November 21, 2008

Skip the Pumpkin Pie?

By: Crystal Nguyen, M.A.

It finally feels like fall with the golden brown leaves on the ground and the cold, crispy air blowing all around us. The best thing about this season can be found in the produce section in the grocery stores. There are many varieties of locally grown, in-season produce such as apples, pomegranates, persimmons and gourds. And who could forget the pumpkins? Better yet, pumpkin pie! It was quite amusing to hear 3rd grade students asking, “Is pumpkin pie a fruit or a vegetable?” How exciting would that be, if pies were part of the fruit and vegetable food group? Many of us would probably eat the recommended 5 or more servings very easily.

Pumpkins are a great source of Vitamin A, which is good for your eyes. When selecting a pumpkin, look for one that is firm and heavy. Prepare them by baking, roasting and pureeing them for soups or pies! Because it is fall, fresh pumpkins are in-season. Otherwise, the canned ones will do just fine.

Pumpkins are great fruits that can be made into pies, but be careful of the other ingredients that are added to the pumpkin to make pie filling. The use of heavy whipping cream and butter in piecrust may add onto those unwanted pounds during holiday feasts. Have no fear; you can still have your pumpkin dessert so look at the recipe included below for a heart healthy treat!


Recipe provided by: National Institute of Health (NIH) Nutrition,

This pie uses only a small amount of oil in the crust and skim milk in the filling to make it heart-healthy.

For the piecrust:

1 cup  quick cooking oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground almonds
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp water

For the pie filling:

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
4 tsp vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup evaporated skim milk

1. Preheat oven to 425º F.

2. Mix oats, flour, almonds, sugar, and salt together in small mixing bowl.

3. Blend oil and water together in measuring cup with fork or small wire whisk until emulsified.

4. Add oil mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. If needed, add small amount of water to hold mixture together.

5. Press into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until light brown.

6. Turn down oven to 350º F.

7. Mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a bowl.

8. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to blend ingredients.

9. Add pumpkin and milk and stir to combine.

10. Pour into prepared pie shells.

11. Bake 45 minutes at 350º F or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Yield: 9 servings—Serving Size: 1/9 of a 9-inch pie

Each serving provides: Calories: 177, Total fat: 8 g, Saturated fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 24 mg Sodium: 153 mg

Remember, there are healthy alternatives you can eat during the holidays. Also, remember to stop eating before you get too full and besides, holiday leftovers such as turkey always taste better the next day. Last, but not least, get up and go play with your family and friends for at least 60 minutes on most days! Can’t decide on what activity to do first? Take everyone to the shopping mall and park far away from the entrance. This is a great way to add some brisk walking into your holiday festivities.

Crystal L. Nguyen, M.A. is a Health Educator with UCSD Nutrition Link, an elementary school nutrition education program. Nutrition Link is funded by USDA’s Food Stamp Program through the California Department of Public Health. These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers.

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