Fall not only brings chilly weather and festive holidays, but the return of pumpkin season. These days, pumpkin is not only used for carving, but has become a popular food due to its nutrition and versatility. Per cup, pumpkin provides almost three grams of filling fiber and is a lower-calorie food at fifty calories per cup. Pumpkin's orange pigment is due to the antioxidant beta carotene, which is shown to reduce the risk of certain diseases. There are simple, yet delicious ways to incorporate pumpkin into some common foods.
1. Pumpkin Oatmeal
Pumpkin oatmeal is an easy and healthy recipe that can spice up your regular oats. This recipe is also reminiscent of a holiday favorite, pumpkin pie. To prepare, mix a quarter cup of canned pumpkin with a half cup of cooked oats. Add a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and a drizzle of maple syrup. Finish off this recipe with chopped pecans. This breakfast provides both fiber and protein that will keep you feeling full until your next meal.
2. Pumpkin Yogurt Parfait
Yogurt takes on a whole new flavor by adding in the rustic taste of pumpkin. To assemble the pumpkin yogurt parfait, layer pumpkin, plain Greek yogurt, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey into a bowl. Top with a high fiber cereal, banana slices and an extra sprinkle of cinnamon. This easy recipe can be made ahead of time for those busy mornings.
3. Pumpkin Smoothie
Smoothies are a favorite meal, not only for the many flavor combinations you can create, but also for its portability. Bring this treat into fall by incorporating pumpkin. Combine ice, canned pumpkin, vanilla yogurt, pumpkin pie spice, milk and a drizzle of honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. For a post workout drink, substitute the yogurt for vanilla protein powder.
4. Homemade Pumpkin Coffee
Pumpkin spice lattes are all the buzz come fall. Unfortunately this beverage ordered in a tall from Starbucks will cost you around 300 calories and over 30 grams of sugar. Make a lower-calorie version at home by combining two tablespoons of canned pumpkin to one cup coffee. Mix ingredients well and spruce it up with milk, cinnamon and sugar based on your preference. This guilt-free version can be enjoyed hot or over ice.
5. Pumpkin Granola
Granola is a tasty treat, but can sometimes be loaded with calories. Prepare your own leaner version of pumpkin granola to use on top of yogurt or your morning cereal. Combine pureed pumpkin with honey, coconut oil, vanilla extract, oats, pecans and golden raisins. Sprinkle mixture with cinnamon. Lay granola out on a baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven for about eight to ten minutes, stirring once.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Although not part of the flesh, pumpkin seeds pack a powerful nutrition punch themselves. To roast, toss two cups of pumpkin seeds in one tablespoon of olive oil, one teaspoon of salt and pepper and bake in a 300-degree oven for about forty minutes. Toss seeds halfway during baking. Although these seeds make the perfect snack on their own, you can also enjoy them tossed into a roasted vegetable salad.
Kristen Bourque, RD, LD has been writing health-related articles since 2000. Her nutrition articles and recipes have been featured in "Today's Dietitian" as well as the Canadian magazine "Glow". Kristen combines her love of nutrition with cooking on her personal blog, Swanky Dietitian.