Going Easy on the Pumpkin Spice Craze

a latte and a pumpkin gourd

I remember in college loving all foods pumpkin.  I even have an orange-stained Spanish literature book as a result of a knocked over pumpkin spice latte to show my past love for the orange squash.

Over the years I realized that pumpkin does not have a strong flavor.  It seems that food companies are using sugar and spices to give the pumpkin flavor identity in order to remind us of pumpkin pie.  From that point on I stopped snatching up pumpkin granola bars, pumpkin flavored coffee grounds, etc.

Now that I have been away from my pumpkin addiction I have noticed numerous foods being offered in pumpkin flavor.  Unfortunately nearly none of it is making us any healthier.  Pumpkin flavored foods usually are providing only extra calories and sugar.

It should be noted that most men should consume about 2,000 calories and limited sugar to 25 gram daily while women should consume about 1500 calories and limit 18 grams of sugar daily.  How much do these fall flavored foods impact that recommendation?


  • 16 oz grande pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream: 380 calories; 24 gm added sugar
  • 12 oz Pumpkin beer: 400 calories       
  • 1 package pumpkin pie Pop-Tarts: 400 calories, 28 gm sugar       
  • 12 pumpkin spice marshmallows: 100 calories, 17 gm sugar       
  • ¼ cup pumpkin spice M&Ms: 210 calories, 27 gm sugar       
  • 6 oz pumpkin cheesecake yogurt: 150 calories, 6 gm added sugar

These days I buy multiple cans of pumpkin puree and mix it into my own daily eats for extra nutrition and yes, for the fun of the season.  Pumpkin puree adds beta-carotene, vitamin C, and fiber to a diet.

My favorite use of pumpkin is to add it to oatmeal.  All you do is make your normal bowl of oatmeal, add a large scoop of pumpkin puree, and give a few shakes of pumpkin spice at the end of the cooking process.  You can do the same for yogurt.  The pumpkin gives both the oatmeal and yogurt an extra creamy texture and a hint of fall flavor.

Other ways to celebrate the pumpkin season include adding dashes of pumpkin spice to brewed coffee, spreading the puree on toast and top with pumpkin spice blend and chopped walnuts, or making pumpkin ravioli.

If you are looking to expand your culinary horizons, opt for butternut squash as well.  It is easier to peel and to chop compared to raw pumpkin.  It can be roasted or sautéed to be used in a side dish, soup, breakfast hash, salad, etc. I like to caramelize it and mix it into sautéed kale.  Rumor has it that we will have a pumpkin shortage this year anyway.


Molly Kinkade, RD, LDN, CDE, is a dietician at SwedishAmerican Hospital.