If it doesn’t feel like fall until you’ve sipped your first pumpkin spice latte, we feel you. There’s something comforting about having a special beverage to help celebrate the start of the season.
But, as you probably know, drinking your grande PSL every morning isn’t the healthiest choice. Along with pumpkin-y goodness, it’s loaded with around 50 grams of sugar. That’s right at the top of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s daily intake recommendation, and twice as much as the American Heart Association’s 25-grams-per-day recommendation for women.
We’re not going to tell you to stop drinking PSLs entirely. Shaming people about their diet isn’t helpful and doesn’t bring about meaningful change, says Natalia Groat, M.S., R.D., a clinical dietitian at Harborview Medical Center. (Plus, it’s just rude.) People should allow themselves to indulge in foods that bring them joy, she says.
Still, it can also feel good to make decisions we know help promote long-term health. If you’re looking for a way to satisfy your pumpkin cravings without eating so much sugar, here are some tips.
Do some soul-searching
First, take a moment and ask yourself if you truly love the PSL or just the idea of it, Groat recommends.
“I used to get really excited about it, even before it was a thing. But I’d drink it and be so disappointed afterward,” she says. “It tastes fake to me. I just taste flavoring and not actual pumpkin.”
If you do love the taste of pumpkin-flavored syrup, you do you. But if you just want a special drink or dish that reminds you of fall — or are motivated to curb your PSL habit — read on.
Try a different fall-inspired drink
To get that cozy, snuggled-up-under-a-blanket feeling, Groat suggests trying a cup of fall-themed tea. Tea?! You’re probably thinking. But hear us out; this isn’t your grandmother’s cup of tea. Groat’s favorite autumnal flavors include cinnamon orange, apple cinnamon almond and vanilla chai. There are also some Honeycrisp apple teas that taste pretty good, she says.
“You can make it into a kind of latte and put in whatever milk you prefer,” she says. “That way, you control the amount of sugar that goes in.”
Of course, you can always try to make your own PSL, too, using pumpkin pie spices.
Put pumpkin in your oatmeal
It may sound weird, but Groat says she loves adding pumpkin to her morning oatmeal. To try it, add a tablespoon or so of canned pumpkin to cooking oatmeal, along with a dash of pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Use a little honey or brown sugar to sweeten, if desired. Groat also likes using almond milk instead of water to make the oatmeal extra creamy.
Make a savory pumpkin dish
Pumpkin can also be delicious in savory dishes. Groat likes making pumpkin mac and cheese, for example. There are tons of other ideas out there, from pumpkin soup to pumpkin lasagna, to simply roasting some pumpkin seeds. For lunch, try adding some pumpkin to your salad.
Try homemade cider
For another fall drink that’s cozy but not too sugary, Groat suggests buying some unfiltered apple cider and adding mulled spices to it for extra flavor. It does have some sugar in it, but it’s still less than PSL flavoring.
“Cider is warm and comforting and great for parties or just a nice night at home,” Groat says.
When all else fails, stick to a classic
If you really want that pure pumpkin flavor, go ahead and have a slice of pumpkin pie. Store-bought kinds are fine, but it’s also easy to bake your own with some canned pumpkin, spices, egg and a frozen pie crust. Yes, it’s dessert, but it’s a relatively healthy one.
“Pumpkin is full of antioxidants, fiber and other things that are good for you,” she says.
Don’t deprive yourself of your PSLs if you love them, but test out other options if you want to do something that makes you feel good about your health. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.
“It’s always nice to get a delicious cup of coffee or something you really enjoy — something that makes you feel good afterwards,” Groat says.