavors of Fall: Pumpkin

Enjoying the Flavors of Fall: Pumpkin

Even before the leaves begin to change, pumpkin season is usually well underway! Pumpkin is an icon of the autumn season, whether you’re thinking of jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, or even Charlie Brown!

Here is everything you need to know about pumpkin this Fall season.

What are the health benefits of pumpkin? 

Pumpkin, like other vegetables, is low in calories and high in fiber and contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. It’s a great addition to meals and snacks that will keep you full for longer without providing empty calories.

Pumpkins are high in Vitamins A and C which both function as antioxidants in the body, aiding in the maintenance of a healthy immune system and preventing oxidative damage that can lead to chronic disease.

What are some ways to use fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin? 

  • Smoothies. What’s the quickest way to get some extra nutrition while also getting rid of some leftover pumpkin? Make a pumpkin smoothie!
  • Baked goods. Level up your muffins, bread, or cookies by adding some canned pumpkin to the mix. Not only will this add extra nutrients, but extra flavor as well.
  • Mixed into yogurt. Simply add in some pumpkin puree and enjoy a high-protein & delicious snack! Mix in cinnamon and nutmeg for added flavor.
  • Pasta. Spice up your next pasta dish by adding pumpkin to create a delicious fall meal that the whole family will love.
  • Try pumpkin hummus. If you and your family go through a batch of hummus every week, try preparing one with pumpkin next time. Add whatever leftover pumpkin you have in your possession to your favorite recipe to make it more nutrient-dense!

What’s the difference between canned pumpkin vs. canned pumpkin pie mix? 

Canned pumpkin is a purée of pure pumpkin blended with other types of winter squash (branded as “100% pure pumpkin”). It’s unsweetened and doesn’t have any spices added to it. Canned pumpkin can be used in a variety of recipes, including homemade pumpkin pie filling, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin milkshakes.

Pumpkin pie filling (or pumpkin pie mix) on the other hand works for pies or other super sweet dishes, as it’s already heavily sweetened. It’s convenient if you don’t want to worry about adding your own sweetener or spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc). In terms of nutrition, pumpkin pie filling is packed with sugar, making it a less healthy option than pumpkin puree. Additionally, a cup of pumpkin puree has only 83 calories, whereas a cup of pumpkin pie filling has 281 calories.

How to navigate pumpkin treats. 

One of the things I get most excited for during Fall is all of the delicious pumpkin treats and of course, pumpkin spice lattes. That’s right…you can enjoy all the delicious smells and tastes the season has to offer while also reaching your health goals through moderation. This might mean not eating an entire pumpkin muffin, donut, etc. in one sitting if you don’t have the appetite for it and you can save the rest for later. It might also mean that you have a pumpkin muffin once a week and a nutrient-dense breakfast the rest of the week. There are also plenty of ways to make your treats healthier with simple substitutions, such as replacing whole milk with 1% milk, or using less sugar/syrup in a pumpkin spice latte!

Bottom Line: While pumpkin can be a nutritious addition to meals and snacks, be mindful of the added sugar in foods and desserts. And remember… Moderation is key!


Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE
Registered Dietitian/ Consultant