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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Pumpkin Day

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Pumpkin Day

Learn how pumpkin can be a tasty and nutritious addition to your kid’s diet with these meal ideas!

Did you know that pumpkin’s bright orange health-enhancing antioxidants can be easily included in your snacks and meals?

Behind that smile of the Jack O’ Lantern lies a delicious vegetable that provides a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin A and fiber and has only 40 calories per half-cup serving. Pumpkin is much more than a Halloween must-have, it’s a nutrient-rich and versatile vegetable rich in carotenoids, which are responsible for the bright orange color and also are health-enhancing antioxidants. Beta-carotene is important for maintaining healthy eyes, lungs, heart function and circulation. Pumpkin seeds are packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant plant power, making superfood food!


  • Start your day with a stack of pumpkin pancakes topped with vanilla yogurt, applesauce or your favorite syrup.
  • Some kids like their pancakes plain so they can roll them up and eat them out-of-hand.
  • See Healthy Pumpkin Pancake Recipe below or just add about 1/3 cup canned pumpkin for every 1 1/2 cup of whole-grain pancake mix.
  • Be sure to stock your pantry with canned pumpkin year round, it’s a great way to sneak in added veggies.

Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 1/2 cup white or whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk (or low-fat), plus
    extra if needed for correct consistency
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Stir together the flours, sugar, flax, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda in a small mixing bowl and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, using a whisk, blend the buttermilk, egg, oil and pumpkin puree until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until combined, but do not over beat. Add a little extra buttermilk if needed to make the batter the proper consistency. Cook as you would for regular pancakes. Makes 8 pancakes.

Pumpkin Day Outing

Head to your local pumpkin patch to choose jack-o-lanterns, go on a hayride or enjoy other seasonal pleasures outside. Pack a picnic lunch if you like, and if there’s a farmers’ market or cider-press near the pumpkin patch, be sure to visit and select some additional fall specialties. Make sure to purchase pasteurized cider. Consider purchasing a cooking pumpkin and trying your hand at homemade pumpkin puree.

Making Pumpkin Puree

  • First, choose a cooking pumpkin with good color and no soft spots or cracks.
  • Be aware that cooking pumpkins are small. Big jack-o-lantern pumpkins are tough, stringy and don’t have great flavor.
  • Next, wash, skin and remove the seeds before cooking the pumpkin, then mash or puree.

Cooking with Pumpkin

It’s a shame that more people don’t eat pumpkin year ’round because whether you get your pumpkin from a can or from the squash itself, it makes a nutritious and tasty add-in to a wide variety of dishes:

  • Baked goods like muffins, cookies, and pancakes
  • Soups like butternut squash-pumpkin soup or this Pumpkin and Apple Soup with Creamy Goat Cheese
  • Potato dishes
  • Pasta – like pumpkin ravioli or tortellini
  • Healthy desserts, like no-crust pumpkin pie.

While cooking pumpkins (sometimes called “sugar” pumpkins) can be found in the fall and winter months, using canned pumpkin delivers the same nutrition plus pantry convenience. When buying canned pumpkin, be sure to choose regular pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which has added ingredients and is really only suitable for pie.

Carving Your Pumpkins? Keep The Seeds!

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a tasty jack-o-lantern bonus, and they’re some of the most nutritious seeds around. Pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidant carotenoids, healthy omega-3 fats and fiber, and also provide a wide range of nutrients, including protein, iron, and a variety of health-promoting plant compounds called phytosterols. Roasted seeds make a great on-the-go snack or addition to salads, trail mix and cookies.

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

  • Place washed and drained seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
  • Roast at 160 -170 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  • Spice or salt as desired.

Pumpkin seeds are also tasty in homemade trail mix.

Note: pumpkin seeds can be a choking hazard to children. Consider letting young children taste one or two of the roasted seeds, but set the rest aside for older children and adults.

Read to your kids one our favorite books, A Pumpkin Soup Story, then try making pumpkin soup together or one of the recipes above.

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About the Author

Picture of Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, LD

Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, LD

Kitty is a food and nutrition communications professional with over 25 years of experience. In addition to writing, Kitty’s scope of work includes consulting, recipe development and menu consultation, web content development, product development consultation and serving as a member of scientific advisory groups. She is an adjunct instructor in the Dietetic Technology Department at Southern Maine Community College and is currently serving her second term as the President of the Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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