For some people, it is their favorite time of year — and I don’t mean because of Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other holiday.

It is “Pumpkin Spice Season”! That delicious time of year that pumpkin ice cream, baked goods, pies, coffees and breads make their appearance.

As delicious as they are, those sugar-filled, pumpkin flavored goodies can really help pack on the pounds. Added weight means more stress on your body, which ultimately could lead to diseases like heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Don’t get me wrong, a few treats here and there on special occasions are definitely OK, it is just that it is very important to make sure these do not become every day indulgences.

"Isn’t pumpkin healthy for you?" you may ask. Well, yes, of course it is. Pumpkin is a vegetable that is low in fat and loaded with Vitamin A. Vitamin A is used by your body to maintain vision, healthy skin and more.

Instead of eating a pumpkin treat filled with fat and sugar, try one of these recipes from the "What’s Cooking: USDA Mixing Bowl" instead.

 

Pumpkin Smoothie

Makes: 6 servings

This is a refreshing smoothie recipe that uses low-sodium canned pumpkin and ripe bananas.

Ingredients

1 can low-sodium pumpkin (chilled, about 15 ounces) 1 can evaporated low-fat milk (chilled, 12 ounces) 1 1/2 cups orange juice 1 banana (small, sliced) 1/3 cup light brown sugar (packed, or 1/3 cup regular sugar) 2 dozen ice cubes (if you like) 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (if you like)

Directions

1. Place pumpkin, evaporated milk, orange juice, banana and sugar in blender.
2. Cover and blend until smooth.
3. If using ice, pour mixture over ice. If using cinnamon, add that, too.

Source: Recipe provided by Verybestbaking.com.

 

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Makes: 12 servings

Enjoy these delicious muffins for breakfast any time of the year using canned pumpkin and frozen cranberries.

Ingredients

2 cups flour 3/4 cup sugar 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon allspice 1/3 cup vegetable oil 2 eggs, large 3/4 cup pumpkin (canned) 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen chopped)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Sift together dry ingredients (flour through allspice) and set aside.

3. Beat oil, eggs, and pumpkin together until well blended.

4. Add the wet ingredients (pumpkin mixture) to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir until moistened.

5. Fold in chopped cranberries.

6. Spoon into paper lined muffin cups.

7. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 30 minutes.

Source: University of Massachusetts, Extension Nutrition Education Program, Pumpkin Post/Banana Beat

Jill Breslawski is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.