Halloween and healthy eating don’t often go hand in hand. While this holiday is most commonly associated with candy and sugary treats, there is one food that can bridge the gap between Halloween and health: pumpkin.
The pumpkins you carve for jack-o’-lanterns aren’t necessarily good for eating (aside from their delicious seeds), but sugar pumpkins start hitting the shelves around this time too. And not only are they extremely healthy, they’re one of the most versatile types of squash to cook.
Pumpkins are a true superfood. Packed with immune-boosting vitamin A and tons of filling fiber, half a cup of pumpkin puree contains less than 50 calories. It’s also a cook’s best friend, as it can be roasted, pureed or made into either desserts or savory dishes. Canned pumpkin is equally as healthy as the DIY version and is a cinch to prepare, but if you’ve never tried cooking your own sugar pumpkin, this is the time of year to give it a go.
Here are a few easy sugar pumpkin recipes, as well as a few shortcuts using canned puree. Try out some of these during Halloween season, and add some healthfulness to this candy-filled holiday.
Recipe: Parmesan Pumpkin Wedges
Instead of roasted potatoes, try making these herb-crusted pumpkin wedges for a unique fall side dish.
- 1 small sugar pumpkin
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 large lemon, zested (organic is best, since you’ll be consuming the peel)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, lemon, garlic and salt, then set aside. Slice pumpkin in half, scrape away pulp and seeds (or toast seeds — see the link to the recipe above), then slice into 1/2-inch thick wedges and toss with olive oil. Roll each wedge in breadcrumb mixture, then place on greased baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes in the oven until tender.
Recipe: Spiced Pumpkin Soup
This fragrant, warming soup can make for a complete meal when dolloped with protein-packed Greek yogurt and served with a fresh green salad. This recipe makes four servings.
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Spice Blend
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup canned light coconut milk
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt (for serving)
In a medium saucepan, sauté onion, garlic and spice blend in olive oil over medium heat until onion is translucent (about 4 to 5 minutes). Add chicken stock and pumpkin puree and bring to a low simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, and then remove from heat. Stir in the coconut milk and salt, and blend with an immersion blender (if using a regular blender, puree in two separate batches to prevent splatter). Dollop each serving with Greek yogurt — and try not to gobble it up too fast!
Recipe: Sicilian Braised Pumpkin
This sweet-and-sour braised pumpkin is tossed with fresh herbs, making it a vibrant, healthy side dish to serve with roast pork, chicken or fish. Consider adding this to your Thanksgiving spread!
- 1 sugar pumpkin, sliced into wedges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons honey or agave
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
- 1/4 cup minced fresh mint
Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds, and slice into 1/2-inch wedges. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium heat until lightly fragrant. Add pumpkin wedges, honey and vinegar, and sauté until pumpkin slices are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, toss with fresh herbs, and serve.
Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Pumpkin puree adds fiber and vitamins to this classic breakfast treat. These pancakes are great with dried cranberries, toasted pecans or sliced banana mixed in. This recipe makes four servings.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Pumpkin Spice blend
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl and all wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir wet and dry ingredients together until just barely incorporated. Lightly grease a nonstick skillet, and then pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes 2 to 3 minutes per side, and serve with real maple syrup.