Fall – er – pumpkin spice season is upon us. And, for better or for worse, it seems you can’t go anywhere without being bombarded with endless options of nutmeg and cinnamon-flavored goods. Some traditional (coffees, cookies, muffins) and others, not so traditional (SPAM, dog treats, Pringles).
Leaning into fall flavors embraces the warmness of the season, but does doing so compromise your attempts to make healthy choices? Not necessarily, says Heather Klug, a registered dietitian with the Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis.
“Pumpkin itself is an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber and contains some potassium,” Klug says. “The spices – a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves – are also healthy in that they provide sweetness without added sugars.”
Klug said she supports enjoying the flavor of fall, but recommends being conscious of nutritional value and portion size.
“I’m OK with pumpkin spice if it’s in healthy foods that provide nutrients, such as a whole-grain cereal or yogurt because it can break the monotony of those foods for a while” she says.
There’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat, Klug says, but it’s important to be aware that many of the highly marketed pumpkin spice sweets this time of year pack a caloric punch.
“Pumpkin spice-flavored desserts are often high in calories and added sugars,” Klug says. “For example, a 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte contains close to 400 calories and 50 grams of sugar. Two pumpkin spice Oreos are 150 calories and 12 grams of sugar.”
As an alternative, Klug offers 10 ideas to satisfy a pumpkin spice obsession healthfully by using pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin, but not pumpkin pie filling) and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves:
- Make your own pumpkin spice latte by warming pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, almond milk and a little pure maple syrup (if needed) in a small saucepan. Transfer to a blender, add hot coffee and blend well.
- Add pumpkin puree and spices to plain yogurt.
- Make a pumpkin spice smoothie. Blend together pumpkin puree, natural applesauce, vanilla yogurt, almond milk, cinnamon and ginger.
- Stir pumpkin puree, cinnamon and ground ginger into cooked oatmeal.
- Make homemade chia seed pudding with canned pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, nuts and almond milk; blend together, transfer to a larger bowl and add chi seeds; let sit a couple of hours to thicken.
- Mix canned pumpkin and spices in with almonds or cashews when making homemade nut butter.
- Make your own energy bites using pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, almond butter and quick-cooking oats.
- Add canned pumpkin to hummus.
- Sprinkle canned chickpeas (dry with paper towel first) with a mixture of pumpkin pie spice and stevia, then roast them for a healthy, crunchy snack.