For folks who love pumpkin spice, the most wonderful time of the year is when this delicious autumnal blend makes an appearance in lattes, martinis and just about everything else. But is there such a thing as healthy pumpkin spice? If you consider the ingredients on these sweet, frothy beverages, you might not be so sure. The standard 16-ounce coffee shop pumpkin spice latte, made with 2 percent milk and topped with whipped cream, contains about 380 calories, as well as 13 grams of fat and more than 12 teaspoons of sugar.
But you don’t need to miss out on the season’s pumpkin spice offerings altogether. Healthy pumpkin spice options abound, and the spice blend itself brims with health benefits. Here’s how to enjoy fall’s favorite flavor without the guilt that comes with it.
A Blend of Benefits
Pumpkin spice itself isn’t unhealthy. It’s the additives, like high-fat milk and sugary syrup, that you need to watch out for. Indeed, the spices that make up this blend — ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice — are rich in nutrients. Nutmeg contains B vitamins and fiber; ginger is rich in iron, potassium and zinc; and ground cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory effects.
A Lighter Latte
If you just can’t let your latte go, consider whipping up a homemade healthy pumpkin spice version for yourself and your friends. Start with 1 cup of water, then add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin puree, 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a saucepan. Whisk the mixture, then let it simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. After removing the mixture from the heat, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. For the frothy topper, heat 3 cups of 1 percent milk over medium heat, then whisk until foamy. Mix 4 tablespoons of the pumpkin syrup with 1 cup of strongly brewed coffee until dissolved, then top with 1/2 cup of foamed milk. This recipe makes six lattes, so there’s plenty to share or save for later.
Other Healthy Fall Recipes
If you’re not a fan of coffee or want to skip the sugar altogether, there are even more ways to enjoy healthy pumpkin spice. Like tea? Sample one of the many pumpkin spice-flavored teas on the market; most of them are calorie-free (unless you add milks or sweeteners). You can also toss pumpkin spice blend on freshly popped popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds or your favorite nuts. It’s also a delicious topping on fall-inspired soups, such as butternut squash and pumpkin. Pumpkin spice also makes for a tasty addition to muffins, cookies, cakes or pancakes — just make sure to check your recipes so you’re not overdoing the sugars and fats. For more healthy fall recipes — including, yes, more healthy pumpkin spice recipes — consult a Lahey Health nutritionist.