Pumpkin is the taste of fall, methinks. When you step through the crisp fall leaves, feel the cool air of winter approaching, and talk of sweet treats, pumpkin is the talk of the town. Alas, some of the pumpkin treats that remind us of autumn are not so healthy.
While waiting in a line at coffee house this week, the order of the day was the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I didn’t want to be a killjoy and whisper to the gal in front of me who ordered it, “Hey! Do you know you’re ordering a dessert instead of a coffee?” But I kept silent, and watched as the freshly baked pumpkin scones were ordered and devoured as well. (Yes, I did wonder why all the patrons were eating cake for breakfast.)
The questions is: Can you improve on these sweet treats, and not suffer on taste? Yes. Quite simply. For example, the Pumpkin Spice Latte? That contains about 400 empty calories, about 40 grams of sugar, and a staggering 49 grams of carbohydrates. Ouch. See? That isn’t coffee anymore. It’s a sugary liquid beverage with “insulin spike” written all over it.
Instead, order a Chai Tea, With a real tea bag. (The baristas sometimes “forget” that part and just pour syrup.) Order a shot of espresso in that tea. (Yes! Really!) Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dollop of breve. Real cream. And if you want sweetener, add a Stevia packet. Now you’re under 100 calories, 0 sugar, and 0 guilt.
Now, who doesn’t like pumpkin pie? I have to admit, I do adore pumpkin pie, but I make it loads healthier than the standard version. The pumpkin puree itself is so highly nutritious, but once you add sugars, evaporated milk (who uses that anymore?! Gads!) and a white flour crust, it is nutrient dead. The pie crust is always the worst offender, believe it or not. If you can even change that one item, the pie takes a step-up on the health ladder. Instead of a processed flour crust, mixed with butter and sugar, how about making a nut crust using ground walnuts (or almonds) and a tad bit of pumpkin puree and stevia. Butter isn’t really necessary, as a small amount of puree will actually bind the crust together. Then let’s address the amount of sugar(s) in the pie. It’s quite easy, because remember there are multiple brands of sugar-free sweeteners. Use them. Stevia is the best, as it is plant-based, but I’d still rather see a recipe with Splenda than sugar. And while I am at it, let’s address Cool Whip. Ditch it. Use real cream. Whip it, with a whisk. THAT is whipped cream. Cool Whip? Honestly, that isn’t even a food. It’s a chemical. If you remember one thing about whipped topping remember that. Eat real food. Cool Whip isn’t real. Cool Whip = Chemicals. Will you remember?
I think the best part of the pumpkin is the pumpkin seeds. Every day, I eat a salad with pumpkin seeds on top. It is incredibly easy to make your own pumpkin seeds, and make them healthy, and delicious. Do you see those bags of pumpkin seeds in the store and the seeds are white? (Yuck.) That’s a salt coating on the seeds, which absolutely ruin the seed. Here is an easy way to make your own seeds, if you’re planning on carving a pumpkin for Halloween – save the seeds!!
This is a sweet treat to not be missed! This is about as sinful as I will eat. Worth every tasty bite.
2-3 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds (washed and dried)
1/4 cup real butter (Butter! Not margarine.)
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large pan, over medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the seeds. Cook, stirring constantly until the seeds turn light brown in color. Remove from heat. Using a colander, drain the seeds to remove any excess butter. Put the seeds in a large bowl and add the cinnamon, nutmeg and maple syrup until the seeds are coated with the spices. Spread the seeds onto the baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes until crisp and golden brown, stirring up in the baking sheet every ten minutes. Enjoy warm!
Now, the bottom line on the pumpkin:
For a simple start of using pumpkin in your recipes, simply substitute ANY recipe that calls for winter squash or sweet potatoes. This deliciously high-in-antioxident treat is extremely high in vitamin A and beta-carotene. (Very much like the carrot that way.) In addition, the pumpkin is extremely low in calories, that is, unless you add in sugar, eggs, butter and flour. Experiment! It’s not just there to carve a jack-o’-lantern!
In good health, my friends.