Pumpkin Spice: Get Your Fix Without Wrecking Your Waistline

Now you can have your latte and drink it, too!

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I’m totally obsessed with pumpkin spice everything, and who isn’t? Only problem is most of these pumpkin-flavored fall goodies are packed with calories, sugar, fat, and only a smidgen of pumpkin. It’s no surprise that most Pumpkin Spice Lattes (aka PSL) aren’t exactly good for you.

The pumpkin spice craze doesn’t just stop at the coffee shop. Everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon. There are pumpkin chips, pumpkin mints, pumpkin butter (not the fruity kind), pumpkin bagels, pumpkin pudding—the list goes on.

Fact is, pumpkin is delicious and all the rage, but that being said, you have to be a bit careful with your picks.

Purely Pumpkin

Let’s make a pact to eat more pumpkin, not just in the fall, but all year long! It’s loaded with nutrients that will help your heart, eyes, bones, and skin.

A cup of cooked pumpkin contains 200 percent of your daily allotment of beta carotene—which not only helps your eyes, but also can rejuvenate skin and reduce the risk for arthritis. And with only 50 calories and 3 grams of fiber per cup mashed, pumpkin is a diet-friendly addition to your favorite meal or snack. Pumpkin is also rich potassium, a mineral involved in lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy bones.

Spice It Up

The flavors of pumpkin pie spice aren’t just a party for the senses; they’re also full of their own health benefits. The easiest to detect is cinnamon. Cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory antioxidants can contribute to steadying blood sugar by helping you digest carbs.

In addition, cinnamon helps to improve glucose uptake and better control metabolism. This is good news for those with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.

To round out the pumpkin spice blend, you’ll need nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice—all of which have similar anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Ginger, specifically, is an age-old tummy elixir that contains a compound called gingerol, which may help tame nausea, morning sickness, and acid reflux.

Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice

Next time you’re craving a PSL, get creative with what’s in your kitchen and make your own fall-flavored treat. Try adding a dash of pumpkin pie spice to oatmeal, or whipping up a creamy smoothie with a spoonful of pumpkin puree and you guessed it—pumpkin pie spice. Flavor up your jar of almond butter by seasoning with pumpkin spices or add pumpkin pie spice to pumpkin seeds before roasting. Become a barista and master the Skinny PSL by adding a dollop of pumpkin, sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice and nonfat milk to hot coffee before serving. Don’t forget the whipped cream topping and dash of cinnamon!

Here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes to get you started:

Spices are always better when they’re homemade. Mixing up this popular blend is easier than you think!

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cloves

Mix the spices together in a small bowl and store in a mason jar or airtight container.

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, is the health and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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