The nutritionist suggests a smoothie, seeds or pancakes to get the benefits of the seasonal food

By Harley Pasternak
October 15, 2013 12:00 PM
Credit: Getty. Inset: Lou Rocco/ABC

This time of year, pumpkins are everywhere – carved on porches, clinging in store windows and featured in many of our favorite seasonal foods. Pumpkin isn’t just for pie anymore; over the past few years, the start of autumn has been celebrated nationwide by pumpkin-flavored everything.

What started with the hugely popular pumpkin spice latte trend, pumpkin is now everywhere you look; from cheesecake and poundcake to pasta, pastries and popcorn. While I love pumpkin, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: most of these pumpkin-flavored sweet treats out there are … well … just terrible for you.

For example, a grande non-fat pumpkin spice latte (no whipped cream) from Starbucks has 260 calories and 48 grams of sugar! That’s the equivalent of 17 packets of sugar. A pumpkin muffin from Dunkin’ Donuts has 550 calories, 24 grams of fat, and 41 grams of sugar! That’s about equal to a quarter-stick of butter and 15 sugar packets.

As a nutritionist, what bothers me about this trend is that it’s misrepresenting one of the most nutritious foods on earth. Pumpkin, in its whole form, is a true superfood. Pumpkin is extremely high in fiber and nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E, and contains one of the richest supplies of carotenoids of any food out there. Carotenoids are powerful anti-oxidants that have been consistently linked to a decrease in the risk of a slew of cancers, and they’re in their most bio-available form in pumpkin.

Moreover, pumpkin seeds are incredibly nutritious. Loaded with healthy fats, fiber, zinc, iron, manganese, and magnesium, once roasted, pumpkin seeds are a great convenient snack you can easily carry around with you.

So how can we get our pumpkin fix while benefiting from its awesome nutrition? Check out some of my favorite pumpkin recipes below and see how delicious pumpkin can be even without the extra sugars and fats!

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Serves 1

If you have read my book, The Body Reset Diet, or follow my PEOPLE blog, you know that I’m a huge fan of smoothies. This one tastes just like pumpkin pie, but without the feeling like you have to take a nap afterwards.

½ cup 100% pumpkin puree (make sure it’s just pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie mix)
½ ripe banana, halved (frozen, if you like)
¾ cup non-fat greek yogurt
1 tbsp agave nectar or real pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have ready-made pumpkin pie spice, make it yourself with 4 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ground ginger, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part allspice and just a dash of ground cloves)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup crushed ice

1. Blend to desired consistency. If you like your smoothies a little thinner, try adding a bit of water or nonfat milk.

Wholesome Pumpkin Pancakes

Serves 2-4

1 cup dry instant oatmeal (or ground whole oats)
½ teaspoon baking soda)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup skim milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
2. In another medium sized bowl, mix the wet ingredients well, then slowly add in the dry ingredients and stir just until evenly moistened.
3. Once ingredients are mixed, heat up a griddle and lightly grease with cooking spray. Pour a quarter cup of pancake batter for each pancake and cook until golden brown on each side.
4. If you like thinner batter, add a little bit of skim milk. Serve hot.

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? Tweet me @harleypasternak.