Pumpkin Pie – Lighten or Leave Out?

A very close view of a fresh pumpkin pie on a wood table top.

It’s a tradition this time of year – pumpkin. It often graces our holiday tables in the form of pie. While pumpkin pie may finish the traditional holiday meal, there are many benefits to incorporating pumpkin throughout the holiday season and beyond. After all, pumpkin flavors are everywhere – from coffee to bread to snacks and other desserts – but what nutrition does a pumpkin hold? Let’s take a look.

Pumpkins are made of 90% water and very high in vitamin A content (more than 200% of our daily recommended goals).  Vitamin A is essential to healthy vision and skin, as well as keeping immunity strong.  You can also find other beneficial nutrients in pumpkin, including fiber, vitamin C, iron and heart-healthy magnesium.  Whether you purchase a “pie-pumpkin”, a pumpkin that is small, sweet and easy to cook, or you purchase pumpkin for your pie or other recipes off the store shelf, it’s important to know the differences between the types of pumpkin you might see in the supermarket.

Type of Pumpkin Calories    Carbohydrates (grams)    Fiber (grams)
1 cup cubed, raw pumpkin 30 7.5 1
1 cup canned pumpkin 83 20 7
1 cup cooked, boiled, mashed pumpkin 49 12 3
1 cup canned pumpkin pie filling 281 71 22
1 slice of commercially prepared pumpkin pie       343 46 2
*Nutrient Database, USDA

Why the differences?  Raw pumpkin is just that, nothing added, so it will have the least amount of calories, carbs and fiber.  Canned or cooked pumpkin has a noticeable shift in carbohydrates and calories due to the mashing effect – the pumpkin in the cup is denser because it is mashed and pureed, more fitting into the cup (likely more evenly pureed in the commercial, canned form).  And the pumpkin pie mix in a can has cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger added and it is also sweetened with sugar, increasing the calories and carbohydrate content.

If you would like to cook your own pie pumpkin (also known as a sugar pumpkin), follow these easy steps:

  1. Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem and stringy pulp.
  2. Save the seeds to dry and roast.
  3. In a shallow baking dish, place two halves face down and cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 1-1/2 hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.  Scrape out flesh and use in your favorite recipe.

Keeping pumpkin pie as part of your holiday celebration is essential.  And when you are making your pumpkin pie, consider the following ideas to lighten up the calories and carbohydrates, especially for friends and family members who may have diabetes or are trying to maintain a healthy weight.

  • Use a graham cracker crust in place of the traditional pie crust
  • Reduce the portion size of the slice
  • Replace ½ the sugar with a low-calorie sweetener suitable for cooking at higher temperatures

With all the benefits of this traditional holiday fruit, it’s a must to keep pumpkin on the menu for longer than just the holiday season.  Try pumpkin bread or muffins, pumpkin soup or even pumpkin pancakes.  Use pumpkin throughout the year to add nutrients and flavor to your meals!



Jen Haugen, RDJen Haugen RD, LD is an award winning registered dietitian based in Austin, MN. She is currently writing her first book, focusing on growing healthier families through gardening and cooking together. She is also a media expert frequently appearing on ABC 6 News . In 2012, Jen was named Emerging Dietetic Leader in Minnesota by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She continues to be a leader in her field with her supermarket and media expertise, garden program development and nutrition experience. Reach Jen on Twitter @JenHaugen and check out her blog JenHaugen.com.

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November 25, 2015 Lifestyle Advice