Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wellness Wit and Wisdom

By Maureen Deutermann, MSN, R.N.
Director of Community Education

Fall is definitely here. What led me to this brilliant conclusion? It could have been the ocean of leaves that appeared in my back yard overnight, but it wasn’t. It might have been the first sniff of wood smoke wafting through the crisp evening air, reminding me I need to get the chimney swept, but it wasn’t. Even my imminently expiring county automobile sticker didn’t jar me to the reality of the season as much as the sight of…PUMPKINS!!

Actually it was my lack of pumpkins that jolted me into an awareness of the season. There I was, the morning of Halloween, realizing that for the first time ever, I may not have a pumpkin to carve! Friends from church, oblivious to my anxiety, cleverly lured me out to breakfast; assuring me I would find orange orbs aplenty at the local Wal-Mart.

Imagine my considerable horror when the pumpkin bin at Wal-Mart was strewed only with several warty, downright scary looking gourds!! With literally minutes to spare before the closing bell, I raced over to the Farmer’s Market, not daring to hope what I’d find. Lo and behold, there, in the middle of the market, was a sea of the most beautiful, perfect pumpkins I’d ever seen. A bargain at only $3, or 2/$5, I chose two beauties and dragged them back to the car, to be turned into my best Jack O’ Lanterns ever!

No doubt about it, pumpkins are certainly an integral part of the fall foliage, as well as a traditional part of our fall and winter holidays. What other squash can claim the dual role of Halloween Jack ‘O Lantern and Thanksgiving dessert? I mean have you ever tried to carve a zucchini?

When the amazing pumpkin isn’t busy scaring trick-or-treaters off the front porch, it actually packs quite a nutritional punch. One cup of pumpkin puree boasts a modest 80 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrates, zero cholesterol, less than 1 gram of fat, a whopping 588 milligrams of potassium (move over banana!), 2.4 grams of protein, 20% RDA of Vitamin C and a hefty 310% RDA of Vitamin A. It’s also high in the “f” word:(fiber).

Unfortunately many traditional pumpkin recipes are doused with high fat ingredients: eggs, butter, and cream. They may be yummy, but not worth your arteries slamming shut. Try substituting lower fat ingredients in recipes so as not to negate the good nutritional impact of the pumpkin. Just in time for holiday feasting, here’s a skinnier version of pumpkin pie, one that rivals my mother’s heavier, more labor intensive version:

Light Pumpkin Cream Pie
1 prepared reduced-fat graham cracker crust
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
2 small packages sugar free instant vanilla pudding/pie filling
1 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 8-oz. container Cool Whip Free, divided