Who doesn't love pumpkin pie?
Making it dairy-free and sugar-free is the ultimate win. This Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding is incredibly delicious and satisfying, and so wholesome you can eat it as or with any meal. Junk-free and nutrient dense, this spin on the fall favorite is good all year-round.
Let's talk about my relationship with pumpkin.
I love pumpkin. Not like the "Oooh, it's October and time for pumpkin spice lattes!" kinda love. I don't like pumpkin flavored things, I like real pumpkin and the sweet and flavorful spices that pair so well with it. This Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding is the perfect balance of real pumpkin and warm spices.
**Warning - Food quantity and restrictive eating behaviors are discussed below. Please skip to the recipe if you are triggered by ED topics**
Back in my early 20's, I ate a very restrictive diet. At this time I was slowing beginning to develop an interest in nutrition, but I was still throws of an eating disorder that lasted most of my early adulthood. Eventually, most people get to a point where they begin to care more about their health and well-being than what people think of them. I wasn't quite there yet.
This particularly phase was incredibly restrictive. I had a constantly waxing and waning desire to eat foods that would be considered healthy vs. a desire to choose foods that were strictly low calorie. My diet was reigned in by a set of self-imposed restrictions and limited to about 20 or so different foods.
A normal day would consist of one packet of oatmeal, 10-18 raw almonds, one brazil nut, one banana, 2 apples, spinach with mustard, and a dollop of fat-free yogurt with one cup of blueberries... not that I was counting or anything [but I was].
And, for lunch EVERY SINGLE DAY. I would eat pumpkin. Yes, just pumpkin.
I would add cinnamon and Splenda (give me a break, people, this was almost 8 years ago), and I would bring it with me to work. Did this look odd? Oh, abso-freaking-lutely it looked odd. My coworkers joked about my strange food choices every day, but I was just so pleased with the fact that I could eat something that looked almost like an appropriate adult-size portion of food for 175 calories [again, who's counting?].
And, I actually enjoyed it to boot. Not as much as I would have likely enjoyed a proper meal, but that's another conversation entirely. It was one of the few things in my diet that I actually found pleasure in eating. If pureed pumpkin is the high point of your weekly menu, something is seriously wrong. I loved it so much that this went on for months.
What happens when you eat the same thing for months?
I kid you not, I turned orange. Like Oompa Loompa, no joke, ORANGE! My palms looked like I had stayed up all night finger painting Jack-o-lanterns.
My diet was restrictive and lacked variety, and you could literally see that.
I didn't even notice my flesh was changing color until someone pointed it out to me. I was immediately terrified I had jaundice. Was my liver failing? If any of you all know me, you would know that I am a hypochondriac to rule all hypochondriacs. I am terrified of developing a disease of any kind, so I was certain I had done something damaging to my health.
I then did some research and found out that if you eat too much beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A found in dark green, red and orange fruit and vegetables (like pumpkin!), you will start to excrete the orange pigment through your skin. Because I ate spinach and pumpkin daily for months, my body was getting way too much beta-carotene. My body protecting me by removing the excessive vitamin precursor in the most effective way before it became problematic. So, I was bad-spray-tan orange for the foreseeable future.
I guess you are what you eat.
I did return to my normal skin pigmentation eventually. And, I still eat pureed pumpkin to this day, but, its not the only food I eat. I sweeten it with stevia or coconut sugar now, and I sure as hell don't call it a meal.
At this time in my life where I was eating well below my caloric needs, and eating the same foods every week, I was at a particular low point in my health. My mood swings were wild, I slept horribly, I was anxious (about literally everything), I had dull hair, I got sick ALL the time, I was so incredibly tired, and I would take a handful of vitamins and caffeine pills in the morning on an empty stomach and wondered why I still felt like garbage. Without giving my body what it needed both in micro and macronutrients I wasn't able to achieve any mental or physical stability. My body was always in need of something that I stubbornly (and stupidly) refused give it.
Of course, I didn't just eat more food and suddenly the stars aligned and everything in my life was better. That is not how these things work. Still at 27 I am making steps towards finding balance in my diet and achieving a better relationship with food.
If you wake everyday with a struggle, tired and groggy, if you wake up with pain, and your immune system is over or under active, if you have mood swings, and you just generally don't feel healthy (or maybe you don't know what healthy feels like because you've felt like shit so long), then it may be time to evaluate your diet and other daily habits. You may need to attempt to eliminate the unnecessary things that are taxing or repetitive, or causing unnecessary mental stress. This may also be a good time to seek out professional help from a good functional medical practitioner, therapist, dietitian or nutrition therapy practitioner. By examining the underlying issues in your health, and actively working towards creating a health promoting diet and lifestyle, you may be able to improve your overall quality of life. And, it is certainly worth of shot if you don''t like feeling like garbage.
Lesson 1 of this story: Variety in your diet is so, so important.
Eat ALL the colors. Eat carbs, fats and protein. Don't count your calories if you don't have to. And, for God's sake, don't turn orange. Fools turn orange.
Lesson 2: Pumpkin is fantastic, both in flavor and nutrition. Just don't eat it every day.
Pumpkin is nutrient dense (specifically high in beta-carotene) and a great way to add fiber to your diet, but it shouldn't be the bulk of your diet.
Lesson 3: If you like pumpkin half as much as I do, you are going to love this Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding.
This Pumpkin Pie Paleo Chia Pudding is an excellent choice for breakfast or dessert because it tastes indulgent but is perfectly healthy and nutrient dense.
Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A (obviously, from the story above), potassium and natural plant fiber, which is generally better for your digestion than added fiber or fiber from grains. It has a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin C and B6.
Because pumpkin is rich in potassium, it may help with blood pressure regulation and reduction. The combination of protein, fat, and fiber with the complex carbs in the pumpkin allows for a slow release of sugar into the bloodstream. Sweetened with stevia, this dessert is ideal for people who struggle with blood glucose control or just crave steady energy.
The spices in this recipe are sweet and warming, and the ginger and pecans add something unique to the texture. You can make this treat more decadent by using lite or full fat canned coconut milk or opting for maple syrup, soaked dates or coconut sugar as a sweetener. If using full-fat cconut milk, remember that the fat in the coconut milk will solidify in the fridge. Or, to make it lighter use unsweetened almond milk and stevia.
Other ideas for toppings: Coconut chips, walnuts, dates, cinnamon roasted nuts, paleo granola or whatever else that has that sweet and toasty flavor that you happen to have in your cupboard.
Enjoy this easy Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding in the fall, or anytime really.
Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup almond or coconut milk
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp maca powder optional
- 1 pinch sea salt
- to taste maple syrup, coconut sugar, or stevia
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp crystallized ginger, chopped optional
- 1 tbsp pecans, crushed optional
- Add pumpkin, milk, spices and sweeten to a bullet or blender. Blend several seconds until smooth.
- Pour contents of the blender into a jar. Add chia seeds. Cover jar with lid. Agitate until seeds are suspended in the liquid.
- Place in fridge for at least 10 minutes (longer the better). Shake jar several times while waiting, and before serving.
- Remove from the fridge, pour into a bowl, and top with crystallized ginger and pecans or whatever toppings you choose.