Fall Foods for your Family

Autumn-Orange-Food_Delight-Summer’s bounty may be over, but the harvest season has its own healthy and delicious fall produce. This is the perfect time to focus on eating healthy by incorporating fresh fall foods into your meal plan.

Apples are the perfect grab-and-go snack and are in season now. They are packed with nutrition and are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Apple consumption has also been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, likely due to the antioxidants in apples. Add some sliced apples to a salad or to your morning oatmeal for some extra flavor. Pair with cheese or peanut butter for an easy afternoon snack. Stewed apples are also a great addition to chicken or pork. Be sure to look for fresh apples at the farmer’s market or visit an apple orchard for a fun family outing.

Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a type of winter squash that is grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. It is chock full of nutrients, such as vitamin A, potassium and fiber. A diet high in vegetables like butternut squash has been associated with lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of developing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Butternut squash is easy to prepare, and its sweet, nutty flavor is a great addition to rice or pasta dishes. It can also be pureed and made into a homemade soup.

Oatmeal is the perfect way to start your day on a cold fall morning. Oats are heart-healthy and are loaded with soluble fiber, which helps to keep you full until lunchtime. Oats help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, oats can help you to lose weight, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To add additional nutrients, top your oatmeal with dried fruit or nuts.

Several varieties of nuts are harvested in the fall, including almonds, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Nuts are a fantastic source of healthy unsaturated fats, which have been shown to help to lower LDL cholesterol. Nuts are a convenient snack food and are packed with protein and fiber. They are high in calories, however, so stick to a 1.5 ounce portion size, which is equivalent to a small handful or nuts or two tablespoons of nut spread. Keep in mind that you could cancel out the heart-healthy benefits of nuts if they are covered in chocolate, sugar, or salt. Add some sliced almonds and fresh fruit to yogurt, top your salad with pecans, or sprinkle chopped walnuts into your breakfast cereal.

Your family will love incorporating delicious, healthy fall foods into their meals. Try the homemade butternut squash soup below to warm up on a cool autumn evening.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup:
Servings: 6
Yield: 2/3 cup

4 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large shallots, peeled and halved
1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons (1-inch) slices fresh chives
Cracked black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a roasting pan or jelly-roll pan; toss well. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Cool 10 minutes.
3. Place half of squash mixture and half of broth in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture and broth. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with chives and pepper, if desired.
Recipe Source: Cooking Light

Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips

As dietitians, we often realize most people know what they should be eating but quite frequently many people state how expensive it is to eat healthy. This can be true if not shopping carefully however we have some helpful tips to help you stretch your food dollar while upping the nutrition value as well.

1. Use coupons and reward program cards. Coupons can be found in many places including the Sunday paper, online, or even in a smartphone app. Many grocery stores have reward cards which can help you save money not only on groceries, but other things such as gas.
2. Shop the sales. Plan your meals around items that are on sale especially items that are normally higher priced like beef or chicken when they are on sale. If you use these quite often, stock up and freeze items for later.
3. Buy the generic or the private label brand of items at the store. These are often 15-20 percent less expensive than their name brand counterparts but typically the quality is just the same.
4. Shop in season. Purchase fresh produce when it is in season. If you purchase in season you can usually stock up on items frequently used and store or freeze them for later use. If you didn’t get to do this this summer, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can be a great alternative as long as they are low in sodium and sugar and typically are reasonably priced.
5. Plan menus for a week out and make a list of what you need to prepare those items. Making spur-of-the-moment purchases can quickly add up the cost of your food bill and purchasing only what you need can help save costs. Planning meals out ahead of time will also help save on grocery store or fast food runs when looking for something to eat last minute.
6. Don’t make impulse buys at the checkout aisle. These items tend to be unhealthy items with a higher price tag and typically items that you don’t necessarily need.
7. Serve appropriate portion sizes. This will definitely make your food budget last longer. Use a deck of cards or the palm of your hand to estimate a 3 ounce serving of meat. Limit dairy to an 8 ounce glass of milk instead of 16 ounces. This will not only save on food costs but may help with weight loss as well!
8. Take inventory. Every week spend just a few minutes making a list of everything you have that needs to get used up before it will spoil. Toss old vegetables into a pot of soup or freeze leftovers to use for a later date. Use too ripe fruit in smoothies or make banana bread.
9. Use low-cost, high-nutrition value foods in your menu/meal planning. These include: eggs, beans (such as kidney, cannelloni, black beans), sweet potatoes, peanut butter, canned salmon or tuna, brown rice, barley, and canned or frozen fruits/vegetables.

One other thing to think of when shopping and eating healthfully is how much money it could not only save in the short-term but the long-term as well on healthcare costs. With just a little extra planning and preparation, you can make grocery shopping not only easier but healthier.

Celebrating a Healthy Halloween

Halloween is right around the corner, and your little ghosts and goblins are probably excited to stock up on sweet treats. This is often a highlight of the year for kids, however, you can still encourage healthy foods and make sweets a part of a balanced and nutritious diet. It’s up to you as a parent to use your best judgement on how to encourage healthy eating habits during the holidays, and some of the following tips may be helpful:

1. Serve a healthy meal before trick-or-treating so that your children aren’t hungry when they start receiving candy and will be less likely to overeat.
2. Set the ground rules ahead of time so kids know how much candy they are allowed to eat on Halloween. Discuss limits on the leftover candy, such as allowing two pieces per day.
3. Be a role model by eating candy in moderation yourself.
4. Consider being somewhat lenient, within reason, on Halloween. Remember that Halloween is a single day of the year. If your family eats sensibly during the rest of the year, that will have more of an impact on your children than one day of indulgence.

In addition, you can provide an alternative to candy by preparing healthy Halloween snacks with your kids. The recipes below are fun for the whole family to make together.

Banana Ghost Pops
6 bananas
12 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt
36 chocolate chips
12 Popsicle skewers or wooden sticks

1. Peel the bananas and cut them in half.
2. Poke the wooden skewers into the bottoms of the bananas.
3. Coat each banana with 1 ounce Greek yogurt.
4. Gently place the bananas on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper.
5. Use the chocolate chips to make eyes and a mouth on each bananas.
6. Freeze until firm and serve

Clementine Pumpkins
6 clementines
2 stalks of celery

1. Cut the celery into 1 inch pieces.
2. Peel the clementines.
3. Insert a one inch piece of celery into the top so that it looks like a pumpkin stalk.

Spiders on a Log
3 stalks of celery
6 ounces of smooth peanut butter
Plastic spiders

1. Slice celery sticks in half lengthwise.
2. Smear one ounce of peanut butter on each celery stick.
3. Adorn the celery sticks with plastic spiders for a twist on the classic ants on a log.

Pumpkin Popcorn
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 (3.5 ounce) bags of microwave popcorn
2 cups hulled pumpkin seeds
¼ cup butter
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch chili powder

1. Pop the popcorn according to package instructions. While hot, carefully open the package and dump into a large bowl.
2. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until browned and popping, tossing and stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add to the popcorn.
3. Using the same skillet, add butter, maple syrup, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, and chili powder and stir to combine. Cook over medium-high heat until it bubbles. Gently pour over the popcorn, allow to cool slightly, and transfer to a bowl. Toss with tongs and serve.

Pumpkin Muffins
1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cups canola oil
½ cup water
3 large eggs
15 ounce can pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Place 24 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups.
3. Combine flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, soda and salt into a medium mixing bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
4. Combine sugar, oil, water and eggs, stirring with a whisk. Stir in canned pumpkin and add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
5. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
6. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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