Fall has arrived and tis the time for pumpkin, spice and everything nice! Fall is my absolute favorite time of year with the beautiful fall foliage, the foods that come with fall and football season or in 2014 baseball season too. A particular favorite is pumpkin. Pumpkins are for much more than carving on the front porch, the traditional pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or letting the elephants at the zoo have their fun.

First explore the nutritional wonder house pumpkin is. The bright orange indicates that pumpkin is bountiful in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. Research has shown that foods rich in beta-carotene may help reduce your risk of certain cancers and provide a protective effect against heart disease. Per serving, pumpkin is extremely “nutrient dense” meanwhile low in calories with only 50 calories per cup and 3 grams of fiber to help keep you full. So if you are puzzled by what more you can do with pumpkin then here are some fun ways to incorporate pumpkin into those recipes or snacks:

1. Start the morning off with pumpkin oatmeal. Try adding a few tablespoons and season to your liking with cinnamon, honey or allspice.

2. Pumpkin seeds make a great snack, addition to salad or mix into your cereal bars (see recipe below).

3. For those with a sweet tooth pumpkin mousse is a great low calorie and low carbohydrate dessert. Fold pumpkin into fat free vanilla pudding topped with sugar free cool whip then place a small gingersnap for a garnish.

4. Pair up pumpkin in a parfait. Layer pumpkin with Greek yogurt, Kashi cinnamon harvest cereal & pumpkin for a healthy breakfast or scale the portion down for a tasty snack.

5. Pumpkin spice smoothie with Greek yogurt, banana, vanilla almond milk and ice. Try varying the amounts according to how thick you desire your smoothie.

6. Stay at home Starbucks with your own Pumpkin latte using pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and canned pumpkin.

7. Blend pumpkin into a soup for a rich, complex not so traditional side. Here is a recipe on how to make the perfect pumpkin seeds (Food Network):

Directions for Perfect Pumpkin Seeds:

1. Seed the pumpkin: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Using a spoon, scrape the pulp and seeds out of your pumpkin into a bowl.

2. Clean the seeds: Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp, rinse the seeds in a colander under cold water, then shake dry. Don’t blot with paper towels; the seeds will stick.

3. Dry them: Spread the seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet and roast 30 minutes to dry them out.

4. Add spices (see below for suggestions): Toss the seeds with olive oil, salt and your choice of spices (see below). Return to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 20 more minutes.

Here are some suggestions for spices to match your taste buds:

• Sweet Toss with cinnamon and sugar (do not use salt in step 4).

• Indian – Toss with garam masala; mix with currants after roasting.

• Spanish – Toss with smoked paprika; mix with slivered almonds after roasting.

• Italian – Toss with grated parmesan and dried oregano.

• Barbecue – Toss with brown sugar, chipotle chile powder and ground cumin.