It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is right around the corner. That means it’s time for some of my favorite fall foods including pumpkin pie! Not only is it a delicious treat, it packs a powerful nutritional punch of Vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene, providing 311% of the Daily Value per ½ cup). It’s also a great treat to “hack” for American Diabetes Month, as you can cut the carbs and sugar content of the recipe using low-calorie sweeteners (recipe below).

Unfortunately for pumpkin pie lovers, there is a shortage of sugar pumpkins this year (the kind you need to make pumpkin pie). Due to record rainfalls in the central Illinois area (where 90% of the pumpkins in the U.S. come from) crop yields will be much lower than usual. Living in Illinois, I am very familiar with the extra-rainy weather we’ve had. I have seen those pumpkin fields myself, driving by them several times on my way to my mom’s house. So when I heard about the shortage, I wasn’t surprised. I remember another rainy season a few years back when we couldn’t make our holiday pumpkin pies. Even though there might be enough canned pumpkin on the grocery store shelves now, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you might find those shelves bare.

The good news is that you can make pumpkin pie with other ingredients such as butternut squash. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Switching pumpkin for squash? She must be out of her “gourd”. Surprisingly, butternut squash has a sweeter flavor than sugar pumpkins, so your pie might even turn out better than usual. Simply use the same amount of butternut squash puree as you would use pumpkin puree. Here is a simple recipe for making pumpkin puree – just use butternut squash instead. But don’t worry that it won’t be as nutritious as pumpkin. Butternut squash also packs a powerful punch of Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, providing 233% of the Daily Value of Vitamin A per ½ cup. And it’s an excellent source of Vitamin C, too, providing 25% of the Daily Value per ½ cup.

I tried this with my son and discovered that not only is the butternut squash sweeter, it’s much easier to work with than pumpkin. It was easier to get the seeds/pulp out before roasting and easier to scoop out after roasting.

pumpkin puree on left, butternut squash on right








We decided to make three different pies and do a taste test! We compared roasted pumpkin, roasted butternut squash and canned pumpkin…

top left: roasted pumpkin, top right: butternut squash, bottom: canned pumpkin




The Contenders

Ready to taste!


The winner is….Butternut Squash!



















And since November is American Diabetes Month, I have another modification I suggest for people with diabetes (or anyone wanting to cut back on their sugar and/or carbohydrate intake). Using a low calorie sweetener in place of the sugar in the recipe can save you about 90 calories and 25 grams of carbohydrate per serving (1/8 of a pie). Any sweetener designed for baking will work, such as sucralose.

Check out a recipe from dietitian Jamila Renee for “Skinny Pumpkin Pie” that includes recipe substitutions for pumpkin puree and sugar.

We know that low calorie sweeteners are safe. We know they can help support weight control. We know that carbohydrate control is key for people with diabetes.

So, no need to forego your pumpkin pie or other pumpkin-based treats this fall. Try these simple substitutions and you may never want to go back to your old recipe again!



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