Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween

By Jane Sylvestre, RD - 11/30/2015


                  You might think that now that Halloween & Thanksgiving are over, you are done with pumpkins.  In fact, pumpkins are a wonderful vegetable that should be enjoyed throughout the season.  Some people identify pumpkins as a fruit because they grow off a “tree” and have flesh and seeds.  In the nutrition world, pumpkins are still deemed a vegetable.  They are fairly low calorie because they are 90% water.  One cup of pumpkin will provide 83 Kcal, less than a gram of fat, 2 grams protein and 12 grams of carbohydrate.  If our patients are eating their protein first as they should be, they will not even be eating a whole cup of pumpkin, so all these numbers will be even lower.

You can eat pretty much the whole pumpkin including the flesh, seeds, blossoms and leaves.  Of course- not all at once!  The flesh can be boiled, steamed or roasted.  My favorite is roasted, cubed pumpkin with a drizzle of olive oil.  The seeds can be roasted or sautéed.  Our patients may have a difficult time with the husks on pumpkin seeds, but they can be bought without the white husks. Look in the nuts/seeds isle for small, flat, green pumpkin seeds.  This is what is under the husks and much easier to digest.  The blossoms add beautiful color and nutrients to any salad.  The leaves have a mild pumpkin taste and can be added to salads as well.  I saw a recipe for pumpkin leaves stuffed with cheese and then fried, but we probably shouldn’t go there!  Too many calories and too much fat.  Stick with healthier preparation methods. 

Have you ever tried pumpkin seed oil?  The oil is on the thicker side with a green / red color.  Perfect for Christmas!  HA!!!   Anyway, the flavor is very robust so it is better to mix it with other types of oil like safflower, sunflower or olive.  Pumpkin oil adds the benefit of Oleic and Linoleic acid which are essential fatty acids and good for your health. 

The pumpkin itself adds great nutritional benefit too.  Its orange color is a sign that it offers much Beta Carotene which is a precursor for vitamin A (made in the body.)  This vitamin promotes healthy vision, proper cell grown and improved immunity.  Maybe that is why pumpkins are a winter vegetable.  They help keep you healthy when you need it most!  In addition to the beta carotene, you get vitamin C (also for immunity), multiple B vitamins (folate, niacin, B6, thiamine & pantothenic acid).  The benefits don’t stop there.  You also get fiber, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.  How could you not include such a fabulous veggie? 

Some people might get intimated by buying a whole pumpkin at the super market.  Cooking a pumpkin is actually pretty easy.  First peel it and then dice it.  You can bake it, boil it, or roast it.  My favorite is roasted pumpkin.  I then bag it in small servings in freezer bags and have enough for multiple meals for a few weeks.  I have an awesome recipe for you to include more pumpkin, pack in the protein and enjoy pancakes again without any added starch.  See below:


Oven baked Pumpkin Protein Pancakes (Now that’s a tongue twister!)


2 ripe bananas

1 cup pumpkin

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

2 cups egg whites (OK to use liquid)


  1. Preheat oven to 375*
  2. Mix together bananas, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract well (a hand mixer works well.)
  3. Whisk together with eggs and egg whites (mix mostly by hand and then give it one final swirl with the electric mixer.)
  4. Spray two 8 X 8 inch pans or one large 9 X 13 inch pan with cooking oil.
  5. Use a measuring cup or scoop of some sort, divide the mixture evenly amongst the 2 pans.  It is important to go back and forth between each one because the pumpkin and banana may land at the bottom.  You don’t want all the eggs in one pan and pumpkin and banana in the other or again, you could just use one larger pan.
  6. Bake at 375* until pancakes are fully set, about 30 minutes.
  7. To crisp up the top like a traditional pancake, broil on low for 4-6 minutes.
  8. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  9. Enjoy!

Nutritional Analysis per Serving:

Calories: 195; total fat 5 grams, saturated fat 1.5 grams, sodium 269 mg, total carbohydrate 19 grams, dietary fiber 4 grams, sugars 10 grams, protein 20 grams.

Recipe from:  http://hungryhobby.net/2014/09/25/oven-baked-pumpkin-protein-pancakes/

Hope you get to enjoy more pumpkin, this recipe and the holidays too!    Best,  Jane


Reference: Today’s Dietitian, pp. 20-25, November, 2015.  

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