You can tell fall is upon us when mums start to appear in local garden centers, signs start popping up for corn mazes … and the coffee chains start rolling out their pumpkin spice drinks. Pumpkin spice is so ubiquitous that we’ve developed a shorthand for the drink that started it all: PSL (pumpkin spice latte).
And big brands are capitalizing on the pumpkin spice craze: pumpkin spice donuts, cereal, cookies, ice cream, scented candles, even pet snacks.
It’s easy to see why we’re all nuts for pumpkin spice: it’s warm and inviting, and it signals cooler weather, comfy sweaters and delicious treats. The thing is, PS can come with some unhealthy attributes, like high calories, sugar and fat. A grande Starbucks pumpkin spice latte with 2% milk and whipped cream contains 380 calories.
Ideas and inspiration for healthy pumpkin spice treats
Good news: There are healthier ways to indulge in pumpkin spice — both sweet and savory.
First, there’s pumpkin. As a winter squash, pumpkin is pretty high in carbohydrates, but it also contains ample amounts of nutrients including fiber, vitamins A, B and C. Toasted pumpkin seeds are high in protein and healthy unsaturated fat and can make a sensible snack (1/4 cup has about 150 calories).
Then, there’s the spice — and this is really what makes PSLs and other fall treats tasty, right? Of course, the spices themselves have zero calories. So there are all kinds of ways to enjoy those warm, flavorful spices without racking up the calories.
Make your own pumpkin spice
You might have an old jar of pumpkin pie spice left over from previous Thanksgiving baking — if it’s old (or you can’t remember when you bought it), toss it out. Use the freshest spice possible for maximum flavor.
Here’s how to make your own pumpkin spice blend
(save money by buying only the amounts you need at spice retailers like Colonel De’s or Dean’s Mediterranean Market at Findlay Market):
- 3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ tsp. ground allspice
- 1 ½ tsp. ground cloves
Whisk the spices together in a bowl, and keep the mixture in a glass jar at room temperature. If you’d like to add a kick to your spice blend, stir in a bit of finely ground black pepper.
Pumpkin spice everything
You’ll want to use your homemade pumpkin spice blend on everything — including in your favorite Thanksgiving pumpkin pie recipe. We’ve gathered a few links, ideas and recipes to inspire you: Make Pumpkin Spice Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
Peel 3 pounds of sweet potatoes and cut them into 1 1/2 inch chunks. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. pumpkin spice, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 450°, tossing occasionally, until tender and browned, 35–45 minutes.
Toss cooked spaghetti squash (here’s the easiest way to cook a spaghetti squash
) with olive oil, pumpkin spice, and salt and pepper. Serve with roasted chicken.
Whisk pumpkin spice into your favorite low-fat vanilla yogurt. Or blend up a heart-healthy Banana Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
Baking a pumpkin pie for your family’s Thanksgiving table? This healthy version looks completely delicious. Try this Homemade Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe:
- 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 300°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, mix together oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg white and water; add agave, honey, maple syrup and vanilla, and whisk until mixture is blended and very frothy. Pour liquid mixture over oat mixture and, using a large rubber spatula, fold ingredients together until the dry ingredients are well-coated. Spread granola on baking sheet in an even layer, pressing down on the mixture with the spatula. Leave an empty space about as big as your palm in the middle of the baking sheet (this will help the mixture bake evenly.) Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet every 10 minutes, until the granola is well-browned. Let cool completely before breaking into clumps. Store in a plastic bag or container.
And if you just have to satisfy that PSL craving, go for a small drink, choose lowfat milk and skip the whipped cream. You’ll still get all those cinnamon-y, spicy flavors without the guilt.
Looking for more delicious, easy, and healthy recipes? Download the Healthspirations Digital Cookbook!