SENIOR LIVING: Enjoy health benefits, tasty meals when including this special food

Halloween is over but that doesn’t have to be the end of the road for pumpkins.

Pumpkins are much more than a decoration for your front porch. In fact, they are a highly versatile squash that can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes.

Pumpkins are a fall favorite and a nutritious addition to your diet. They are high in beta carotene, which helps in maintaining eye health, skin health and the immune system – something that is especially important at this time of year (beta carotene also gives pumpkins their bright orange colour). In addition, pumpkin flesh is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals; and pumpkin seeds are packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats and iron.

So, how can we reap the many benefits of pumpkin? Cooking with pumpkin goes well beyond pumpkin pie. If you are buying canned pumpkin for cooking, be sure to choose pure pumpkin, and not pumpkin pie filling, which has added sugar and spices. Ready to get cooking? Try these ideas for incorporating pumpkin into your dishes at home:

Make a dip: Pumpkin purée adds a delicious fall flavor to a classic hummus. Simply blend the two together and spread on crackers or pita chips or serve with raw vegetables.

Add to a soup: Start with a base of olive oil, onion, garlic, adding in warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, pumpkin purée, vegetable broth. Puree for a silky-smooth soup. Top with a drizzle of maple syrup and some roasted pumpkin seeds.

Mix into risotto: For a rich and creamy risotto, add pumpkin puree to arborio rice cooked until al dente. Pumpkin is also an excellent addition to other Italian recipes. Pumpkin pasta bake anyone? Pumpkin purée can be used to make a creamy, delicious pasta sauce.

Get baking: Add pumpkin purée into your next batch of muffins, pancakes, cookies or a loaf. Pumpkin can be used in place of oil or egg in many recipes. Grab a cookbook or search online for a new recipe to try this fail.

Delicious drinks: Skip the drive-through and add pumpkin pie spice to your morning coffee, tea or latte at home (pumpkin pie spice is a combination of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, mace and nutmeg).

Roast the seeds: Scoop out the seeds from a fresh pumpkin, rinse and pat dry. Drizzle some oil and sprinkle on your favorite spice before roasting seeds on a baking sheet in the oven to create a tasty, crunchy snack.

Offer as a side: Glazed with maple syrup and sprinkled with fresh herbs and feta, roasted pumpkin makes a great autumn side dish. It is also a tasty addition to a fall salad.

Boost your breakfast: Add pumpkin puree to your next baked oatmeal recipe or layer with yogurt for a parfait.

For more ways to incorporate pumpkin into your diet, or to jazz up your meals this fall, book a personalized shop appointment to walk through the grocery aisles with your local instore dietitian.

Ellen Doyle is a registered dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Bedford, NS Contact Ellen by phone at 902-401-8906 or email at [email protected] You can also find Ellen on Instagram at @AtlanticSS.dietitian.Ellen. Learn more about dietitian services and book an in-person or virtual dietitian consult at www.atlanticsuperstore.ca/dietitians.

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