Dietitians usually talk a lot about picky eaters like it’s a bad thing. Yes, usually we want people to expand their tastes to eat a variety of healthy foods. But picky is always a good thing if you’re picking easy, real foods over processed ones.
I love fall and I especially love pumpkin. Apparently I’m not alone in this–just look around any store. But while shopping at my usual grocery stores in the past two weeks, I realized how insane it has gotten with the variety of processed pumpkin products! No surprise–as I am a self-proclaimed food snob–I found myself turning my nose up at most of them, even at Trader Joe’s! So, it got me thinking: I am a picky pumpkin eater! (Say that 10 times fast.) And I’m giving you permission to be picky about choosing real-food pumpkin products, too.
The food industry has done it again–responded to demand with a ridiculous surplus of unhealthy options. I can’t blame them; many people are eating them. But don’t let the gluttony of fake-flavored pumpkin products ruin fall–or your health! Simply try to pick the pumpkin products that are worth it, and when that fails, I’ll share how to make a few easy pumpkin products of your own!
The Origins of My Pumpkin Hoarding Problem
I don’t even need it to be fall to enjoy pumpkin. I frequently make pumpkin muffins throughout the year. My first fall living in Italy, I was pregnant with my third daughter and felt like making pumpkin ginger muffins. Maybe it was the hormonal cravings that just made me want what I wanted, when I wanted it. Maybe it was the appealing thought of ginger helping with my morning sickness. Maybe it was the nostalgia of the fall season and wanting to feel more at home while adjusting to life in a foreign country. But alas, I would soon learn there was no pumpkin to be had in the commissary in August.
Or September, as luck would have it. So, when October rolled around, I bought not one, not two, but–12 cans–of pumpkin. In my mind, I needed to be sure it would last throughout the next 12 months.
Facebook actually reminded me of this TODAY! But the funny thing is I’ve been working on this post for several days, so I find it funny I seem to have an internal pumpkin circadian rhythm! AND I just made apple crisp yesterday! Weird…
Anyway, if I recall, the 12 cans lasted longer than a year. Imagine my delight when I returned to the USA and I could buy canned pumpkin year round at most grocery stores.You would think I wouldn’t still have hoarding tendencies (although, for the record, I only have three cans currently). But alas, when many pumpkin products don’t meet my criteria, I have to resort to making my own and need a supply of pumpkin on hand!
(Note: if any local friends receive a “boo bag” soon that contains a can of pumpkin, check the expiration date…you might need to use it sooner than you’d think.)
How Do I Pick Pumpkin Products?
So, you may be dying to know which products make the cut. Or not, but I’ll tell you anyway. I have some self-imposed rules for trying seasonal pumpkin products. I just realized this season that I had rules, because frankly many products are simply disgusting–and honestly I’m always somewhat surprised and disappointed! The rules help with the disappointment–don’t waste your money if they don’t pass these rules!
So, here are the rules I follow for any pumpkin products I eat and recommend:
- They must taste like real pumpkin (kinda subjective, but you know “fake” when you taste it).
- They must not be overpowered by sugar or spice (particularly cloves)–it’s really not too nice!
- They should contain some real pumpkin and/or real food with some redeeming nutrients, if possible.
Of course, I will probably still try anything with pumpkin once! But to regularly eat and recommend a pumpkin product, I follow these general rules.
The Short List of Pumpkin Products That Pass:
- I was over the moon when I realized my favorite full-fat Noosa yogurt in pumpkin flavor is available year round (I buy it at Target)! You can buy it as an 8-ounce tub or in smaller 4-ounce 4-packs (my preference). It’s a little high in sugar, but it has real pumpkin and full-fat yogurt with probiotics, calcium and vitamin D, so I love it as a treat. It’s frequently sold out though, so I hope I didn’t just shoot myself in the foot telling you about it…
- Of course, Target’s Simply Balanced 4-pack of low-fat pumpkin Greek yogurt is a close second favorite. It is low fat (which I don’t think is necessary) and only available seasonally (which is bad), but lower in sugar than Noosa (which is great). Both of these yogurts are delicious treats and have the redeeming quality of containing real foods: pumpkin, protein from milk, and probiotics important for gut health, and I usually add a tablespoon of toasted nuts on top.
- Once or twice during the season I do enjoy a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with one pump of syrup (usually there are 4). It is definitely not real pumpkin in there, but it tastes good. And everybody else is doing it.
What other store-bought pumpkin products do you think are worth it? Let me know what I’m missing in the comments!
My Favorite Homemade Pumpkin Products
As always, my store-bought list is kind of short, so I usually make a few homemade pumpkin treats to satisfy my nostalgic need for pumpkin in the fall. Here are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them, too!
Please share this post if you know any other pumpkin lovers who would like to try these recipes!