On the Table: Pumpkin, pecan pies face off for nutrition title

CorrespondentNovember 26, 2013 


While a low-fat Thanksgiving meal is not going to happen, fat and calories can be trimmed here and there. A pumpkin pudding, essentially pumpkin pie filling without the crust which is the fatty culprit, makes a great dessert.


In the pie-eat-more-pie world of holiday meals, you’ve got choices. So what happens in a pie face-off? If you pit pumpkin against pecan, slice to slice, which comes out ahead … nutritionally?

It’s worth examination. Both have value, since their main ingredients – pumpkin and pecans – are by themselves highly nutritious foods.

But you can’t ignore the whammy of crust and added sugars. Acknowledging that recipes vary, I used the USDA online nutrient database, figuring each slice at one-eighth of a 9-inch pie.

By my family’s standards, that’s a sliver. But, in any case, let’s start with pumpkin.

The main ingredient in pumpkin pie filling is, not surprisingly, pumpkin. Milk, sugar, eggs, salt and spices round out the recipe. The filling is essentially a pumpkin pudding poured into a single crust pie shell.

One slice comes in at 316 calories. For that, you get 7 grams of protein and nearly all the vitamin A you need in a day – a nice little holiday gift.

But you also get 349 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of saturated fat and 65 milligrams of cholesterol. It’s actually not so bad.

You get 41 grams of carbohydrate, though much of it is from a vegetable. All told, the biggest drawback to pumpkin pie is the calories, followed by the sodium content.

Next up: pecan pie. The main ingredients are pecans, sugar, butter, salt and eggs.

Here you’re looking at a cool 503 calories per slice. That comes with 9 grams of protein and more than 40 percent of your daily need for manganese.

But you also get 320 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of saturated fat and 106 milligrams of cholesterol.

You get 64 grams of carbohydrate, mostly from corn syrup.

In my tally, pumpkin edges out pecan because it’s got substantially fewer total calories and fewer empty calories from sugar.

Make it even better by serving pumpkin pudding – just the filling – without the crust. And if you add whipped cream or ice cream, make it a dab.

And remember, those slices, especially the way we cut them, add up.

On the other hand, they’re better for you than a slab of roast beef with gravy.

So pile your plate high this Thanksgiving with salads, sweet potatoes and green beans. Then dig into that slice of pumpkin pie – guilt-free.

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