Happy Halloween everyone! And as the kids (and moms and dads) are steadily snarfing down candy, apple cider and other fun snacks, take a minute or two and think about about the pumpkin, the fruit (or vegetable?) of the season.
Kids draw faces on them and color pictures of them. We hang decorations of them on our doors and homes, and carefully pick out the real thing at pumpkin patches. Their beautiful color lights up the fall landscape, and is a brilliant reminder of how nutrition packed it is!
Pumpkin is one of the only fruits my son will eat. Yes, I said fruit! Botanically (or scientifically) speaking, pumpkins are a fruit because they contain seeds, and grow on a vine. In culinary terms, they are vegetables, as a member of the squash family. How it is defined really doesn’t matter though-what matters is that they are packed with nutrition and my son thinks pumpkin is good! The double rainbow effect!
Pumpkins in their glorious shades of orange are packed with beta carotene and vitamin A. They are low in calories and very low in fat, about 60 calories per cup of cooked pumpkin. They contain Vitamin C and E as well as potassium. You can steam it, roast it, boil it or bake it. You can cook it then puree and add it to batters for muffins, pancakes, waffles or smoothies. Roasted pumpkin purees into a delectable soup! Canned pumpkin, the unsweetened pure kind is good when the season is over or you don’t have time to get carving, and adds an additional punch with more fiber.
And if you eat the seeds, you get even more nutrition with iron, zinc,fiber and a bit of tryptophan,which, like turkey, increases serotonin levels in the brain causing a calming or sleep like effect. Get your kids eating these and they may be more willing to take a nap!
Preparing the seeds can be a fun project as you carve your pumpkin. Here’s how to do it:
Scoop out your seeds and remove all fibrous or stringy material
Rinse in cool water and allow to dry
Spread on a cookie sheet
Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, stir if needed
Salt them or add other seasonings like chili powder.
Add the seeds to trail mix, salads, cottage cheese or yogurt, or just eat them plain!
Happy trick or treating!
Laura Zurita is a registered dietitan and Montgomery County mom to a 6 year old boy. Her and her family move to read, hike and enjoy nature, and watch Philadelphia Phillies baseball.