[This story was written by Jamie Epting, MS, RD, CDN, the system director of clinical nutrition for St. Peter’s Health Partners.]
According to the good folks at Good Housekeeping, Americans consume about 50 million pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving. That’s a whole lot of pie! And while some who are being health-conscious might think about skipping dessert, there’s a lot of good reasons why you should try the pumpkin pie this year.
The bright orange color of pumpkins is a giveaway that they are loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. This antioxidant is good for cognitive function, eye health, skin and cancer prevention.
Pumpkins are a good source of potassium and Vitamin A, and are 90% water, making them a low-calorie, healthy food. Vitamin A is also great for the eyes in addition to being good for the immune system and reproductive health.
Instead of choosing canned pumpkin, try roasting your own pumpkin and then pureeing it to make your pie filling fresh and delicious. Just cut your pumpkin in half and remove the seeds (be sure to set them aside for later). Drizzle the cut sides with a little oil or cooking spray, place them face down on a cookie sheet, and cover with foil. Roast at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until soft enough to scoop into a blender and puree. Extra puree can be frozen to use at another time.
When choosing a fresh pumpkin, look for a pumpkin with 1 to 2 inches of stem left. Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots. It should feel heavy, but shape doesn’t matter. While pumpkin is typically used to make soups, pies and breads, it can also be included in a variety of dishes like pasta sauce.
Now, don’t forget to use those seeds – they are packed with good nutrition, too! Pumpkins seeds are rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc and magnesium. They can be roasted as a snack and are also delicious added to your favorite homemade granola recipe. Check out the easy, simple recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds below (as well as a bonus recipe for another tasty pumpkin treat – pumpkin latte).
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at St. Peter’s Health Partners!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 bunch seeds from a pumpkin
1 to 2 tsp avocado oil, melted coconut oil, or olive oil
1 Tbsp seasonings (can be sweet or savory – try cinnamon sugar if you like it sweet; or cumin, turmeric or curry if seeking something savory)
- Start by removing as much pulp as you can from the pumpkin seeds, and place them in a mixing bowl.
- Fill the mixing bowl with water. Swirl the seeds around to remove every last bit of pulp. Either remove them from the bowl with your fingers or a slotted spoon.
- Place the pumpkin seeds on a clean kitchen towel and let them dry completely. Don’t use paper towels unless you like the idea of peeling paper towel bits off of dried pumpkin seeds. This will take between 30-60 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl while you’re at it.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prep the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- When the seeds are dry, place them back into the clean mixing bowl.
- Toss with 1 to 2 teaspoons oil, a big pinch of salt (omit salt if you’re going for a cinnamon sugar vibe), and the spices you wish.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Stir through and bake for another 10-20 minutes. You’re looking for golden brown and crisp seeds. Set a timer, and check often.
- Let the seeds cool completely before eating.
The Best Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)
2 Tbsp pumpkin puree, or more to taste
1 to 3 Tbsp sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus more for serving
1/2 cup strong hot coffee
Whipped cream, for serving
- Add milk, pumpkin puree, and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until hot, but do not boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and the coffee.
- Divide the mixture between two mugs. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.