Halloween Can Be Healthy - The Power of Pumpkin
A very big part of my job is listening to what people eat every day. For many of my contestants and clients, articulating their daily food intake is a real eye-opener because most of us don't think too much about what we eat and especially not how much. For that reason, most of us eat much more than we think we do.
Another one of my behind-the-scenes jobs as nutritionist for The Biggest Loser is to review each contestant's food journals every day. This daily diary tells me exactly what they eat and when. In the first few weeks of the show's new season, I'm looking to see that they understand their calorie budgets, portion sizes and how to time their meals and snacks throughout the day. Once they get the hang of that (it usually takes a couple of weeks), I start zeroing in on the types and proportions of these foods to each other, e.g. how much protein, how many healthy fats. I don't worry that they're eating too much white stuff (white sugar, white flour, white pasta, white rice).
Those foods aren't even available to them in the kitchen at the ranch. Instead, they're learning to try a variety of whole grains and starting to enjoy the sweetness of fruit instead of gooey desserts.
After a couple of weeks, I look for a nice hefty increase in their fruit and vegetable intake. With a goal of 4 cups per day (mostly veggies), this helps them feel full while increasing their daily fiber intake (something sorely missing for most Americans).
I also remind them that what's on their plates should be colorful at every meal. If you're looking down at a plateful of white and brown - something's missing. A multitude of colors on a plate is the key to healthy eating because fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, minerals and vitamins. And the bright pigments in the red, yellow, orange and blue tints confer incredible health benefits.
Tomatoes, winter squash, spinach and other leafy greens are excellent sources of fat-soluble vitamins, which means they are stored by the body. Water-soluble vitamins on the other hand, such as vitamins C and B, are not stored by the body and need to be replenished throughout the day.
The carotenoid veggies (identified by their typical orange-yellow color) are perhaps best known for their ability to be converted to vitamin A, a powerful anti-aging ally. Essential for healthy vision, vitamin A plays many roles in maintaining youthful body tissue. It boosts immune system function, provides protection from sunburn and inhibits the development of certain types of cancers. Vitamin A is also involved in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin and hair.
Though pre-formed vitamin A is available from sources such as meat, liver and eggs, there are many reasons to limit our intake of animal products related to their high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol. In addition, excess intake of vitamin A from supplements can be harmful.
Another way to get your vitamin A is in the form found in plant foods. The orange pigments called carotenoids in a carrot, for example, convert to vitamin A in the body. Carrots, winter squashes, pumpkin, mangoes, red bell pepper and sweet potatoes all offer scrumptious ways to kick up your vitamin A intake.
The markets are now loaded with fiery squashes and pumpkins, so it's a great time to enjoy them in their splendor. Though most edible pumpkin varieties wind up in pies on Thanksgiving, here is an easy and delicious way to add to your pumpkin repertoire this fall.
Frosty Pumpkin Smoothie
1/2 cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
1/2 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1 packet of stevia-type sweetener
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
5 ice cubes
Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into chilled glass and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle of nutmeg.
Nutritional information (per serving)
Fat calories: 5
Total fat: 0 grams
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 95 milligrams
Total carbohydrates: 18 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Sugars: 12 grams
Protein: 15 grams
Vitamin A: 130%
Vitamin C: 10%
For more nutrition and cooking tips, visit Cheryl's website FlavorFirst.com
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