By Sue Freck, registered dietitian at CHOC
When pumpkins appear outside of your favorite market or store, it’s one of the first tell-tale signs of fall. These days, they come in so many artisanal varieties, shapes, sizes and colors that they make the perfect accent to fall décor, in addition to classic jack-o-lanterns shining on the porch.
But besides their visual appeal, pumpkins are one of the most versatile and nutrient-dense vegetables in the squash family. Pumpkins are a powerhouse squash in that they are very low in fat; have zero cholesterol; are rich in dietary fiber; and are chock-full of vital antioxidants, minerals such as potassium, and vitamins. Those vitamins, such as Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, can be found in the flesh of the pumpkin. The fleshly part of the pumpkin also contains the potent antioxidant, beta-carotene, which gives it its vibrant orange color, but is also converted by the body into essential vitamin A.
One cup of canned pumpkin (not the pie mix with added sugar) contains about 83 calories, 7 grams of fiber and 504 mg of potassium. Add cooked or canned pumpkin to breakfast smoothies, Greek yogurt, or baked goods such as pancakes, muffins, or breads for a nutrition boost. Cubes of roasted pumpkin can be added to salads, stews, soups and pastas. Additionally, scooping out the pumpkin seeds and roasting them is a quick and easy source of dietary fiber and fatty acids, which are essential in maintaining heart health. Try extending these health benefits to your canine friends by adding a couple scoops of pure canned pumpkin to your dog’s food or add to your favorite homemade dog biscuits recipe.
Pumpkin can enhance the nutrient content and flavor of many of fall’s family meals and snacks, savory or sweet. Here is a no-fuss delicious pumpkin recipe:
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal
- 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
- 1-1/4 cup steel-cut oats
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups water
- 1-1/2 cups 2% milk
Optional toppings: toasted chopped pecans, ground cinnamon, and additional brown sugar and milk
Directions: In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients; stir in water and milk. Transfer to a greased (use coconut oil or canola spray) 3-qt. slow cooker. Cook, covered, on low 5 to 6 hours or until oats are tender, stirring once.
**Note: This recipe can also be made in a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot on a manual setting, adjust pressure to high and cook for 10 minutes.
Learn more about CHOC’s Clinical Nutrition Program
At CHOC, we specialize in providing a full continuum of pediatric nutrition services, including inpatient and outpatient services, depending on our patients’ needs.