Healthy eaters can take heart in knowing that canned pumpkin packs quite a punch when it comes to nutrition.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient database, canned pumpkin, while primarily water, contains just 80 calories per cup. It also offers an entire days’ worth of vitamin A, as well as 7 grams of fiber. It is also a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, manganese, potassium and many other important nutrients.

Canned pumpkin, and this includes those labeled 100 percent, can be a mix of pumpkin and other types of winter squash. But most fans of canned pumpkin don’t mind. Some people on foodie discussion boards even say that they prefer canned pureed pumpkin to homemade.

It is important to note two things. First, don’t mistake canned pumpkin puree for canned pumpkin pie filling, even though you may find them sitting next to each other at the grocery store. You can doctor up the pumpkin puree with your own recipe to use for pumpkin pie, but pumpkin pie filling is already mixed with added sugar, boosting the calorie county to 280 per cup.

Also, look for low or no sodium types of canned pumpkin. You’ll cut the sodium content in one cup of pumpkin from a whooping 590 milligrams to a more than acceptable 10 milligrams.

As for ideas on how to use pumpkin, you can search almost any recipe database to spark your creativity. One such site, often overlooked, is the USDA’s “What’s Cooking” website at whatscooking.fns.usda.gov. Search for pumpkin and the recipes that result include muffins, pancakes, cookies and other treats as well as dishes, such as these:

How about a pumpkin peanut butter sandwich, which is just what you would expect. Blend some canned pumpkin with peanut butter before spreading on bread, then add some banana slices. You can even sprinkle a little cinnamon on top.

Pumpkin and white bean soup, which combines pureed canned white beans and apple juice with pumpkin, onion and spices makes a great hearty, fall-inspired dish.

If you are a smoothie person, pumpkin smoothies are for you. You can use chilled canned pumpkin mixed with evaporated low-fat milk, orange juice, banana, light brown sugar, ice cubes and cinnamon.

Are your children picky eaters? Try pumpkin mac and cheese, which uses pumpkin puree to boost the nutrition in this traditional comfort food. It is worth a try to see if you can sneak some added veggies into your child’s diet.

The recipe below is one of my favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin:

Pumpkin muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 eggs

1 15 ounce can pure pumpkin puree

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place 12 paper liners into each well of standard size muffin baking pan.

Measure out the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil and vanilla extract.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together. Do not over mix, just stir until everything is mixed into the batter.

Use a large scoop to evenly distribute the batter into each well. They will be nearly full. This will help give your muffins a nice puffy dome.

Bake your muffins for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Info source: Ohio State University Extension

Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent in Parker County.

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