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Pumpkin Nutrition

Sandy              By: Sandy Spitler (Dietetic Intern)

Pumpkin is everywhere as the fall season comes full circle, from carving them at Halloween to the endless variety of pumpkin flavored coffee drinks, it can incorporated into almost anything you can think of. While pumpkin compliments breads, ravioli, beer, and pie, this fall squash also packs a bounty of health benefits. Below provides evidence to why it is perfectly acceptable to obsess over pumpkin not only this fall but all year long: 

  • Pumpkin seeds help elevate moods and improve sleep  – especially needed during the fall and winter months as the weather cools down and daylight fades away. Pumpkin seeds are rich in the essential amino acid tryptophan needed in the production of serotonin – a major hormone that affects mood and sleep. Regular consumption of pumpkin may even help prevent depression.
  •  Aids in weight loss – as good source of fiber, with 3 grams per 1 cup serving, and only 50 calories, pumpkin can help you feel fuller longer, preventing you from reaching for the candy corn or indulging in a candied apple.
  •  Protects your heart – nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are naturally abundant in phytoesterols, plant-based chemicals shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure. After carving all your pumpkins, keep the seeds to roast in the oven to use as a snack or added crunch in salads.
  •  Keeps vision fine-tuned – 1 cup of mashed pumpkin provides more than 200% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin A, aiding to keep your eyesight sharp. 
  • May reduce risk of cancer – pumpkins are rich in carotenoids, displayed by their bright orange color, enhancing the antioxidant beta-carotene, possibly aiding to prevent cancer. These antioxidants also foster skin’s smoothness by helping to prevent wrinkles.
  •  Refuel after a tough workout – 1 cup of cooked pumpkin gives you 560 milligrams of potassium compared to a banana’s 420 milligrams. Potassium aids to restore your body’s electrolyte balance after a grueling workout allowing your muscles to perform at their best.

The endless supply of pumpkin goes hand in hand with its long list of health benefits, giving perfect reason for the obsession with this fall super-food. As the fall air cools down and winter nipping at our toes we begin searching for warm, filling, meals to fuel our bodies through. Warm up with this comforting, delicious, and nutrient dense pumpkin chili, easily modified to please any palate. Recipe below:

Slow Cooker Pumpkin & Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 can (15oz.) black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can white northern beans, drained & rinsed
  • 3 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can solid-packed pumpkin
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 4.5 oz. can chopped green chile
  • 1 cup fresh tomato, diced OR 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 avocado, sliced and used for topping
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, used for topping

 

Directions:

  1. 1. Heat medium sauté pan over high heat and add ½ teaspoon olive oil to pan
  2. 2. Add onions then garlic to heated oil in pan and cook for 3-4 minutes
  3. 3. Add cooked garlic and onions to crock pot followed with remaining ingredients (except for the avocado and cilantro saved for topping). Allow ingredients to cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours
  4. 4. Top with cilantro and avocado if desired.  

Tip: You may also replace 1 can of beans with ¾ lb. lean ground turkey by simply browning the turkey in sauté pan and then combine with remaining ingredients in crock pot.

veggies

Healthy Holiday Tips

The holiday season is fast approaching, and for many its become a time for over-eating and weight gain. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can lead a one to two pound gain every year…multiply that times 5 and that is 5 to 10 extra pounds. Don’t let this holiday season undo all the hard work you have done the last year. Learn how to enjoy the holidays with a balance of food, friends and family, and fun. Try these tips to stay healthy and keep added weight off!

  • Have realistic goals- don’t try to lose weight over the holidays, try to maintain your weight instead
  • Never go to a party hungry- always eat regular meals and snacks so that you don’t over eat at a party and consume extra calories
  • Before going to a party, have a small snack such as a salad, vegetables and low fat cheese, or a handful of nuts
  • Move! Aim to exercise most days of the week, if you are traveling and can’t get to the gym get outside! Go for a walk or jog in the morning for 30 minutes, or break it up into three 10 minute walks or two 15 minute walks a day. (Ask a friend of family member to come and it will be a great chance to reconnect)
  • Make time to stay active and exercise- exercise not only helps prevent weight gain but it can help with the stress that happens around the holidays
  • Look before you eat. Buffets can be a quick way to overeat. Look at all the options available on the table, and then fill your plate with mostly vegetables and fruit, and then start with small servings of the less healthy options. You can always go back for more but start out small. When deciding between what food to eat, opt for the ones that you don’t get to have all year
  • Enjoy your food. Eat it slowly and mindfully. Pause between bites and talk during meals so you are less likely to overeat
  • Choose drinks carefully-eggnogs and alcoholic beverages can add extra calories very quickly
        • Opt for diet sodas, light beers, and/or wine
      • Have a glass of water between each drink to help fill you up
      • If you overeat at a meal, don’t skip the next meal but eat a smaller portion
      • When you go to a party or event, always bring a healthy dish that you can  have without feeling guilty (i.e. salad, vegetable sticks, fruit bites, and so forth)
      • If there is a food you really want, let yourself have it! If you deny yourself foods you will likely end up overeating later so its better to just enjoy it (start out with a small piece to start and see if you can be satisfied with that!)
      • Lastly, make the holidays about being together and not all about eating. Plan active activities such as ice skating, walks, and shopping to spend time together