If you live in the U.S., fall is pretty much synonymous with pumpkin spice. This blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice works its way into just about every autumnal treat there is, from coffee to doughnuts. It’s even achieved meme status, with people creating joke products like pumpkin spice flu shots. If you’re one of this flavor’s devotees, it can be hard to pass up all the delicious treats around this season. Unfortunately, if you’re trying to eat a healthful diet, you might have a hard time satisfying your craving for all things pumpkin spice. Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy seasonal snacks without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle.
Try a pumpkin spice tea.
Instead of a full-fat latte loaded with artificial flavors, try making your own pumpkin spice tea latte. There are plenty of naturally flavored tea blends on the market. Failing that, you can combine unflavored black or rooibos tea with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a clove or two, or a few sprinkles of your favorite premade pumpkin spice blend. Add a non-nutritive sweetener like stevia, and some low-fat milk. You’ll benefit from the antioxidants in the tea and spices and the protein and minerals from the milk, without loading up on calories from fat and sugar.
Make a pumpkin smoothie.
Pumpkin smoothies are loaded with vitamin A, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. If you start with a pre-made pumpkin puree, you can have a flavorful, creamy breakfast that tastes like a milkshake. Choose a puree that doesn’t have any added sweetener or preservatives, and add unsweetened yogurt, low-fat milk, and a little stevia or maple syrup to taste. (If you like, you can also add some extra cinnamon and nutmeg.)
Roast some pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds are an often-ignored superfood. While they’re a bit high in fat (like all seeds are), they’re loaded with protein, magnesium, and antioxidants. If you eat them with the shell on, they’re also packed with fiber. Stir some seeds with maple syrup and a bit of melted butter, and, once they’re coated, toss them with pumpkin pie spice and a pinch of salt. Spread the coated seeds on a cookie sheet, and bake for 15 minutes at 400°F. They make a lovely garnish, flavorful addition to salads, and a satisfying snack.
Make pumpkin spice popcorn.
Air-popped popcorn is low in calories and full of fiber. With the addition of a little bit of melted butter, some stevia or maple syrup, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice, it can be a truly elevated snack. The butter and maple syrup (if used) will add some fat and calories, but it only takes a little bit of each to add a lot of flavor.
Try a homemade pumpkin spread.
Despite the name, pumpkin butter doesn’t contain actual butter. It still has the sweet, spicy, dessert-like flavor you associate with your favorite fall treats and can make plain oatmeal or a piece of toast taste as decadent as a cupcake. Combine a can of pure unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 1/4 cup of apple juice, and a teaspoon or two of pumpkin pie spice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir well, and let it come to a boil. Once it does, lower the heat and let it thicken to a spreadable consistency. Once it thickens, let it cool and store it in the refrigerator.
Make your usual treats.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to drop your favorite autumn recipes, just eat them in moderation. If you have a few more cookies than you anticipated, balance it out by eating healthfully and exercising. The number of calories, fat, carbs, and protein you eat in a single day isn’t really all that important to your overall health, it’s how your daily habits stack up that matters.
You can also make substitutions to your favorite recipes to make them a little healthier. Instead of eggs, try making an egg replacer with chia, flax, or mashed banana. Instead of butter, try using grapeseed or olive oil. For recipes that call for oil, try using applesauce. Substitute white whole wheat for refined flour, and maple syrup or a stevia baking blend for refined sugar. Experiment with your favorite recipes and see what you can do to lower their saturated fat and calorie count while increasing their fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Pumpkins and pumpkin pie spice are very healthful on their own. Pumpkins themselves are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, while spices have their own health benefits. By adding them to healthy recipes, you can enjoy your favorite fall flavors no matter your diet or lifestyle.