Got Pumpkin?

Here are 4 scrumptious ways to savor this super-nutritious squash.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

This time of year, we've got pumpkins on the brain -- and in the pantry. There's the Halloween jack-o'-lantern, of course (made from a not-so-tasty variety of pumpkin meant for carving). Then throughout the holiday season, we inevitably have a cup or so of canned pumpkin hanging around after making a loaf of pumpkin bread or a pumpkin pie or two.

Below, I'll show you four delicious ways to use that pumpkin, from breakfast (waffles) to dessert (cake). But first, let's chat about the nutritional power of this famous member of the squash family.

Fresh pumpkins are available from September to November (80% of the U.S. pumpkin supply is available in October), but you can buy canned pumpkin year-round.

The nutritional difference between canned and fresh pumpkin is mainly the vitamin C content. With 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin, you get 1.7 g fiber, 170% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, 8% Daily Value for vitamin E, 4% for vitamin C and folic acid, 6% for iron and magnesium -- all for just 20 calories! Twenty calories worth of boiled fresh pumpkin will give you a little less vitamin A (135% of the Daily Value), but a little more vitamin C (8% Daily Value).

Now, enjoy the pumpkin season!

Pumpkin Challah Bread

This bread is heavenly fresh from the oven, so bake it right before you plan to serve it.

1/2 cup warm water (100-110-degrees)
1 egg yolk (reserve the white)
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 packet active dry yeast (about 2 teaspoons)

  • Add ingredients to bread machine pan in order recommended by manufacturer.
  • Set bread machine to DOUGH cycle (1 hour, 40 minutes) and press START. After 5 minutes, if the dough appears too stiff, add a tablespoon of low-fat milk or water.
  • When dough is ready, divide into three equal sections and roll each into a rope about 18 inches long. Line the ropes up, side by side, on a nonstick jellyroll pan coated with canola cooking spray. Squeeze the three rope ends together at one end. Braid the ropes, then squeeze the other ends together, too.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set pan near the oven while it is preheating to help the bread rise (cover the bread with a kitchen towel if desired). While waiting, whisk the egg white with 2 teaspoons water.
  • When bread is doubled in size (about 1 hour), gently brush the egg white on top of the bread and bake until golden brown (40-50 minutes). Let cool about 5 minutes before slicing with serrated knife.

Yield: 12 servings

Per serving: 181 calories, 6 g protein, 35 g carbohydrate, 2.2 g fat (0.3 g saturated fat, 0.9 g monounsaturated fat, 0.6 g polyunsaturated fat), 18 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 189 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 11%.

Pumpkin Potato Soup

The mashed potato adds creaminess to this lower-fat soup.

3 cups mashed potatoes, made with low-fat milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk
1 1/2 cup shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste (optional)
5 tablespoons fat-free or light sour cream

  • Prepare mashed potatoes using milk only (no added butter). Add the pumpkin and fat-free half-and-half (or low-fat milk) to a medium saucepan; whisk to blend well.
  • Add cheese, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon and stir to combine. Cover pan and simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pepper and salt, if desired.
  • Spoon into 5 serving bowls, then swirl a tablespoon of fat-free or light sour cream in each bowl of soup.

Yield: 5 servings

Per serving: 276 calories, 19 g protein, 36 g carbohydrate, 6.5 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.3 g polyunsaturated fat), 23 mg cholesterol, 3.2 g fiber, 300 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 22%.

Pennsylvania Dutch Pumpkin Cake

If you want to add a chocolate touch, sprinkle 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (or Halloween chocolate chips) over the batter just before you put the cake in the oven.

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup no-trans-fat or low-trans-fat margarine with 8 grams fat per tablespoon (such as Take Control or Land O' Lakes Buttery Spread)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup Splenda sugar substitute (replace with 1/2 cup granulated sugar, if desired)
1/4 cup maple syrup or reduced-calorie pancake syrup
1/4 cup fat-free or light cream cheese
1 large egg
1/2 cup egg substitute
15-ounce can pumpkin (about 1 3/4 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a Bundt or angel-food cake pan with canola cooking spray.
  • Combine the first five ingredients in an 8-cup measure or medium bowl; stir to blend well.
  • In mixing bowl, beat margarine, sugar, Splenda, maple syrup, and cream cheese together. Add egg and egg substitute 1/4 cup at a time, beating after each addition.
  • Add pumpkin and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed just until combined. Transfer batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top, if desired.
  • Bake until fork inserted into the center comes out fairly clean (about 60 minutes). Cool cake in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.