The days are growing shorter and there’s a hint of fall in the air …or maybe that’s just the smell of pumpkin spice.
Many of you will be in line when Starbucks brings their pumpkin spice latte back on September 8. The company made a splash when they announced that the popular concoction would be made with real pumpkin puree. Panera recently announced the launch of a “clean” version of the drink. Of course, we’re being bombarded by all things pumpkin spice this time of year—everything from marshmallow peeps to peanut butter and pop tarts.
Given this onslaught of cinnamon and nutmeg, we thought it was time to revisit our annual Pumpkin Spice Index, and to share some tips and recipes of our own.
You may remember that last year we predicted a pumpkin spice plateau.
In fact, the 2014–2015 pumpkin spice season represents the first ever period in which peak consumption actually decreased from the previous year.
Given the flavor’s meteoric rise over the course of the last half decade, the subsequent drop off is a sign that we’re seeing the backside of this trend.
In addition, the peak consumption days are moving later each year, culminating in Halloween of 2014.
Here’s a graph of 30-day moving averages of pumpkin spice consumption from 2009–2014.
We have noted a “seasonal creep” in which the pumpkin spice season seems to get longer every year. It generally starts at the same time each year, with the launch of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. However, each year people are logging pumpkin spice items later and later in the year. In 2009, the bulk of pumpkin spice food entries in MyFitnessPal dropped off on January 5. In 2014, MFP users logged these autumnal foods all the way until March 1. In total, that’s an extra 51 days—over seven extra weeks of pumpkin spice madness! You can see from our chart that we’re not seeing additional creep; the 2013 and 2014 pumpkin spice season drops off at about the same time.
Meanwhile, another sweet and savory flavor is experiencing a boom: salted caramel.
The salty-sweet flavor, used in everything from ice cream to muffins, to, well, lattes, has been rising steadily over the last few years, independent of season. People have started devouring it year-round, unlike pumpkin spice.
So, maybe this time next year you’ll be forgoing your pumpkin altogether in favor of a new flavor.
In the meantime, if all this has you hungry, we’ve got some tips and recipes for you.
Pumpkin Spice Ordering Guide
- Downsize & savor. Don’t order a size up purely for the extra caffeine. Larger lattes contain more added sugar and lots of extra calories as well. Simply order a small size latte with an extra shot of espresso.
- Cut back on the sweet syrup. An easy way to reduce the sugar and calories in your favorite coffee beverage is to request less sweetener. At Starbucks, the standard tall, grande and venti lattes contain three, four and five pumps of that sugary syrup, respectively. The next time you order, try going halfsies. Every one pump of syrup you forgo will save you about 20–25 calories.
- Find a happy medium to whole milk. Many specialty coffee shops make their lattes with whole milk, which contains 150 calories in one 8-ounce cup. Rather than going straight to skim, cut back on calories by requesting 2% or 1% milk instead. A little bit of fat will make that latte much more satisfying. Insider ordering tip: Starbuck’s uses 2% milk unless you request otherwise.
- Skip the whip. When it comes to cutting unnecessary calories from fancy coffee drinks, this is one of the oldest tricks in the book—but it works! You’ll easily save 70 calories simply by doing without the whipped cream on your morning PSL.
- Spice it up. If you’re cutting back on pumpkin syrup, an easy (and healthy!) way to add a little spice back to your latte is to top it with extra cinnamon. In addition to making everything taste like fall, cinnamon is a potent antioxidant and may help reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and even reduce spikes in blood sugar after a meal (or pumpkin spice latte).
–Elle Penner, MPH RD, MyFitnessPal senior registered dietitian
Pumpkin Spice Recipes
Pumpkin fanatics rejoice! If a dose of pumpkin spice latte still fails to satisfy, we suggest you hit the kitchen to cook up some scrumptious pumpkin concoctions. Check out our roundup of 10 Delicious Sweet and Savory Pumpkin Recipes to get started! From pumpkin spice pancakes to pumpkin curry, we’re sure you’ll find something to scratch that pumpkin itch.