Pumpkin spice season is once again upon us, a flavor no longer relegated to Starbucks drinks. From energy bars to oatmeal to various nut butters, it seems like pumpkin spice has seized some of our most cherished staples. But pumpkin spice flavors (typically a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves) aren’t just for sugary lattes and boxed cereals of questionable nutritional value that rarely actually contain any real pumpkin. Brands are now coming up with creative ways to cater to all of our limited-edition fall cravings in ways that don’t betray health goals and nutritional wellbeing.
And from a health perspective, it’s a smart move to include more pumpkin in your diet while it’s abundant. The autumn stalwart is chock-full of beta-carotene, a critical antioxidant linked with improved brain functioning and a lower risk for diabetes. You should know that beta-carotene can also be converted to vitamin A in the body for better bone and immune health.
When all things “pumpkin spice” is a la mode, consider these healthier food items and recipes your go-to ways to fuel up to keep running strong this fall.
The Healthiest Pumpkin Products
These bars are packed with ingredients you would generally find in your own kitchen and deliver just the right amount of seasonal flavor with a chewy caramel texture. Egg whites are a clever and whole-food approach to boosting protein numbers. Bonus: RXBARs have no added sugars — rare in the wide world of energy bars.
Perfect for busy mornings, this just-add-hot-water oatmeal cup is supercharged with nutrient-dense seeds and the higher protein whole grains quinoa and amaranth. Flavor comes from real pumpkin spices, not mystery ‘natural flavors.’
The brand best known for their 100% oat bars delivers snack-sized deliciously chewy whole grain bites that taste as good as anything your grandma is baking up this fall. They are also portioned right to bring along to fuel your long cool-weather runs.
Imagine pumpkin pie in a mug. This drink blend contains real dried and powdered organic pumpkin along with a collection of warming spices giving it a nutritional leg-up on most overly sweet coffee shop p-spice drinks. They recommend adding a shot of espresso, which is a move we can fully endorse. Not just for warm drinks, you can add the powder to oatmeal, blend into post-run smoothies, or stir into yogurt.
This Icelandic-style thick and creamy yogurt made with pumpkin puree is packed with protein and gut-friendly bacteria and is spiced just right. Try dipping in apple slices for pure snacking satisfaction.
A unique seasonal treat, pumpkin spiced ice cream is wrapped up in Japanese-style mochi dough. At a very reasonable 90 calories in a portion (although, let’s be realistic and assume you’ll be reaching for 2 mochi which comes in at 180 calories), this frost-bite is less likely to lead to waistline repercussions than most pumpkin-spice flavored frozen treats on the market.
Made with whole grain and pumpkin powders and with 10 grams of protein per serving, this just-add-water pancake and waffle mix will help satisfy all your pumpkin spice cravings and keep you feeling full until lunch. Serve with dollops of yogurt, a generous handful of berries and, of course, a drizzle of maple syrup.
An infusion of real pumpkin spices makes peanut butter even better. Beyond your morning toast, you’ll want to slather it on everything to bring joy to your day. You win with 6 grams of plant-based protein in a 2 tablespoon serving.
Definitely not your traditional sweet pumpkin spice product, this jarred sauce, containing a blend of pumpkin, San Marzano tomatoes and carrot puree, will make pasta even more of a comfort food.
Crunchy and chewy at once, these lower-sugar bars have an excellent balance of carbs, fat, and protein to energize your fall running routine. This bar tastes like the lovechild of pumpkin pie and sweet caramel. Bonus: solid source of fiber.
Forgo the coffee shop line-up for the overpriced syrupy stuff with this pour-over set containing a blend of Vietnamese coffee grounds and all the cherished pumpkin spices. When past iced coffee season, think of this as a seasonal way to get your pre-run caffeine fix.
Smash some nut butter and jam between these toaster-ready whole-grain mini waffles for an ultra-quick and incredibly delicious breakfast sandwich you’ll love waking up for. The hint of cinnamon and nutmeg will add a cozy gastronomic ambiance to chilly fall mornings.
These soft-baked protein cookies offer up 8 grams of plant-based protein and 5 grams of satiating fiber per half cookie serving (yes, that is the most reasonable serving size, so split the rest with your running buddy), making them a treat without all the less-than-healthy tricks.
This seasonal addition to this brand’s line-up of dairy-free cream cheeses is made with almond milk and pumpkin puree. With a reasonable 60 calories in a 2 tablespoon serving, spread it generously on a warm bagel, your pumpkin waffles or whole strawberries for added decadent flavor.
Jonesing for a post-training shake that tastes more in line with the season? Then blend in this pumpkin spice flavored powder which delivers 20 grams of recovery-stimulating protein in each scoop. You can also add it to your morning coffee (protein coffee seems to be a thing now) or try making a batch of the brand’s protein pumpkin spice bars.
Best Pumpkin Recipes
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bowl
Serve for dessert or post-run recovery nourishment. Or scatter on some granola along with the nuts and call it breakfast.
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced pecans or chopped walnuts
In a container, stir together cottage cheese, milk, pumpkin, chia seeds, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Divide pudding among serving bowls and top with nuts.
Makes 2 Servings
Use as a dip or a fanciful sandwich spread. Also, slather on rice cakes and sprinkle with dried cranberries for a seasonal snack.
1 (14 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons tahini
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Place chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor container and blend until nearly smooth. Add pumpkin, honey, paprika, salt, cumin and cinnamon to the container and blend until smooth.
Pumpkin Pie Energy Balls
These are a delicious and nutritious way to power your day.
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup pecans, almonds or walnuts
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of salt
Place dates in a bowl, cover with warm water and let them soak for 30 minutes. Next, place nuts and oats in a food processor container and pulse until pulverized. Add drained dates and remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture clumps together. Using damp hands, form into 1-inch balls. You should get about 16 balls. Chill in an airtight container to firm up.
Hot Pumpkin Smoothie
After a nippy run, this recovery smooth is sure to warm you to your bones. The smoothie can be made ahead of a workout and kept warm in an insulated drink container such as Hydro Flask.
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup milk powder or coconut milk powder
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (or 1 cup cooked cubed pumpkin)
1 small banana
1 scoop plain or vanilla protein powder of choice
2 teaspoons almond butter or peanut butter
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (omit if using vanilla protein)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Heat water in a kettle to just under a boil. Place hot water in a blender along with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Makes 1 Serving
Wake up your post-run Sunday breakfast routine with these nutrition-packed waffles. No waffle maker? The same batter can be used to rustle up a batch of pancakes.
1 1/4 cups oat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plain Greek or Skyr yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, stir together oat flour, almond flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, Greek yogurt and vanilla.
Grease a waffle iron, place 1/3 cup batter for each waffle onto the waffle iron and cook until golden and set, 3 to 5 minutes. Keep waffles warm in a 200°F oven while you prepare the remaining batter. Makes 4 Servings
DIY Pumpkin Spice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
In a small bowl or jar, combine all of the spices. Stir to combine and keep sealed tight for up to 6 months.