Add Flavor with Pumpkin

By: Jen Haugen, RDN, LD —

The weather is cooling, the leaves are changing, and pumpkins are sitting on doorsteps…you know what that means – it’s Halloween season. A favorite holiday for many children, and adults, alike, Halloween is a food-centered holiday that is rated number one in candy sales in America.  But don’t let the candy trick you into unhealthy eating habits that last for three months, instead, focus on fall fruits and vegetables that you can add to your seasonal fall meals.  You might even find Pumpkin Chili a must for Halloween night.

How can you add some fall flavor into your family mealtimes this season?  Use pumpkin!  Try these ideas:

Pumpkin Spice

This spice is most typically a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and occasionally allspice, making this spice a unique flavor enhancer, that often times adds a sense of sweetness to your favorite desserts, beverages, and even savory dishes.  Try using this spice in a warm bowl of oatmeal in place of part of the brown or white sugar that often gets added to hot cereals.  Try adding a measure into pancake batter or season your roasted vegetables or popcorn.


Canned pumpkin is surprisingly versatile, making it a wonderful addition to your meals.  Pumpkin can take the place of other fruits in your smoothie (along with some pumpkin pie spice) and can even be an ingredient in a dessert-like hummus.  With hummus, the mixture of garbanzo beans along with pumpkin and spices can be topped with pumpkin seeds for a mid-afternoon snack.  Pumpkin can also be a part of pasta sauce or even soups, stews and chili.

If you would like to add a little sweetness to your favorite pumpkin recipes, consider using a low-calorie sweetener like aspartame.  It’s a low sugar way to add flavor without adding extra calories.  Discovered in 1965, aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Aspartame is unique among low-calorie sweeteners in that it is completely broken down by the body into its components – the amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and a small amount of methanol. These components are found in much greater amounts in common foods, such as meat, milk, fruits, and vegetables, and are used by the body in the same ways whether they come from aspartame or common foods.

And know that aspartame is a safe food to use as it is one of the most thoroughly studied food ingredients ever, with more than 200 scientific studies supporting its safety. More than 100 countries have reviewed aspartame and found it to be safe for use.

Enjoy this recipe as a Halloween warm-up, or make it throughout the fall season!

Pumpkin Chili

Serves 6 (1-cup servings)


  • 1 pound extra lean ground turkey
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 (15 ounce) jar black bean and corn salsa, medium heat
  • 1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes with sweet onion
  • Toppings: cheddar cheese, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, sliced green onions


  1. In a large, deep sauté pan, brown turkey with garlic over medium-low heat, breaking up turkey into smaller pieces during cooking.  Cook until meat reaches a temperature of 165 degrees.
  2. Add chili powder, cumin and oregano.  Stir in until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add water, pumpkin puree, salsa and tomatoes.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with desired toppings.


An award-winning dietitian, Jen Haugen, RDN, LD, is the author of the new book, “The Mom’s Guide to a Nourishing Garden.”  Jen specializes in inspiring moms to create the recipe to a nourishing life through gardening, good food, family, and faith. Her TEDx Talk, “How Moms Can Change the World”, features two simple ideas that can transform a family. Connect with her at www.jenhaugen.com or on Twitter @jenhaugen.

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faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.

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