The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

"Extension Experts" Talk Pumpkin: Not just for Pies

Pumpkins are abundant this time of year...and so is the demand for Cooperative Extension nutrition experts.

"This is a busy time of year for SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educators in Pinal County.  The school districts love to include the SNAP-Ed program at their Harvest Festival events, where we set up a nutrition booth full of nutrition and physical activity information along with healthy snack samples and recipes to take home," says Cooperative Extension's Jennifer Staples, Senior Program Coordinator in Pinal County.

Staples is a nutrition educator under Cooperative Extension, working with the "SNAP-Ed" program, or "Supplemental Nutritional Education Program". 

SNAP-Ed is led by the Arizona Department of Health's Bureau of USDA Nutrition Programs which partners with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. The AzNN provides common nutrition messages using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Staples says they've had a "full plate" of activities this month, educating about nutrition, including talking about the popular pumpkin this time of year:

"The seeds and flesh of pumpkins are very nutritious.  They are low in calories, fat and sodium, and high in fiber which helps to 'clean your food tube'.  They are also rich in vitamins, protein and iron," Staples says.

And they're fairly easy to prepare.

"There are certain pumpkins that are recommended for use in cooking.  If available, look for “pie or sweet pumpkins” in your local supermarket.  These pumpkins are typically smaller than 'jack-o-lantern' pumpkins, and are sweeter and less watery.  The flesh of pumpkins can be boiled or steamed in a pot of water by cutting them into large chunks, then rinse in cold water.  If time allows, pumpkins can also be roasted flesh side down on a large cookie sheet in the oven, or even steamed in the microwave until fork tender.  Cooked pumpkin can then be pureed and used in place of canned pumpkin in your recipes," Staples says.

You can even use the seeds from your pumpkin, too.

"The seeds harvested from a pumpkin can be made into a tasty nutritious snack by roasting them on a cookie sheet in the oven with a little sprinkle of sea salt.  Once roasted, pumpkin seeds can be added to your favorite trail mix, muffin recipe, or simply eaten on their own," Staples says.

She also says you can use pureed pumpkin to make pancakes, muffins, breads or even a seasonal parfait.

Head here for some other ideas for healthy Halloween snacks, and nutritional information about pumpkin....
Click on "Resources"... and scroll down.

Click here to learn more about the SNAP-Ed program.