Archive for October, 2012

How to Have a Happy, Healthy Halloween

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Halloween is fast approaching, and as fun as this spooky holiday is for kids and parents alike, the main focus tends to be on stockpiling tons of those sweet, sugary treats that we try not to indulge in too much. Fear not: you and your kids can still enjoy a fun Halloween and keep the focus on staying healthy.

Check out our tips for a happy, healthy Halloween:happy halloween

  • Pumpkin hunting: No Halloween is complete without a jack-o’-lantern sitting out on your stoop. Take this opportunity to get your kids up and moving. Instead of buying a pumpkin from the grocery store, travel to your local pumpkin patch. Many cities open up small community patches where you can pick out a pumpkin of your own while enjoying various fall activities. Your kids get the chance to walk around in search for the perfect pumpkin and work their muscles by lifting and carrying their selection. Plus, fresh fall air is great for everyone.
  • Healthy pumpkin recipes: The fun doesn’t end there. Once you get home, you can clean, gut, and start carving those pumpkins. But don’t throw the seeds or the pulp away. You can roast the seeds in your oven for a healthy treat and use the pulp to create some delicious homemade soups, muffins, and other healthy recipes. You may consider picking up a pumpkin or two of your own just for eating.
  • Plant a pumpkin patch: If you’re so inclined, why not plant a small pumpkin patch of your own? Help your kids take care of the pumpkins. All that hard work outside is sure to make your kids work up a sweat, and it all pays off in the end once they see those big, beautiful pumpkins sprouting from what was once just a seed.
  • Extend that trick-or-treat route: Of course, for kids, the best part of Halloween is trick-or-treating. Fortunately, the act itself is quite healthy. You and your kids will walk all around the neighborhood, seeing friends and meeting neighbors. Your kids will have so much fun that they won’t realize that they are actually exercising. Extend that trick-or-treating route or do an extra lap around the block to get your kids walking longer and farther.
  • Candy patrol: Once you have your kids back home, they’ll no doubt want to dive into their stash and get at those delicious sweets. Should you completely ban the candy? Well, not necessarily. Your kids did, after all, work hard to collect that candy. To take that away from them just wouldn’t be right. At the same time, Halloween isn’t an excuse to gorge on sweets. It’s okay to let them indulge a bit, but limit their candy intake—you are the guard of the candy castle. Realistically, your kids probably won’t be able to finish all that candy anyway, so what else can you do with it?

–   Donate: There are numerous programs and establishments from dentists to children’s hospitals that will take that candy off your hands. You can also donate candy to the troops via care packages through Operation Gratitude. Make sure you and your kids include a personal letter as well to thank the troops for doing what they do.

–   Trade: Set up a “trading post” where you take your kids’ candy and trade for something else. For example, for every pound of candy, you can trade your kids a book or toy. If they are hankering for something sweet, trade their candy for a deceptively healthy pumpkin muffin, popcorn ball, or other treat you prepared beforehand.

–   Make: Pieces of candy make for great arts and craft supplies. Use those sweet treats to make all sorts of fun crafts, or save those candies up to build an elaborate gingerbread house once Christmas rolls around.

  • Hand out healthy treats: Reconsider what you plan to hand out during Halloween. Go with natural or sugar-free treats, like carob, fruit leather, trail mix, or pretzels. Remember that you don’t have to hand out edible treats. Things like stickers, pencils, superballs, kazoos, crayons, and fake teeth are plenty of fun too.
  • Get festive: Look into any harvest festivals run by your local community. These festivals often have a ton of fun, healthy activities that you and your kids can partake in, in or out of costume.

Have a happy Halloween!

Photo Credit: Pumpkin caravan by Robin Jones

5 Healthy Fall Foods

Monday, October 1st, 2012

5 Healthy Fall Foods

Fall is upon us and has brought with it a wealth of colors and smells, but one of the most important parts of autumn is the produce. The word “harvest” was actually the term originally applied to this season before the 16th century. There are a ton of healthy fruits and vegetables available during fall. Let’s take a look at five fall favorites and some recipes to go with them.fall

1. Apples

These days, apples are available all year round, but really, autumn is when apples thrive. You’ll see a ton of apple varietals in beautiful colors. Every type of apple has a different taste and texture, from crunchy and tart to sweet and juicy.

Apples are a wonder fruit, rich in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. They are good for the heart and can decrease the risk of diabetes and cancer. Most people like to enjoy them raw, though they are most popularly used in fall to make cider. Mulled cider is easy to make, delicious, and a great alternative to other holiday drinks that are full of calories, like eggnog.

To turn your apple into a warm and healthy dessert, stick it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. The baked apple is a very loose and adaptable snack. Let your kids top it with some cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, or other toppings of their choice.

2. Cranberries

Cranberries are low in calories, low in fat, and cholesterol free. They are a fantastic source of vitamin C and fiber and are known to keep the urinary tract healthy. Cranberries also prevent plaque formation on teeth.

While they can be eaten raw, cranberries can be too tart to enjoy alone. Next time you make a salad with mixed greens, throw a handful of cranberries in for that extra bit of sweetness. An apple-cranberry crisp combines the delicious fruit with whole oats for a sweet after-dinner treat.

3. Eggplant

Eggplant goes with just about any palate or budget, not to mention the health benefits. Eggplant is a great source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, and folate. In terms of minerals, eggplant is filled with calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous.

When prepared properly, eggplant really does go well with everything and often replaces proteins in meaty dishes. Eggplant parmesan pizza is a great way to get kids to try eggplant in a familiar form.

4. Winter squash

Although the name might say otherwise, winter squash actually come into season in the early fall and last into the winter. All forms of squash have a reputation for containing a ton of healthy nutrients, especially fiber, but winter squash tends to be even denser with nutrients. A winter squash, like butternut squash, contains more beta-carotene, potassium, and B vitamins than a summer squash. Beta-carotene plays a key role in fighting heart disease and cancer and is great for eye health.

Winter squash can seem a bit intimidating for the inexperienced cook, but it turns out that squash is actually a highly versatile ingredient. You can substitute squash for potatoes to make a delicious mashed maple squash or bake rich, delightfully sweet squash tea bread. If all else fails, you can toss them into your salad or roast them with a pleasant helping of other fall favorites.

5. Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a type of squash, but deserve a section all their own. A Halloween favorite, pumpkins are for more than just carving. They are incredibly rich in antioxidants and vitamins, namely vitamin A. Pumpkins are extremely low in calories but are an excellent source of leutin, xanthins, and carotenes. When you’re carving those pumpkins, roast the seeds for a tasty, magnesium-rich snack.

The pumpkin pulp is what goes into all sorts of delicious fall recipes. You’re probably familiar with it in the pie form, but pumpkin pie is usually full of added sugar. Instead, opt for some mini pumpkin muffins (use whole wheat flour), which are low in fat but deceptively tasty.

Don’t be afraid to ask your local produce department what other vegetables and fruits are in season, or take a family adventure to your farmer’s market for fresh, in-season goodies.

Photo Credit : Shannon Kringen