If They Call it Pumpkin, Does it mean it’s a Health Food?

October 16, 2014

pumpkin-spice-smoothieI try and eat healthy most of the year, and usually I’m successful. Fall often throws a monkey wrench into my plans, though, with cider doughnuts, apple pies, and the pumpkin spice craze that has been rocking the nation these past few Octobers. Beginning with Starbucks and the Pumpkin Spiced Latte, we can now find pumpkin-laced flavors in the craziest places, from bagels and bread to ice cream and beer. But what’s in these popular foods that we’re all so eager to try? Here’s a hint:

Not Pumpkin!

Consumers beware: As coffee shops, fast-food restaurants, and grocery stores all over the nation roll out their pumpkin-laced treats, it’s more important than ever to read labels and shop smart. The pumpkin spice industry is big right now, and this means trouble for people who want to eat healthy before the holidays. Can you get a taste of fall without it taking a toll on your waistline?

Treats to Stay Away From

The Starbucks 16 ounce Pumpkin Spice Latte has enough calories and fat to be considered a meal. Weighing in at 380 calories with 13 grams of fat, and 49 grams of sugar, this is no treat for your body! How about a pumpkin-spiced bagel? Try 450 calories and 11 grams of fat. A Krispy Kreme Pumpkin Cheesecake Doughnut will give you 350 calories. Even so-called health food can make you cringe. Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola sound virtuous, but the label tells another story. A ¾ cup serving has 260 calories and 10 grams of fat.

Treats You Can Feel Good About

Pumpkin all by itself is actually quite good for you. It’s full of fiber, vitamin A, and phytochemicals, plus it has very few calories. My goal has been to find or make treats that actually contain pumpkin. Here’s a homemade pumpkin-spiced latte from starting-a-bakery.com you will be proud to drink:

Pumpkin-Spiced Latte

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)
  • 1/3 to ½ cup pureed pumpkin, canned or fresh
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cups skim milk
  • fat-free whipped cream (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients except the whipped cream in a medium saucepan and heat on low heat until perfectly hot. Use an immersion blender (or pour into a blender) to make it nice and frothy. Pour into mugs, top with whipped cream, and serve.

Here’s one more indulgent treat for those of you who don’t want to drink your calories:

Greek-Yogurt Pumpkin Bars

Makes 16 bars


  • 1 and ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. dried ginger


  • 1 egg and 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 and ½ cup pureed pumpkin, fresh or canned
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt, low or nonfat
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tbs. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and lightly grease an 8” square pan.
  2. Combine the crust ingredients and press into the bottom of your prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 5 minute, then let cool
  4. Mix together eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and yogurt
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and cornstarch
  6. Add the milk mixture and spices to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until smooth.
  7. Pour on top of cooled crust
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Now that’s a treat you can feel good about eating!

Kaitlin Gardner

About the Author

Kaitlin Gardner

Kaitlin Gardner currently lives in Pennsylvania and is married to her best friend. In her spare time, she loves to go hiking , hand with her family and friend and enjoy nature.

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How long do you think the pumpkin would last? My husband hates pumpkin so it would be up to me to finish the whole can. Thanks for sharing the pumpkin spice latte recipe. I was looking for one, since I read in the paper Starbuck’s latte doesn’t contain pumpkin.


it;s really sad that these companies are getting away with selling “fake food” …great recipes, really want to try.

Amanda Smith

Before I starting eating real foods I used to love McDonald’s and Starbucks Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte’s, but now I can literally taste the chemicals in them. Thank You for sharing these two great real food recipes with us. I’m pinning this to my fall foods board so I will always have it handy.

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