The first day of autumn was last week and I can’t begin to express how happy I am that fall is here. Well, maybe I can. As soon as temperatures start to dip, and leaves begin to change, I get all giddy and enthusiastically partake in every activity associated with fall. This includes watching football, apple picking, wearing flannel shirts, taking trips to the mountains to see the fall colors, and indulging in anything and everything pumpkin flavored.
I’ll admit it, I’ve joined the pumpkin spice bandwagon. I’ve become a sucker for pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, and even pumpkin beer. Unfortunately, none of these festive treats are very healthy, despite the fact that pumpkin is super healthy. This is because many of these pumpkin-flavored foods and beverages contain very little actual pumpkin (cough, pumpkin spice latte, cough). They do, however, contain a lot of added sugar and fat, which will contribute to the dreaded “holiday weight gain” that tends to start around this time of the year.
So, what does a fall-loving dietitian who wants to indulge in pumpkin-flavored treats but doesn’t want to sacrifice his health do? Create a delicious and healthy pumpkin smoothie recipe that totally satisfies my pumpkin spice cravings! For all my fellow pumpkin spice addicts, this one’s for you. Enjoy!
- Pumpkin is a nutrition gem that’s often overlooked. It’s rich in potassium, iron, calcium, and vitamin C. It’s also an excellent source of beta carotene (which is responsible for its orange color). A diet rich in beta carotene is associated with a lower risk of developing numerous cancers, including breast cancer. Plus, one cup of canned pureed pumpkin contains only 80 calories with minimal amounts of fat and sodium, no cholesterol, and eight grams of fiber.
- Dates and bananas provide the sweetness in this smoothie. Unlike processed sweeteners, these whole foods retain their health-promoting nutrients. They also retain their fiber, which lowers their glycemic load relative to fiber-free processed sweeteners. Dates and bananas are also rich in potassium and fiber, which makes them both heart-healthy foods.
- Ground cloves are one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants in our diet. Antioxidants protect us on a cellular level, and consuming foods rich in them is associated with lower rates of our two leading causes of death – cancer and heart disease.
- Turmeric and ginger are both well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. The pinch of black pepper in this recipe is there because it boosts our body’s absorption of turmeric.
- Hemp, chia, and flax seeds are all great sources of heart-healthy fat. They are also rich in many essential minerals and plant-based protein.
- Unsweetened soy milk is a great plant-based alterative to dairy with many nutrition components that make it far healthier than cow’s milk. It’s lower in calories compared to cow’s milk (even compared to skim milk), contains less sodium, no cholesterol, and no harmful fat. Soy milk is free from the naturally-occurring hormones found in all cow’s milk, and contains far less environmental pollutants that accumulate in dairy products. It’s rich in potassium and phytoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds that appear to lower our breast and prostate cancer risk). Plus, it’s better for the environment and cruelty-free.
- 2 medium-sized, ripe bananas
- 1 cup of canned plain pumpkin puree
- 2 tbsp of hemp seeds (you can sub chia or flax seeds if needed)
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ¼ tsp ground clove
- A pinch of black pepper
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 8 dates, pits removed
- 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk (sub unsweetened almond milk if desired)
- 15 ice cubes
- Place all ingredients (in order listed) in a blender and blend until smooth.