Add pumpkin puree, cinnamon and cumin to store-bought hummus for a flavor and nutrient boost.(Getty Images)
Fall: a time for cooler temperatures, beautiful foliage and, of course, pumpkin everything. From our cups and cupboards to our cosmetics, pumpkin has come to mean much more than a piece of produce.
And while the aroma of a pumpkin spice deodorant or lip balm is appealing, as is the taste of pumpkin-flavored marshmallows or beer, let’s not let them overshadow real pumpkins, which are a terrific source of beta carotene, a plant nutrient that can improve the health of your skin, lungs, immune system and eyes. Pumpkin seeds, meanwhile, are a source of potassium, magnesium, calcium and unsaturated fats – and can provide a satisfying sweet, spicy, salty or savory crunch.
This may sound obvious, but if you really want pumpkin, look for pumpkin puree on the ingredient list. There are soups that contain pumpkin (often along with other varieties of squash), yogurts made with pumpkin puree (you can see it when you look at the bottom of the container) and even cereals that contain pumpkin puree – not just the flavorings. You can also buy roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil to cook with.
If you’d rather make your own food and drink using (real) pumpkin, here are some ideas:
- Pumpkin Latte: Save money and a boatload of sugar by substituting a store-bought pumpkin spice latte with a home-brewed coffee with milk, a little pumpkin puree and spices. Just use a light hand with the puree – there is only so much that can be added without significantly changing the taste or texture.
- Pumpkin Smoothie: Make a smoothie with pumpkin puree, milk, a banana, almond butter and spices.
- Pumpkin Oatmeal: Try equal parts pumpkin puree, Greek yogurt and oats, and flavor with spices for an easy and tasty breakfast.
- Pumpkin Soup: If you don’t want to make your own soup, buy a packaged squash soup, add canned pumpkin, toss in some roasted pumpkin seeds and drizzle it with a little pumpkin oil and a sprinkle of spices.
- Pumpkin Hummus: For a fall take on hummus, add a quarter-cup of pumpkin puree to a container of hummus and add in a little bit of cinnamon and cumin for flavor.
- Pumpkin Pasta: The plant can add a beautiful hue and texture to risotto, or can be folded into cottage cheese or ricotta to fill a cannelloni or lasagna.
- Pumpkin Muffins: Who doesn’t love pumpkin loaf, pumpkin pancakes or a pumpkin muffin? I swap in prune puree to replace some of the fat and sugar and add some chopped pumpkin seeds for the crunch. The pumpkin also gives moistness so you can use less oil or butter in the recipe.
- Healthier Pumpkin Pie: Let’s not forget about pumpkin pie, right? You can swap evaporated skim milk for the cream and add in vanilla Greek yogurt to boost the creaminess. Consider a crust made with crushed gingersnaps and chopped pumpkin seeds.
Many of these recipe ideas will leave you with some leftover pumpkin puree. In that case, freeze it in ice cube trays so you can easily add pumpkin to a sauce, stew or soup. And remember: Pumpkin is such a versatile vegetable. You can dress it up or down, use it in a beverage or dessert, or feature it in an appetizer, entree or side dish to add nutritional value, texture and plenty of health benefits.
Leslie Bonci, Contributor
Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, began writing for U.S. News in 2015. An expert in sports nut… Read moreLeslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, began writing for U.S. News in 2015. An expert in sports nutrition, many of Leslie’s blog posts center around active eating and fueling for sport. She has been a consulting sports dietitian in the NFL, MLB and NHL, and has also worked with Olympic athletes. Leslie has co-authored three books with an active eating focus: “Run Your Butt Off,” “Walk Your Butt Off” and “Bike Your Butt Off.” She has a weekly TV segment called “The Winning Plate” on Pittsburgh Today Live, which is broadcast by KDKA TV, a CBS affiliate. She has also appeared on the Today Show and Dr. Oz. Leslie speaks regularly on topics including “sciensationalism” and “communication with conviction” to help influencers and consumers debunk the junk and separate fact from fallacy.Leslie received a bachelor’s of science in biopsychology from Vassar College and a master of public health degree in nutritional epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed her dietetic internship at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. To learn more about Leslie, visit her website or connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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