Cooler temperatures, football, and apple orchards mean that fall is officially here! With the change in seasons, we also have a change in flavors. One fall flavor that stands out is pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars and of course, pumpkin spice lattes. Although we usually add pumpkin into desserts, did you know that pumpkin is a nutritious food to include in our diet? It is rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. Pumpkin contains a powerful antioxidant called beta-carotene which has many health benefits including heart and eye health. Pumpkin also provides dietary fiber and vitamin C.

A lot of pumpkins end up being used as jack-o-lanterns, but you can prepare and eat fresh pumpkins. During the fall months, you can find whole pumpkins for sale. It is best to cook with pie pumpkins or smaller sweet pumpkins. Canned pumpkin puree is a great alternative to using fresh. It is easy, available year-round, and budget friendly. When you are buying canned pumpkin, watch out for the pumpkin pie filling mix which has a lot of sugar added to it. Opt for the plain canned pumpkin which contains only pumpkin puree and then you can control what is being added to it.

There are many ways you can incorporate pumpkin into your diet such as in desserts, soups, and dips. We commonly associate pumpkin with flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves but if you try pumpkin plain you don’t taste any of those flavors. Pumpkin can be used in sweet or savory dishes since it will carry the flavors in the dish. Did you know that pumpkin can be used in place or oil or butter in baking recipes? You can swap pumpkin puree for oil in a cake mix or muffin recipe which will lower the fat and calorie content but still leave you with a moist final product. Fall flies by quickly, so it is okay to indulge in some of your favorite pumpkin desserts in moderation and enjoy every single bite.

Blog Written By: Abby Kipfer, Registered Dietitian

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