A Pumpkin Lover's Guide to Fall Foods

by Mallory Spinelli, RDN

Fall officially kicked off on September 22nd, and already pumpkin season is in full swing. Pumpkin beer, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattes (PSL). Pumpkin is virtually everywhere, and from a nutrition standpoint, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Cooked pumpkin is low in calories and packed with magnesium, iron, and fiber, as well as Vitamins A and C. Unfortunately, many of Americans’ favorite pumpkin flavored foods and beverages are loaded with excess calories, sugar, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Take Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spiced Latte for example. One Grande (16 oz.) serving packs a whopping 380 calories, 50 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of saturated fat. Ben and Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream has 260 calories in ½ cup, and 7 grams of saturated fat *(35% of the Daily Value). Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie contains 10 grams of saturated fat in one serving, which is 50% of the daily value, and contains nearly 300 calories per slice.

Not to worry! We have a few solutions to make your pumpkin treats less devastating to your health and your waistline. First, consider portion size of items ladened with calories, saturated fat, sugar, and cholesterol. Instead of eating the entire piece of pumpkin roll, limit yourself to ½ or ¼ piece. When possible, opt for healthier choices. Substitute a pumpkin puree with canned pumpkin and yogurt for pumpkin pie. Consider replacing half the butter in baked good recipes with canned pumpkin.  Try making a pumpkin latte at home to cut calories and sugar. And if you really must have the PSL, modify your order to hold the whipped cream, opt for skim milk instead of whole, and limit the pump to one (the standard for a Grande is four). That will save you ~150 calories and ~13 grams of fat. Lastly, be sure to look for pumpkin phonies. Many “pumpkin products” contain no pumpkin at all. So select only products that list pumpkin as one of their first or second ingredients on the nutrition label, and beware of the pumpkin imposters this fall.

*Daily Values based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet.

Resources: RD.com, Health.com