Cooler temps and changing colors mean only one thing: pumpkin’s back! Or, at least, pumpkin-flavored foods.
“People flock to the store to get their fill of pumpkin products, which taste good, but are often not the healthiest,” says Washington, D.C.-based nutritionist Jessica Swift, R.D., noting that pumpkin, all on its own, is a veritable superfood. But add enough sugar and chemicals to even the healthiest of ingredients, and you’ve got a recipe for weight gain.
Thankfully, it’s possible to get your fill of pumpkin without piling on the pounds; you just have to know what to look out for. To take the guesswork out of your next trip to the store, Swift gives us the low-down on the best and worst pumpkin products currently on the shelves at Trader Joe’s. Here they are, ranked from best to worst:
With only 190 calories per three-cup serving, it’s no surprise why this low-cal feel-full salad earns the top spot. Swift notes that, besides being rich in fiber, the addition of pumpkin seeds gives these greens a boost of stick-to-your-ribs protein. Still, she advises going easy on the included cornbread croutons if you want to get the most benefit from this salad blend.
A handful of these fall-friendly crisps contains only five grams of sugar while boasting three grams of protein. “The sweetness of the cranberries may be enough to help you keep your sweet tooth in line,” Swift says.
Unfortunately, these flavorful crackers aren’t very nutritionally dense, Swift says. One serving offers only one gram of fiber, while packing a whopping 24 grams of carbohydrates. That’s a ton for a soup topper! For a healthier crunch-tastic snack, Swift recommends opting for the pita crisps or another whole-grain cracker.
With pumpkin puree and extra-virgin olive oil listed as the first two ingredients, this salad dressing offers healthy fats and only 55 calories per tablespoon, Swift says. In addition, one serving gives you only four grams of sugar and five grams of carbs, while offering 15 percent of your daily need of immune-boosting vitamin A. Drizzle this diet-friendly pumpkin dressing on your greens all fall long.
At 120 calories per serving, this juice doesn’t look too threatening. However, each serving also packs 23 grams of sugar. So, you may want to skip the juice and opt for waistline-friendly whole fruits and veggies, which are lower in sugar per serving while also offering up a healthy dose of blood sugar-regulating fiber.
Say this with us, “gluten-free doesn’t equate to healthy.” It only means that the product is free from wheat protein, says Swift, pointing out that this mix is packed with little more than simple insulin-spiking carbohydrates. After all, the very first ingredient on the label (meaning it’s the most prevalent ingredient) is sugar. A mere half-inch slice of this bread packs 190 calories and 17 grams of sugar.
The first ingredient listed in this product is cookies, and according to the nutrition label, it only contains one gram of protein and fiber per serving, putting this jazzed-up butter at the bottom of the rankings, Swift says. In addition, one serving (two tablespoons) weighs you down with 220 calories, 11 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of fat. For a healthier fall-friendly substitute, Swift recommends adding cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to your favorite nut butter.
Originally written for Women’s Health.