Five on Friday: 5 Healthy Pumpkin Grocery Store Finds
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Five On Friday

Five on Friday: 5 Healthy Pumpkin Grocery Store Finds

Happy Halloween! Pumpkin products have been popping up all month. It's estimated that American's consume $300 million worth of pumpkin flavored products during Autumn. Many products don't actually contain any pumpkin, just artificial pumpkin flavorings. Read labels very closely so you purchase products with real pumpkin or pumpkin puree and without a lot of added sugar and fat.  

It would be ideal to make your own pumpkin products from scratch, but with busy schedules that's not always possible. Here are 5 healthy (and delicious!) pumpkin products you can find at your local grocery store and indulge in without guilt.  

Purely Elizabeth Pumpkin Fig Granola

This gluten free granola is made from natural and organic grains, including quinoa and amaranth. It contains an abundance of healthy fats: pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds and also raw virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil contains medium chain fats that are metabolized more easily into energy in the liver, meaning they are less likely to be stored as fat. The granola contains no artificial sweeteners or flavorings. 
It's not too sweet and tastes great in yogurt or milk or just to snack on plain.
Siggis Pumpkin & Spice Icelandic Style Yogurt

 is the traditional yogurt of Iceland. It's made by incubating skim milk with live active cultures. The whey is then strained away for a much thicker, creamier yogurt. It is on par with Greek yogurt in terms of protein content. This seasonal yogurt is flavored with real pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla bean extract, nutmeg and just a touch of cane sugar. No artificial sweeteners
.  Skyr is fat free so real cream is added for fat and flavor (and satiety!) It has just the right amount of pumpkin spice taste and not as sweet as other pumpkin yogurts I taste tested. It's a great way to get your pumpkin fix in an afternoon snack. 
Nature's Path Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Waffle

Amaranth and quinoa are the two grains used in this waffle instead of regular flour. They
 are blended with spices and real pumpkin puree for a light sweetness. Top with natural almond butter, 100% pure maple syrup or greek yogurt for a festive and healthy breakfast. 

Ciao Bella Pumpkin Gelato 

Gelato on a dietitian's list?! Ciao Bella is a brand of gelato and sorbet that uses real, natural ingredients. This pumpkin gelato has a hint of cinnamon and cloves and a light pumpkin flavor. It is made with real milk, real cream and organic cane sugar, rather than fake dairy or sugar alternatives. Since it still contains added sugar it's not an every day treat. However, when you do indulge occasionally, it's much better to have a little of the real thing rather than a lot of a diet product that is fat free, sugar free and loaded with artificial flavors and preservatives. 

Ella's Kitchen Apples, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin and Blueberries Kitchen 1 Puree 

Five on Friday: 5 Foods to Prevent the "Silent Killer"
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Five On Friday

Five On Friday: 5 Foods to Prevent the "Silent Killer"

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. A normal blood pressure is 120/80. High blood pressure, known as Hypertension, means the pressure in your arteries is above range. Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure greater than 140/90 on two readings. The top number (systolic pressure) refers to the blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood; and indicates the severity of your high blood pressure. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) refers to the blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
High Blood Pressure is known as the "Silent Killer" because it often has no warning signs or symptoms. However, the effect on your body can be life threatening over time; it’s dangerous because it makes your heart work too hard and can cause damage to your blood vessels, kidneys, brain and eyes. Currently 1 in 3 Americans suffer from high blood pressure.

Here are 5 diet modifications to prevent and/or treat high blood pressure:

Reducing dietary sodium intake is a huge change that can treat high blood pressure. When you eat too much salt (which contains sodium), your body holds onto extra water to wash the salt from your body. This added water puts stress on your heart and blood vessels. Recommendations: 2,300 mg sodium per day (if you are older than 50, African American or have Hypertension, Diabetes or Kidney Disease your goal is 1,500 mg sodium per day). The average American consumes 3,600 mg sodium per day. Read labels closely so you know how much salt is in the foods you consume. Salt is found in boxed and canned foods, sauces, smoked foods, pickles, cheese, bread, cereal, lunch meat, salad dressing, soup and many restaurant foods.

Many with high blood pressure say: “But…I don’t add salt to anything!” (1 teaspoon of salt = 2,300 mg of sodium!) However, here’s a quick look at how quickly sodium can add up in a typical “healthy” diet even if you don't add salt:

Breakfast: 1 egg, 1 piece wheat bread with 1 TB peanut butter, 1 cup skim milk, banana (417 mg sodium)
Snack: ½ cup cottage cheese (390 mg sodium)
Lunch: 6” Subway turkey sandwich (turkey, lettuce, tomato, onion, provolone on 9 grain wheat) and apple slices (790 mg sodium)
Snack: 17 tiny pretzel twists (450 mg sodium)
Dinner: 6 oz baked chicken breast, 1 cup wheat pasta noodles, ½ cup marinara sauce, 1 piece wheat bread with 1 teaspoon butter, small vegetable salad with 2 TB vinaigrette dressing (997 mg sodium)
Total: 3064 mg sodium

Bananas are high in potassium! Potassium offsets sodium’s effect on blood pressure.
When you eat a potassium rich diet your body becomes more efficient at getting rid of excess sodium. Aim for 4,700 mg per day. Other high potassium foods include: apricots, artichokes, avocado, banana, beets, okra, oranges, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, dates, figs, leafy greens, mushrooms, raisins, prunes, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, cantaloupe, nectarines, beans, squash, bran, nuts and seeds. Natural sources of potassium are preferable over supplements.

Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium! Magnesium is an essential mineral that contributes to maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Magnesium supplementation is not recommended, but adding foods high in magnesium can help. Aim for 500 mg per day. High magnesium foods include: seeds, nuts, beans, leafy greens, fish, sweet potatoes, brown rice, avocados, low fat dairy, bananas, dried fruit and dark chocolate. 1 cup of pumpkin seeds = almost 1/2 your daily needs!

An increased intake of calcium may have a protective role in the risk for high blood pressure. Choose calcium from food, not supplements. Consume low fat dairy (milk, cheese, kefir, yogurt) or calcium fortified foods for high amounts of calcium. Most leafy green vegetables are also naturally high in calcium. Make sure to meet the Adequate Intake for calcium based on your age (Men 19-70 1,000 mg, Women 19-50 1,000 mg, Women/Men 70+ 1,200 mg).
Beans are chock full of fiber which has been known to help lower blood pressure. Fiber also adds bulk to your diet without adding calories which helps with long term weight loss. Losing 5-10% of your body weight (if overweight) has a huge impact on blood pressure. Add unsalted beans (black, soy, garbanzo, white, navy, lima, pinto, and kidney) regularly to your meal plan. Aim for 20-35 grams of fiber daily.
Five on Friday: 5 Foods to Prevent Breast Cancer
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Five On Friday

Five On Friday: 5 Foods to Prevent Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages. The facts are staggering: 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

Breast cancer is a multi-factorial disease. Several risk factors that we don't have control over include: the environment, genetics, hormone and estrogen levels, age, family history, hormone therapy and radiation exposure.

There are no food or dietary supplements that will act as magic bullets to prevent breast cancer. However, there are many strategies we can control to help reduce the risk of breast cancer including keeping a normal weight, engaging in regular physical activity and minimizing alcohol intake. Maintaining a healthy diet is an essential part of being proactive with your health. I want to focus on increasing protective factors: so here are 5 foods for breast cancer prevention:

1. Fruits and Vegetables

Phytochemicals are compounds in plants that may lower cancer risk by preventing damage to the DNA, boosting immune function and preventing cancer cell growth.  The antioxidant power in produce is immense and can not be replaced by fruit or vegetable powders or supplements. All fruits and vegetables are beneficial but focus on these:

Carotenoids - "orange": carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, mango, cantaloupe, yams, apricots

Anthocyanin - “dark purple”: grapes, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, pomegranate (seed, juice or oil)

Cruciferous Vegetables  - "leafy greens": arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, turnip greens, watercress, swiss chard

Vitamin C - papaya, citrus, kiwi, mango, berries, peppers, tomatoes, grapefruit, oranges, lemons

2. High Fiber Foods
Some studies suggest that the increased intake of fiber may have a small protective effect against breast cancer; possibly by reducing blood levels of estrogen or by binding toxic carcinogens and eliminating them. Choose real fiber, not foods with added fiber such as inulin. Aim for around 30 grams per day.

You can find fiber in: whole grains (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, millet, amaranth, whole wheat tortilla/bread, farro, barley, bulgur, rye, popcorn, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, wheat germ), beans, lentils, fresh fruits and vegetables with their skin on and/or dried fruits.

3. Anti Inflammatory Foods
Choosing anti-inflammatory foods may help prevent breast cancer as inflammation is known to negatively affect tumor environment. There are many foods that comprise an anti-inflammatory diet, these are several key choices:

Green tea: real tea bags for the most active compounds, not bottled green tea

Garlic: raw is more active

Ginger: raw or powdered

Turmeric (curry): raw or powdered; most effective when mixed with black pepper and extra virgin olive oil

4. Plant Based Protein
Studies find that a plant based diet is associated with a reduced breast cancer risk. There is an especially
positive association between red meat intake and breast cancer. One study found that each serving per day of red meat was associated with a 13% increase in breast cancer risk. (If you do choose to eat red meat, avoid carcinogenic byproducts such as heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) which are created during high temperature cooking. More HCA’s are formed when meat is cooked greater than 300 degrees, greater than 2 minutes or fried, oven grilled, broiled or barbequed.)
Choose to consume your protein from plant based sources of protein such as beans, lentils, whole grains and nuts. In moderation choose whole, unprocessed soy that is fermented (tofu, miso, tempeh, edamame) and avoid concentrated soy such as soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, soy flour or soy fiber (found in powders, "fake" meats, bars and cereals). If you do choose animal protein, choose lean sources such as poultry, eggs and fish.

5. Healthy Fats
Fats in our diet are necessary and helpful; some are healthier than others. Decrease saturated fats (found in animal products) and avoid trans fats (foods containing partially hydrogenated oil) as they may be associated with a greater risk of breast cancer. Unsaturated fats are protective.

Unsaturated fat: unsalted nuts (almond, pistachio, walnut, brazil), seeds (hemp, chia, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin), oils (especially olive), olives, avocado

Omega 3 fatty acids: fish (salmon, halibut, cod, sardines, mackerel, herring), nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds (pumpkin), oil (olive, canola), avocados

Five on Friday: 5 Healthy Trick or Treats
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Five On Friday

Five On Friday: 5 Healthy Trick or Treats

It's definitely fall here in Chicago and children are starting to get excited for Halloween; costumes, carving pumpkins, trick or treating and of course...candy! The average trick or treater consumes ~3 cups of sugar (equivalent to 220 packets of sugar!)
Did you know traditional Halloween treats such as Butter Fingers, Snickers and Tootsie Rolls contain trans fat? And
M & M's and Sweet Tarts are dyed with artificial colors including Red #40 and Blue #1? Were you aware the first ingredient in Twizzlers, Starbursts and Dots is corn syrup? My Five on Friday suggests alternatives to these candies that are still delicious but don't contain refined flour, partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors. As you start to shop for your treats, keep my suggestions in mind and take an extra look at the ingredient list and nutrition facts of what you buy and pass out.

And remember, if you send your own children out trick or treating to feed them a well-balanced dinner prior to going out to prevent them from being really hungry and substituting candy for a meal.

Happy Halloween & have fun Trick or Treating!


Yum Earth Organics Gummy Bears: While I would normally recommend fruit and not fruit snacks, most children would cringe if you put an apple in their Trick or Treat bag. These are the next best option. Fruity and flavorful and made with real fruit extracts. They are made with organic fruit juice; no artificial dyes, no high fructose corn syrup and free of common allergens. You can feel good that they provide 100% of daily Vitamin C needs.


Amazon: 50 packages for $21.00

Target: 10 packages for $3.49

Stretch Island Fruit Leather Variety Pack: These are real fruit and fruit purees (not fruit juice) and are sweet and chewy. The Variety Pack contains delicious flavors: autumn apple, abundant apricot, orchard cherry, harvest grape, ripened raspberry, and summer strawberry. They are fruit leather but healthier than normal fruit roll up's that are filled with corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated oil, Red #40, Yellow #5 and #6 and Blue #1.

Amazon: 48 Fruit Leather Strips for $18.43

Angie's Boom Chicka Pop: This popcorn is free of gluten, trans fat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Made only from simple ingredients both you and the kids will love: just popcorn, sunflower oil and sea salt.

Target: 16 bags for $5.99 24 bags for $13.50

Annie's Halloween Bunny Grahams: While these aren't candy, they are a great snack with fun, kid friendly packaging! Annie's products are made with organic whole grain wheat flour and without partially hydrogenated oils.  The orange and brown coloring are from annatto extract and real cocoa; no artificial flavorings or synthetic colors.

Amazon: 24 packages for $7.84


Justin's Peanut Butter Cup: Combine organic peanut butter with high quality organic chocolate and you have a great peanut butter cup the kids will love. They are sweetened with organic palm fruit oil which is trans fat free.  Justin's brand is GMO free and organic.  You will definitely hope there are leftovers to indulge on! :) 120 Peanut Butter Cups for $77.99
Five on Friday: 5 Fall Super Foods
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Five On Friday

Five On Friday

The autumn harvest includes a variety of root vegetables and hearty fruits. Find these 5 Super Foods at a Farmer's Market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where you can buy a share of produce from your local farm. You'll have great comfort meals to enjoy on a cool, fall night.  All month I will share my favorite fall recipes on Facebook.
An apple a day will keep the doctor away!  There are over 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the U.S., so make sure to branch out from the popular Red Delicious and Granny Smith! 1 medium apple contains 80 calories and 4 grams of fiber. The soluble and insoluble fiber can help prevent heart disease and assist with digestion. Keep the skin on; that is where the majority of the fiber and Vitamin C are found.  Apples are one of the "Dirty Dozen"; the top 12 fruits and vegetables highest in pesticides so it's best to choose organic apples. They are great in salads, oatmeal, homemade applesauce, soup, salsa, muffins, slaw, apple crisp, sliced on sandwiches, dried into chips or dipped in almond butter as a snack.
Brussels Sprouts need to be given a second chance! One cup contains 40 calories, 3 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and >100% of both your Vitamin C and Vitamin K for the day.  Try roasting instead of steaming; this carmelizes their natural sugars and brings out a sweeter taste. They are great in salads, casseroles, soups or roasted as a side dish.

Pumpkins are a classic symbol of the season, but this Halloween staple is good for more than just carving! It is technically a type of winter squash and over 1.5 billion pounds are produced each year in the U.S.  1 cup of canned, unsweetened pumpkin contains 100 calories, 8 grams fiber, >100% of your daily Vitamin A and more potassium than a banana. The fiber helps keep you full and the Vitamin A is crucial for healthy vision and immune system function.  There are a lot of pumpkin inspired products; most of them aren't healthy and some have no true pumpkin. Make sure you read labels, or make your own pumpkin creation!  Pureed pumpkin can be added to bread, risotto, soup, pudding, muffins, pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, lasagna, pie, pizza, chili, hummus, salads or made into pumpkin butter. 

Don't forget the seeds (there are ~500 in every pumpkin.) They are a natural source of protein with 12 grams per cup. Roast them and keep as a great on-the-go snack.