Despite the milder than usual weather we've been experiencing here in Ontario, Thanksgiving is just days away - can you believe it? And as we draw nearer the big weekend, you can't help but notice pumpkin-spice everything on the grocery store shelves - cereal, cookies, tea, coffee, cookies you name it. I've even found pumpkin spice yogurt on the shelves this year for the first time
As a Registered Dietitian, I can't help but cringe at some of the new products and take-out options out there mainly from the stand point of added sugar - too many 'pumpkin-spice' goodies pack a punch of added sugar that can easily help set you over the recommended daily maximum of 6-12 tsp of added sugar/day.
So why you might be wondering am I behind the pumpkin craze? Well, it has more to do with the nutrition benefits of pumpkin itself (it is a veggie afterall) which along with spice can be included in your diet without going off the deep end. Added bonus: as a Dietitian that focuses on digestive health in her practice, I love that pumpkin is fairly easy to digest so for clients that have limited options, it can be a tummy-soothing veggie that also tastes great!
Top 4 Reasons I Support the 'Pumpkin-Everything' craze
1. Lovin' the local - pumpkins are grown locally in Ontario and are in prime season. What better fall weekend activity than visiting a local pumpkin patch to enjoy the outdoors and to also be reminded that good things do grow so close to our backyards. Visiting a local pumpkin patch gets the whole family outdoors for some fresh air and can also help educate kids on where food comes from - an all around win.
2. The seeds are sensational- we often think of the orange fleshy part of the pumpkin first but pumpkin seeds provide fibre and protein in the diet and can be a great snack! They can also be a nice addition to salads or mixed into yogurt for a nice crunch.
3. It can be FODMAP friendly - for those of you living with IBS and working with FODMAPs in their diet, I hear your frustration in facing all the things you "can't have". Good news is pumpkin has been tested by Monash and at a serving of 1/4 cup it was found to be low FODMAP. Larger quantity servings start to register as moderate in FODMAP but sticking to a small serving especially during the elimination phase should be ok. Plus, by incorporating pumpkin into your diet you are helping work towards meeting your recommended daily intake of potassium, fibre and vitamin C!
4. Spice is nice - as I mentioned already, many commercially available 'pumpkin-spice' products come with excess added sugar, but that isn't the only option and you can partake in the pumpkin lovefest without overdoing it. Interestingly, the spices that make up pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg) are thought to be flavour enhancers and by adding a little bit of the spice blend to food it can make it taste sweeter to our taste buds. By creating your own DIY pumpkin-spice goodies, you can add the spice but can also control how much added sugar is in the final product
How to DIY 'Pumpkin-Spice' Goodness in your Diet:
- Mix pureed pumpkin & pumpkin spice blend into plain yogurt, pancake mix, oatmeal etc. Add a touch of sugar, honey or maple syrup to sweeten to taste
- If you do order a fancy pumpkin-spice latte while out and about, try asking if it can be made 'half-sweet' - chances are the barista can adjust how much syrup is added to the drink which can really scale back the added sugar content!