I know it’s only September but since Starbucks rolled out their pumpkin spice lattes weeks ago, it’s official: pumpkin season is in full swing. While pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin-flavored foods seem to get all the attention, pumpkin seeds—a bonafide superfood—are often overlooked and underutilized.
Perhaps it’s because many people don’t know how to eat pumpkin seeds, how to prepare them, or how to use them in their meals.
Fortunately, there are so many healthy, delicious ways to eat pumpkin seeds that my family loves—and yours will too.
In this post, I’ll cover:
- Pumpkin seeds nutrition
- How to prepare pumpkin seeds
- How to eat pumpkin seeds
- 23+ Healthy pumpkin seed recipes…and much more!
But first, let’s look at the health benefits of pumpkin seeds.
PUMPKIN SEEDS NUTRITION
Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, which in Spanish means “little seeds of squash,” are packed with nutrition and one of the healthiest foods you can serve your kids.
Packed with protein
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein— an ounce has nearly 7 grams. Protein gives kids energy and staves off hunger.
Protein also helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones.
Including protein at every meal also helps to keep blood sugar steady and prevent weight gain.
Related: 12 High Protein Foods for Kids
Filled with fiber
If your kids are like most and don’t get enough fiber in their diets from fruits and vegetables, serving pumpkin seeds can help fill some of the void.
Whole pumpkin seeds in their shells have about 5 grams of fiber per serving, while shelled pumpkin seeds have about 3 grams per serving.
Although the latter has less fiber, pair pumpkin seeds with a high-fiber fruit like an apple or a pear for example, and you’ve got a healthy snack.
Related: Healthy Kids’ Snacks: When, What and How Much
High in magnesium and other minerals
Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s responsible for several different biochemical processes in the body including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.
Magnesium also helps to support bone health, and it can help ease anxiety and may also improve sleep.
Related: 5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Makes Kids Happy
Pumpkin seeds are also high in iron, which the red blood cells need to transport oxygen throughout the body.
They’re also rich in zinc, which supports skin health, eye health, and may help boost your kids’ immunity and cut down on the number of times they get sick with colds, infections, or stomach bugs.
Related: [VIDEO] How to Boost Your Kids’ Immunity & 13 Probiotic Foods For Kids
May make bedtime easier
When you hear the word tryptophan, you probably think turkey—and that post-Thanksgiving dinner slump you get when you eat it.
Yet tryptophan is also found in pumpkin seeds.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and a happy mood.
So although there’s no guarantee, feeding your kids pumpkin seeds may help them sleep through the night and laugh more.
High in antioxidants
Pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, including carotenoids and vitamin E, which reduce inflammation and help to prevent many types of diseases.
Lower risk for type-2 diabetes and heart disease
According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 210,000 kids and teens under age 20 are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and experts agree, those numbers are on the rise.
Studies suggest along with a healthy diet and exercise, eating pumpkin seeds may prevent type-2 diabetes.
In fact, a February 2014 study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests eating pumpkin seeds can help maintain blood glucose levels.
Plus, a February 2012 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and be protective of the cardiovascular system.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant-based omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the heart-healthy, brain-healthy fats kids need in their diets.
Healthy fats are a vital source of energy for kids and help satisfy their hunger.
They’re also essential for healthy cell membranes, they support the brain and the nervous system, and help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Fat is also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and to help regulate inflammation and metabolism.
HOW MUCH PUMPKIN SEEDS TO EAT DAILY
Like any other food, there’s no “right” amount of pumpkin seeds to eat daily for kids.
According to MyPlate, 1/2 ounce of pumpkin seeds can be considered as a 1 ounce-equivalent from the protein foods group.
Also, keep in mind that nuts and seeds (chia seeds included) are a choking hazard for babies and toddlers.
Related: How To Safely Introduce Nuts To Your Baby
If your child is ready for solids, however, you can spread a small amount of pumpkin seed butter on fruit or toast, for example.
You can purchase pumpkin seed butter or make your own homemade version in the Vitamix or blender.
HOW TO PREPARE PUMPKIN SEEDS
While you can eat the pumpkin seeds you get from carving a pumpkin, there’s a process involved to make them edible.
1. First, scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin and put them in a bowl of water. Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp and rinse them in a colander under cold, running water.
2. Then, spread out the seeds in a single later on an oiled baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 300 degrees F to dry them out. You can also dry them out on a clean paper towel or kitchen towel for an hour.
3. The next step is to toss the pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and your choice of spices. Experiment with different types of flavors like cinnamon and sugar, paprika, dill, garlic (powder), cayenne pepper, and parsley.
4. Finally, return the pumpkin seeds to the oven and bake them for 20 minutes.
HOW TO EAT PUMPKIN SEEDS
There are so many healthy and delicious ways to eat them.
Eat pumpkin seeds as a snack
The great thing about pumpkin seeds for kids is that they’re portable, but they don’t have to be refrigerated or kept cool, and they’re allergy-safe for school.
You can toss plain pumpkin seeds with raisins, roast them with cinnamon and sugar (see my favorite pumpkin seeds recipe below!) or your kid’s favorite spices.
Or you can make a pumpkin seed salsa for a healthy and delicious snack.
Add pumpkin seeds to oatmeal
Incorporate pumpkin seeds into oatmeal, overnight oats, or baked oatmeal for a quick and easy breakfast.
Top muffins and breads with pumpkin seeds
There’s nothing better than fresh-from-the-oven muffins and breads, especially those made with pumpkin, apples, or pears. Mix some pumpkin seeds in the batter or sprinkle them on top and you have a little extra nutrition and texture too.
Use pumpkin seeds in granola
I love making homemade granola because I can control the ingredients and the amount of sugar, plus it’s super easy to make a large batch that can last you a while.
You can use pumpkin seeds in this recipe from Cookie and Kate which I made recently—it was gone in a few days!
Make homemade trail mix with pumpkin seeds
Trail mix can be a healthy snack option, but most types on store shelves are packed with salty nuts and seeds, load of dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips, and M&Ms.
Instead, make your own trail mix with pumpkin seeds—it’s quick and easy and the best part is that you get to control the ingredients and the portion size.
Make pumpkin seed butter
If you’re looking for an allergy-safe option for school lunches, try making pumpkin seed butter, which is simple to whip up in your blender or Vitamix.
You can also add pumpkin seed butter to smoothies, swirl it into yogurt, drizzle it on top of fruit, or serve it as a fruit dip.
Add pumpkin seeds to salads, soups, and side dishes
Pumpkin seeds can be tossed into about any type of meal and side dish. Think: vegetable stir-fry, roasted vegetables, rice and grain dishes, tacos, chilis, soups, and salads.
Prepare a pesto
Swap pine nuts for pumpkin seeds in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and delicious addition to steak, fish, or chicken or spread it on your favorite toasted baguette.
BEST PUMPKIN SEEDS TO BUY
If you’re not keen on carving a pumpkin for the pumpkin seeds and need a ready- to-go-option that you can eat as-is or roast with your favorite spices, there are plenty of healthy, store-bought brands. Some include:
PUMPKIN SEEDS PRICE
The cost of pumpkin seeds will vary between brands, if you buy them plain or flavored, and where you purchase them from.
Pumpkin seeds at the grocery store may cost more than those you can buy in bulk from a warehouse club or a membership-based online retailer like Thrive Market.
On Amazon, you can get a 14 oz package of Go Raw Pumpkin Seeds for $14.99 or a 16oz package of SuperSeedz Raw Pumpkin Seeds for $11.99, for example.
HEALTHY PUMPKIN SEED RECIPES
There are so many ways to use pumpkin seeds in your family’s meals and snacks. Here are 23 healthy pumpkin seed recipes.
Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies – from Leelalicious
Pumpkin Seed Nut Bread – from Running To The Kitchen
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Seed Waffles With Blueberry Thyme Compote – from Steele House Kitchen
Greek Yogurt Breakfast Bowl With Blueberries & Pumpkin Seeds – from Know Your Produce
Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats – from Eating Bird Food
Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup – from Cookie + Kate
Zippy Lemon Cauliflower Rice With Garlic and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds – from Low Carb, So Simple!
Pepita Basil Pesto – from My Casual Pantry
Pumpkin Seed Enchiladas – from Mexico In My Kitchen
Healthy Broccoli Salad With Creamy Avocado Dressing (kid-friendly!) – from Get Inspired Everyday
Roasted Carrots with Maple Tahini Sauce & Pumpkin Seeds – from Simply Gluten Free
Pumpkin Seed Veggie Burgers – from Sunkissed Kitchen
Vegan Sweet Potato Soup – from Veggies Don’t Bite
Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad – from Little Broken
Pumpkin Hummus – from Kim’s Cravings
Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds With Cinnamon – from Bless This Mess Please
Sunny Pumpkin Seed Guacamole – from Healthy Happy Life
Garlic Parmesan Roasted Pumpkin Seeds – from Mom Endeavors
Pumpkin Bark – from Minimalist Baker
Cinnamon Pumpkin Seed Butter – from Momables
Pumpkin Seed Granola – from Detoxinista
Seeds & Berries Snack – from Super Healthy Kids
Mini Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Candy Peanut Butter Cups – from Half Baked Harvest
MY FAVORITE PUMPKIN SEEDS RECIPE
My daughter loves roasted cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds and although I’ve purchased them in the past, they can get pricey, so recently I made them for her.
I used this recipe for Cinnamon Toast Pumpkin Seeds but swapped out the white sugar for coconut sugar (I like Madhava).