Most people think of pumpkins as just Halloween decorations, as a Thanksgiving pie filling, or a flavoring in your favorite pumpkin spice latte (which actually has no real pumpkin flavor, just the spices!). When cooked and eaten in different ways, pumpkin is rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. Here are some great reasons to dig into that pretty orange gourd and a yummy recipe for the whole family!
Fill up on fiber!
Pumpkins are a great source of filling fiber. Fiber, if you don’t know, is the indigestible roughage found in many plant foods like grains, fruits, and vegetables and is very important for smooth digestion, hormone control, heart health, and even blood sugar control. If eaten regularly, it can also help reduce certain types of cancers. If you don’t want to cook your own pumpkin from fresh, you are in luck when it comes to fiber. In one cup of canned pumpkin there is over 7 grams of fiber, while one cup of cooked, fresh pumpkin has about 3 grams of fiber.
Boost immunity and keep your eyes healthy!
Pumpkins are high in Vitamin C and E and rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lutein. These infection fighters give pumpkins their bright eye-catching colors. Beta-carotene is a special antioxidant that converts to Vitamin A in our body and fights against degenerative eye damage. Vitamin C has been linked to the prevention of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Don’t skip the seeds!
Pumpkin seeds, also known as “pepita seeds”, are high in fiber and a good source of protein, healthy fats, zinc, and more vitamins and minerals. Next time your kids carve their pumpkins don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting and snacking!
Now that you know how healthy real pumpkin can be, here is a fun snack to introduce your kids to eating this colorful gourd!
No-Bake Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
(Adapted from therealfoodrds.com)
Prep Time: 10 mins Total Time: 10 mins Yield: 8 Granola Bars
- 2 cups of “old fashion” rolled oats
- 1/3 cup of canned pumpkin puree (not canned pumpkin pie mix)
- ¼ cup nut or seed butter of your choice (peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter etc)
- 3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup chopped unsalted pumpkin seeds (can use pecans, sunflower seeds, etc.)
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
In a blender or food processor, combine the oats, pumpkin puree, nut or seed butter, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract. Pulse on low for a few seconds, scraping the sides as needed. Process just until mixed, you want some of the oats to remain whole. Transfer the pat mixture to a bowl and fold in the pumpkin seeds (or other seed/nut of choice) and chocolate chips.
3. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Lay the mixture into the loaf pan, spreading it out as you go, and pressing down very firmly. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing into 8 bars or 10 squares. Store in airtight container in the fridge and enjoy for breakfast or a snack!
Note: Invite your kids to help measure the ingredients and have a taste test of some of the ingredients (oats, pumpkin, nut or seed butter, maple syrup, pumpkin seeds) before it is put into the food processor so that they know what they taste like separately and together at the end.