Now that autumn has arrived, there are endless ways to get pumpkin on your plate and in your mug or bowl.  Pumpkin beer, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin doughnuts and pumpkin cheesecake are some of this season's favorites.

While these picks are delicious and popular, they certainly don't offer any of the natural nutritional benefits of pumpkin. Pumpkin, in its natural form, is a superfood packed with nutrients that support immunity, regulate digestive health (½ cup contains around 5 grams of fiber), lower cholesterol through phytosterols found in their seeds, and reduce inflammation. Instead, these seasonal favorites mostly just offer sugar and fat.

If you are someone who loves pumpkin-themed EVERYTHING and is trying to be health conscience, here is a list of my favorite guiltless ways to enjoy pumpkin this fall:

For Breakfast: Pumpkin and Chia Seed Oatmeal

Mixing some pumpkin puree into your oatmeal is a great way to start your morning. One serving of this pumpkin and chia seed oatmeal provides 10 grams of fiber and over 100 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin A.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 tsp. of Pumpkin Pie Seasoning
  • ½ cup of pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup of organic nonfat milk

Combine the oats and 1 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl and cook according to package directions. Add the pumpkin puree, chia seeds, milk and pumpkin spice seasoning. Mix thoroughly and microwave until hot, about 1-2 minutes.

*Add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup water if a thinner consistency is desired.

To Snack: Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin scones; all sorts of pumpkin pastries crowd the shelves at bakeries this time of year. Don't fall for these treats and wreck your weight loss efforts. Instead, try this adapted recipe from Skinny Taste! Out of all the "healthier" pumpkin bread recipes out there, this specific recipe is one of my favorites. The bread is super moist and doesn't contain all of the added fat usually found in store bought breads and pastries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • baking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix oil, egg whites, pumpkin puree and vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add flour mixture then blend at low speed until combined.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake on the center rack for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For Lunch/Dinner: Turkey Pumpkin Chili

If you're looking to try something new for lunch or dinner, and you want to add in the nutrient-rich flavor of pumpkin, try this seasonal chili recipe. Its perfect for a cool autumn day!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped , chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper , cored, seeded and chopped
  • 2 jalapeños , seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground white or dark meat turkey
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 1 can pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add turkey and cook until browned. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes more. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

For Dessert: Banana and Pumpkin Smoothie

Skip the pumpkin pie blizzard (a small size is 600 calories!) and swap in this healthy and creamy combination of sweet and savory to satisfy your pumpkin dessert craving.

Combine all ingredients in a blender:

  • ½ cup organic canned pumpkin
  • ½ banana
  • ½ cup organic skim milk
  • ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tbsp. Stevia
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ crushed ice

To Drink: Pumpkin Spice Coffee

We all love Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte and once in awhile this can be a nice treat (especially now that Starbucks announced that the latte this year is made with real pumpkin) but don't make it a habit. A Grande size of this fall favorite has 380 calories and a whopping 49 grams of sugar! If you're watching your waste line, head to WAWA and grab a cup of their Pumpkin Spice Coffee to slash your calories and sugar.

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