Pumpkin-flavored treats may contain less pumpkin, more added sugars

Fall season is the time for pumpkin spice everything. But how can you know if what you're getting actually has any real pumpkin at all?

According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic, real pumpkin is good for you but most of what you see in the store or at the local coffee shop is artificial flavoring.

"Pumpkin in and of itself is actually very healthy. Tons of beta-carotene, vitamin A, a lot of nutrients, a lot of nutrient density, but when you have a pumpkin-flavored drink, they're not probably taking that actual pumpkin and putting it in your drink," she says.

Kirkpatrick says that with many of the 'pumpkin spice' products on the market, there's not only added flavoring, but a lot of sugar is also added as well.

She says real pumpkin is flavorful and added sugars can delete the health benefits of the real thing.

Instead of looking for pumpkin spice products on store shelves, Kirkpatrick says to try using real pumpkin in the kitchen.

Real pumpkin can be put into smoothies, muffins, cookies, and even oatmeal - but you have to be careful not to use pumpkin pie filling, because that also has added sugars.

Kirkpatrick says that real pumpkin spice is actually good for you, too. It contains cinnamon and nutmeg and can be sprinkled on as a topping to give your treats that extra fall flavoring.

"Spices are very anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon in particular can help with relations to keeping blood sugar more even keel, so a lot of benefit to that; but don't confuse pumpkin spice with the pumpkin spice latte or the pumpkin spice muffin or cookie," she warns.

Kirkpatrick says when you want to buy actual canned pumpkin in the grocery store, the best thing to do is look at the ingredients. If there is more than one ingredient, you know you're getting something more than just pumpkin.