Did you know that pumpkin is a Superfood? Not only is pumpkin great for your heart, your brain, and your eyes, but the alpha-carotene found in pumpkin can actually decrease physical signs of skin aging. But don’t get too excited now. I’m not talking about the pumpkin donuts, lattes, “health” bars and other sugar-loaded excuses for pumpkin that gets sold across the country around this time of year. No, those are just “health halos” disguised as pumpkin. Not to say that you actually thought those were healthy, right? I mean just because they (may) contain some actual pumpkin doesn’t mean they are providing the same Superfood benefits as actual pumpkin. They aren’t. Not even close (read this article from Fooducate, if you don’t believe me). But if you want to reap the benefits of pumpkin, have no fear, go to your nearest supermarket and pick up some canned pumpkin (hopefully BPA-Free, Farmer’s Market puree, although I do get cheap and use Libby’s sometimes…..such as with this recipe!) or grow your own pie pumpkins and make homemade puree.
Add the pumpkin to smoothies, to oatmeal (the photo above is oats, pumpkin, peanut butter and cinnamon), or make pumpkin and yogurt parfaits (recipe coming soon!). While I’m not a fan of the sugar-loaded pumpkin treats that get thrown in our faces during this time of year, I’ll admit I still buy them. But, I’m not buying them for the health benefits (I get those from my pumpkin puree) but instead because I love fall and sometimes you just have to take part in the fall traditions to really immerse yourself into the season. That’s my excuse for buying these…..
I buy snack bars like this knowing that they aren’t necessarily healthy. To me these are a great example of a “health halo”. Most “pumpkin-flavored” products fall into the “health-halo” category, in my opinion (you know, things that sound healthy or look healthy on the outside, but when you really dig deep, they aren’t necessarily that great for you). This type of snack bar, in general, really isn’t the healthiest choice. Just because they have pumpkin (or raspberry, blueberry, whatever) doesn’t mean they are a healthy snack. Let’s take a closer look…
Please don’t think that I’m saying these bars (or anything similar) are bad. No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m just trying to prevent you from thinking they are actually a healthy snack. Really, they aren’t balanced at all, and provide nothing more than some sugar, and the same nutrients you would get from a multivitamin or fortified cereal. Why do I buy them then? Because while they may not be the healthiest snack, in my opinion, they definitely beat some other snacks, such as chips or cookies (well, I guess that depends on the chip, or cookie, I may argue these are very similar to some cookies out there). The only thing that makes them “better” is that they’ve been fortified with nutrients. Yeahhhh.
And let’s not forget about the pumpkin ice creams that are everywhere these days. While they taste good, check out some of the ingredients in a popular brand;
So I choose to make my own.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 cup 1% milk **
- 2 cups chilled half and half **
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- Add the sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and milk to a medium bowl. Mix well, long enough to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the chilled half and half and the pumpkin puree, mix well to combine.
- Pour the contents into a prepared ice cream maker, and follow the manufacturer's directions. NOTE: If you do not have an ice cream maker, GET ONE! Or you could add this to a blender with ~2 cups crushed ice and 1 cup Greek Yogurt. This will make a milkshake, of sorts.
And I assure you the homemade version tastes just as good, if not better. And please, if you’re reading this post and thinking I’m the worst person ever for telling you that your favorite pumpkin treat isn’t actually so healthy, remember, I’m the Candid RD, I tell it like it is. And, like I said, I am not saying you shouldn’t buy them (or I’d just be a hypocrite) I’m just saying that the true benefits of pumpkin are found in the actual pureed pumpkin. Period. So go get a can (or other container) of pureed pumpkin and get creative in the kitchen! Next week I’ll post a pumpkin and yogurt parfait. A healthier indulgence for your pumpkin-loving taste-buds.