PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s that time of year when pumpkin spice is a popular item, but there’s a warning from nutritionists as not all pumpkin spice is created equal.
It’s pumpkin season, ripe for Halloween and Thanksgiving, and all the treats made with pumpkin – everything from pie and cookies to coffee drinks and donuts.
Pumpkin itself is filled with nutrients like beta carotene, niacin, vitamins and plus it’s low in fat and high in fiber.
However, nutritionists are warning people that there can be a big difference between plain pumpkin and pumpkin spice.
“Pumpkin spice products are usually just going to have that pumpkin flavor, so the spice flavor, but really, you’re not going to get the actual nutritional value from unless there’s any real pumpkin,” said Kate Patton, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. “So you won’t get the beta carotene and you won’t get the fiber that real pumpkin has.”
Items that contain pumpkin spice can be loaded with unhealthy ingredients. It’s advised that when purchasing canned pumpkin for baking, pay close attention to whether the product is true pureed pumpkin or pumpkin-pie filling.
“You want to look for just the plain canned pumpkin. So, if you read the ingredient list, it should just say pumpkin,” explained Patton. “Compared to the pumpkin-pie filling, you’re going to get a lot of extra, usually some sugars, as well as the spices, which are good, but the pumpkin-pie filling often has the sugar in it too.”
One way to avoid the pumpkin pitfall is to bake your own treats using the real thing and don’t forget the seeds. Like nuts, pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein and unsaturated fats, including omega-3.
Among the more popular pumpkin spice items is a latte from Starbucks. A standard 16-ounce serving has 380 calories and 50 grams of sugar. You can get non-fat to lower the calories, but you can’t get it skinny, without sugar. Apparently, that’s in the flavoring and therein lies the issue.