Pumpkins are for more than carving or scooping out of a can and into a pie crust. The seeds of the bright orange squash, and the spices associated with it, are showing up in handy, pantry-friendly products, lending a festive nutritional punch to everything from nut butters to popcorn.
"Pumpkin has a wealth of vitamins A and C, magnesium and fiber," said Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian in Chicago whose blog — Once Upon a Pumpkin — extols the health virtues of the squash currently enjoying its seasonal spotlight. "It contains beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A in the body, that supports vision, especially night vision."
Here are a few tasty ways to get your squash on:
Kick off the day with Pumpkin Flax from Sweet Home Farm, a mildly sweetened crunchy granola liberally sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. The addition of molasses and cinnamon bark accentuates the flavors of fall. The cereal comes in space-efficient milk carton-shaped packaging and is not so crumbly that you can't pour some into a baggie to munch on in the car.
Info: $8.59.Available at sweethomefarm.com or Albertsons, Bristol Farms and Wal-Mart.
There are just three ingredients in Living Intentions' Activated Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds — pumpkin seeds, Himalayan crystal salt and cold-pressed olive oil. The act of sprouting the seeds makes them easier to digest and retains the essential nutrients of the seeds, like zinc and amino acids, according to Living Intentions.
Info: $7.99. Available at livingintentions.com, Whole Foods, Sprouts and other natural grocery stores.
Nut butters are increasingly popular as a healthy and flavorful protein source, and the Pumpkin Spice Almond Butter from Sprouts makes one of these staples anything but basic. Creamy almonds are swirled together with pumpkin pie spices — a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. The product does have some cane sugar, but a little goes a long way.
Info: $6.99 at Sprouts,
It contains popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds and walnuts, but the limited edition Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn from the five-generation old G.H Cretors brand should ideally be savored like a special treat. The flavorful corn and nut chunks are coated with cane sugar, brown sugar and brown rice syrup. Still, the liberal sprinkling of pumpkin seeds as well as the fortifying ground spices will leave you feeling at least a little virtuous.