Pumpkin is quickly becoming a popular flavor in a lot of different foods especially for individuals who may be looking for a healthier alternative for more traditional sweets.

Megan Marshall, owner of Total Nutrition in Sherman, said the pumpkin makes a good healthier flavor alternative to some of the more traditional sweet treat flavoring option

She said it is a great ingredient for those with a sweet tooth looking to cut down on the sugar.

“The best alternative is to stick with your regular recipe but swap out ingredients,” Marshall said. “For a cheesecake, maybe use a fat free cream cheese. For other desserts, you can use apple sauce instead of oils. Some recipes call for a whole egg. You can use egg whites instead. It depends on the recipe, but you get basically the same product and it can take out some of the unnecessary fats and carbs.”

Marshall sells a pumpkin smoothie that uses almond milk, dried pumpkin, cinnamon, and a protein powder to offer a lower calorie alternative dessert. She also suggested swapping out almond or cashew milk for whole milk or going with the lowest fat milk when making a healthier chocolate milk. For flour, she suggested replacing white flour with a coconut or almond flower.

She also shared an easy peanut butter cookie that uses one cup of peanut butter, a low calorie sweetener and a single egg.

For cakes, she said a trick to keep the sweetness without the sugar is to replace the sugar in the recipe with a can of Diet Coke and it will add flavor to the mix without adding calories.

“We have something called G-butter,” Marshall said. “It is a high protein, low calorie spread. It comes in nine different flavors including a pumpkin spice. If you microwave it for 30 seconds it turns into a pumpkin spice cake. It is a low carb, low sugar and high protein treat. It is a great alternative to ice cream or a pie that contains pumpkin and helps with the sweet craving.

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Family and Community Health Agent Joyce White said the biggest trick to eating healthier and losing weight is not so much what you eat but the amount.

Portion control is key. The recommended portion is half of the plate should contain fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein and the rest breads and grains.

“If people keep portions normal, it is a whole lot easier not to over eat,” White said. “We encourage fruits and vegetables as that is where we get a lot of our fiber and minerals. That doesn’t mean you can’t have desserts. There are great desserts out there especially this time of year. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin mousse, pumpkin parfait — those are popular. Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A which is important for our healthy skin and our eyesight. It is also good for healthy teeth.”

White said it is important to avoid things high in sugar, and while pie is great, a little bit goes a long way.

“The hard part is moderation,” White said. “It is okay to have the pie. Just a small slice is sufficient. That doesn’t mean a small slice every hour either. There needs to be some good judgment.”

White said when it comes to people with diabetes, a common reason for needing to cut sugar, the amount of carbs is more important than the sugars. She said carbs basically turn into sugar, and someone recently diagnosed will often focus too much on the sugars. The trick is keeping it balanced enough to still get fruits which are high in sugars and contain essential vitamins, she said.

White said adding fresh fruit with low fat yogurt is another great choice for snacks and desserts. She said parfaits, including a pumpkin parfaits, can add variety. She suggested pumpkin pie over pecan pie but recommended holding off the whipped topping or going for a low fat alternative. Sweet potato pie and butternut squash pie are others her family enjoyed that she said has a similar taste to pumpkin pie.

“In old family favorites, try to limit the fats and sugars,” White said. “Can you substitute some applesauce or prune puree for some of the fat? Consider Evaporated skim milk instead of regular evaporated milk and works as a good substitute for cream in many recipes. It works well in cream pies as well.”