As many of you that read my blog regularly know, I love food. The more the better. And when I am having difficulty controlling my hunger like I am right now, I try to find high-volume/low calorie alternatives to trick my body into thinking I am splurging. This is where my love of pumpkin comes in. Not only can this versatile squash be used in savory or sweet dishes, but it is low in calories and fat while being high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One cup of canned pumpkin contains 80 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 7 grams of fiber. This means that by adding pumpkin to my dishes, I am getting bulk without adding many calories. (One word of caution--it is very easy to mix up "canned pumpkin" and "pumpkin pie mix." The pie mix is not as friendly for diets--it has about 90 calories for a third of a cup and 17 grams of sugar).
The first person to turn me on to pumpkin was the nutritionist Joy Bauer who is a regular contributor on the Today Show. Her recipes for pumpkin pudding (really pumpkin yogurt) and pumpkin oatmeal were staple breakfasts for me when I was first losing weight. Not only are they super simple to make, but you can easily vary the ingredients you add to them. I often added wheat germ to the pudding recipe to give it some crunch, and I sometimes added brown sugar and/or almonds to the oatmeal. And for the oatmeal recipe I always cook the more nutritional steel cut oats in my mini crock pot overnight, so my breakfast is all creamy by the time I get up in the morning: Joy Bauer Vanilla Pumpkin Pudding and Joy Bauer Pumpkin-Chia Oatmeal
The other place I get an almost unlimited amount of pumpkin recipes is through the Hungry Girl (HG) daily emails I receive and through the HG cookbooks I have purchased. While before HG many of the recipes I encountered were sweet uses for pumpkin (shakes, cakes, muffins, scones, etc.), Lisa Lillien also introduced me to more savory options. She uses pumpkin in chili, soups, and there is even a pumpkin enchilada recipe I want to try next week. I really encourage you to give pumpkin a try: HG blog on pumpkin, More HG pumpkin ideas, Even more pumpkin recipes from HG, Ideas for using a substitute in fattening desserts, More pumpkin desserts, and Safe storage of unused pumpkin
For your information, I have avoided most artificial sweetener for years, so I substitute an equal amount of white sugar when the recipe calls for small amounts of Splenda. In these cases the calorie difference is not an issue for me. If it calls for larger amounts of sweetener, I will sometimes use Splenda because the calorie difference is greater. In addition, when I am not baking, I try to use honey or agave instead of the sugar because I like the taste.
Inspired by a delicious chicken soup my friend Kay made to help me recover from a nasty bug I had all week, I decided to pull out some of my favorite soup recipes to warm us all up on a chilly Saturday. I made my Albondigas Loca that I created after trying a similar soup at Soup Plantation (I will share this in a future blog). I also made a creamy soup that fits right in with this blog. Pumpkin-Coconut Bisque Soup is a quick meal that is sure to bring you comfort. It feels like a decadent cream soup, but at 200 calories a serving it will not break the calorie bank. This pumpkin recipe is a must try!
If I haven't convinced you to try pumpkin yet with all the delicious recipe links I have provided, here is a final link to show you the varied nutritional benefits to adding pumpkin to your diet: Livestrong article on the nutritional value of pumpkin.
I hope that I have given you enough reasons why you should give pumpkin a chance. If you have any amazing pumpkin ideas I have not shared in this blog, please send them my way. I always have room in my weekly menu for one more pumpkin treat!