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Nutrition: Getting Pumped About Pumpkin

September 15, 2017

Pumpkin can pack a nutritional punch in the right recipes

With autumn finally here, the holidays are not too far behind. And you know what that means: seasonal sweets and other temptations. One popular ingredient that makes an appearance this time of year is pumpkin. People typically associate the signature fall food with breads and pies, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

“Pumpkin’s nutrients tend to get lost in sugary foods like pumpkin pie,” says Mary Finckenor, registered dietitian for Morristown Medical Center. “It has beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, plus other important vitamins and minerals. It’s also very versatile.”  

More Than Just a Sweet Treat

Sabrina Lombardi, clinical nutrition coordinator of Food and Nutrition Services for Newton Medical Center, agrees. Instead of using pumpkin for baked goods, she recommends incorporating it into healthier recipes. You can use it for appetizers, snacks or as an accompaniment to one’s favorite dishes.

“The canned pumpkin you can get at the supermarket is great for so many different foods,” Lombardi says. “For example, you can make soups out of it, use in place of other squash in recipes, use in bread or create a healthy smoothie. Some people just aren’t aware of how much you can do with pumpkin.”  

Squash the Fear

One reason some people might not be aware of pumpkin’s many uses is its intimidating appearance, says Jane DeWitt, clinical nutrition coordinator of Food and Nutrition Services for Hackettstown Medical Center. She notes that food’s color and size may turn people off from cooking with it.

“Pumpkin has an image problem,” she says. “When people think of pumpkin, they usually think of the orange jack-o-lantern type – it doesn’t look approachable. Canned pumpkin, on the other hand, is easy to use and can give your recipes a healthy boost. It’s just a matter of being creative.”

Learn more about Atlantic Health system's nutrition services >