It’s Pumpkin Time!

By Bill Waltzek – CPT

It’s the most famous fall accessory – the pumpkin. Yes, it’s finally that time of year when families travel to pumpkin patches to pick the perfect future jack-o-lanterns for their Halloween decor. But, what many people many not realize is that that these pumpkins aren’t just good for for scaring trick-or-treaters. Pumpkins can also be used to create surprisingly healthy snacks.

Great Source of Vitamins– Pumpkins contain many antioxidant vitamins including C, A and E. In particular, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which gives it that nice orange color. Beta-carotene may help reduce cell damage in the body and improve immune function. It also may reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, according to Colorado State University’s Shirley Perryman, M.S.

Low in Calories – Instead of grabbing for those heavy deserts, look at having your share of pumpkin. Pumpkins contain only 49 calories in one cup. Just make sure you don’t load it up with sugar. A great substitute to add some warm flavor and slight sweetness would be cinnamon, which is also good for you.

Low in Fat – Pumpkins contain just 5 grams of fat in 1 ounce, 4 being unsaturated. The seeds contain alpha-linoleic acid, or ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Eating a diet rich in ALA may help prevent cardiovascular disease and its risk factors including hypertension and high cholesterol, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

High in Fiber and Protein– 1 cup contains 3 grams of dietary fiber and the seeds contain an amazing 7 grams of protein.

What’s not to like about pumpkins? Here are a few healthy recipes to try out:

Pumpkin Pie Bars (recipe from Precision Nutrition)


½ cup quick cooking oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup cold butter – small cubed (Can substitute ½ cup applesauce)


2 cups skim milk
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
2 cups canned pumpkin puree
5 scoops vanilla protein powder
3 whole omega-3 eggs (beaten)
Splenda, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 505 degrees F(190 degrees C).

2. Stir the flour, oats, brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Add butter (or applesauce) and mix with hands thoroughly until mixture is a breadcrumb like texture. Transfer ingredients to a 9×13 inch baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. Press down on mixture until it covers the bottom of the pan completely. Bake for 12 minutes

3. In the meantime, bring milk to a boil with the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. As soon as it boils, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pumpkin first and then the protein powder and eggs. If necessary, sweeten mixture to taste with Splenda.

4. Once the base has finished baking, remove from the oven and pour the pumpkin filling on top. Place back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until pumpkin filling has set.
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 25 mins

Amount Per Serving (with butter)- Calories: 160/ Total Fat: 4.8g / Total Carbs: 17g / Dietary Fiber:1.7g / Protein 11.5g

Fall Harvest Salad (Recipe from Food and Wine)

. 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably peanut
. 2 cups peeled butternut squash (10 ounces), cut into 1-inch cubes
. Salt and freshly ground pepper
. 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
. 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped tarragon
. 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
. 10 ounces mixed salad greens or mesclun
. 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
. 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the squash in an even layer, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn the squash cubes and cook over moderately low heat until browned on the other side and just tender, about 7 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar with the tarragon, parsley and the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil; season the dressing with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with the pecans, pumpkin seeds and roasted squash. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Serve the salad right away.

MAKE AHEAD The dressing can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours. The cooked squash can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before using in the salad.
Active: 25 min; Total: 40 min