Did you know that pumpkins are not only a fun autumn decoration but are also a very nutritious food? Not many of us buy pumpkins with the intent of making a delicious meal out of them. More commonly we purchase them to carve into Jack-o-lanterns and then maybe rinse the seeds and roast them for a snack. I am hoping to bring to light some other ideas for preparing and eating pumpkin this season.
The flesh of a pumpkin provides many nutrition benefits. It is naturally low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber, potassium, B vitamins and vitamins A and C. Pumpkins can be cooked and served in meals or side dishes. They can also be pureed and used in many different recipes from soups to desserts. Pumpkin seeds can also be roasted many different ways (cinnamon & sugar, BBQ, chipotle, etc.) to provide an interesting and healthy snack.
Just in case you think pumpkin can only be used in baking, here are a few meal ideas that you might not have thought of: Spicy roasted pumpkin, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin ginger soup, pumpkin chili, roasted pumpkin penne and pumpkin ravioli. The list goes on, check recipe websites online and you will find a plethora of fun pumpkin recipes.
But remember, not all things pumpkin are necessarily good for us. Be wary of baked pumpkin items such as pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin donuts. In addition to containing small amounts of healthy pumpkin, these items will have much larger amounts of added sugar, refined flour, and saturated fat. Also, pumpkin flavored coffee drinks can be a hidden source of excess calories. For example, a pumpkin muffin will cost you about 450 calories, add a pumpkin latte to that order for an additional 350 calories and your breakfast (or snack) is now about 800 calories. Reserve these items for special occasions or as a “treat” to prevent over-consuming excess calories and fat this fall season.
Try this healthy, vegetarian recipe to incorporate pumpkin into your diet this fall.
Pumpkin Black Bean Chili
(recipe obtained from www.ordinaryvegitarian.com)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups cooked black beans (or 2-15 oz cans, rinsed and drained)
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (or 1-15 oz can)
2-15 oz cans or 1-28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 cup hearty fall or winter beer (or sub vegetable broth)
1-1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
3 tsp chili powder
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp cayenne
Heat 1/4 cup water in a large stock pot and add onion. Sauté for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
Add spices and stir to coat the onions, sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in beer and allow to simmer for about 2 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover, simmer for 45 minutes stirring occasionally.
Optional: Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Garnish with cheese and chopped green onion.
Allison Walker RD, LDN, is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Noble Hospital. If you would like to schedule a nutrition counseling session with a registered dietitian at Noble Hospital, please call 413-568-2811 extension 5671 for more information.