What comes to mind when you think of fall? Is it pumpkin-spiced everything? For many people, this time of year is ripe for yummy, warm, home-baked treats and comfort-food dishes featuring the popular orange vegetable. Some such offerings are actually pretty healthy and contain ample nutrition, while others can lead to overindulgence that’ll blow your healthy lifestyle right out of the water.
Actual pumpkins are great for you, whether you’re having fun carving them for jack-o-lanterns or eating them for dinner. With a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these fall super-gourds are known to improve eyesight, boost immunity, lower your risk for certain cancers, and promote heart and skin health. They’re also low in calories if you’re trying to watch your weight. And they contain fiber, as well as seeds you can roast for future snacking—a great option for a healthy dose of protein and vitamins on the go.
Why not lean into the pumpkin’s benefits by using it in a variety of savory or lightly sweetened foods this fall? Chili is always a great place to start when you’re trying to find a nutritious and delicious dinner for the whole family. This black bean, beef, and pumpkin chili recipe contains fiber from veggies and legumes as well as a healthy dose of vitamin A, thanks to the pumpkin. If chili isn’t your thing, this ginger and pumpkin soup is another delicious option.
If you’re feeling adventurous, check out these recipes for vegetable and pumpkin stir-fry or pumpkin chickpea curry. We know that pumpkin is usually associated with sweets, so it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t include a healthy and tasty dessert featuring the fall favorite. This great recipe for healthy pumpkin blondies contains coconut sugar, a better sweetening alternative, as well as oat flour, which packs more fiber and nutrition than regular white flour.
But not all the flavor that hails from this orange gourd is healthy. In general, it’s best to avoid pumpkin-spiced drinks from your favorite coffee shop, as they usually contain high amounts of fat and sugar. Some contain a whopping 50 grams of sugar—more than you need in an entire day! But if you just can’t resist (We understand. It is the season.), ask for a low-sugar version. Or go with spiced tea if you can beat down the craving.
Pumpkin donuts and cookies are probably everywhere at your local farmers market or bakery, and they aren’t good for your health, either. That being the case, try making your own treats this season. You’ll be able to control the quality of ingredients and the amount of sugar in each recipe.
This time of year, the sheer number of pumpkin-flavored temptations available on supermarket shelves is endless. Although some of these may be incredibly tasty or appear harmless, make sure to read the labels before purchasing them. Check their sugar content, fat, and other ingredients. One of the best habits you can foster is to shop around the perimeter of the grocery where the fresh produce, meats, and dairy are stocked. As a rule of thumb, more of your purchases should come from this outer ring than any other section of the store.
If you’re trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle this season, it’s OK to indulge in a few pseudo-pumpkin treats, but it may be less risky for blowing your health goals to avoid them altogether and just go for the real pumpkin-laced foods instead. Try out some of our healthy recipes or head into the kitchen and experiment, making your own delicious and healthy pumpkin recipes.