With Fall underway, you’ll start to see the bright colors of Winter squash showing up at stores and farmers markets. Squash can provide you with lots of Vitamin A (for good vision, immune system, and cell growth) as well as fiber while being low in calories. You’ll find dozens of varieties of Winter squash and they all serve their purpose, but here is some info on the three most common types:
• Acorn Squash
Usually a deep green color with deep ribs like a pumpkin and overall acorn-like in shape, the acorn squash holds together when cooked. It’s a great choice for baking, stuffing, and mashing.
• Spaghetti Squash
This variety is bright yellow, shaped like a football, and what’s inside is different than all other varieties of squash. Once it’s halved and baked, the inside can be shredded with a fork to release strands of squash that resemble al-dente spaghetti. Simply add your favorite pasta sauce or some olive oil and you have an excellent low-carb alternative to traditional pasta.
• Butternut Squash
Named for it’s peanut-like shape and rich flavor, the butternut squash is very dense. Once the outer rind is peeled off, the bright orange insides can be used for soups or pies or simply diced and baked. It offers a slightly sweet flavor and smooth texture.
Spices have the ability to turn an average dish into something worth remembering. We all have a collection of various powders and dried leaves we turn to for that last bit of flavor perfection when cooking, but how do you store them to ensure lasting freshness? Here are some storage tips to get the best results from your spices:
• Air-tight Containers
This is best to preserve the spices as long as possible. This may mean transferring the spices into a different container than what they originally came in to make sure it’s air-tight.
• Dark is Better
Light exposure can decrease the quality of the spice and shelf life. If you aren’t storing them in opaque or stainless steel containers, it’s best to keep them in a cabinet.
• Away From Heat
Heat can greatly reduce the quality of spices as well. While it’s tempting to keep everything right by the stove, it’s not recommended.
• Don’t Season Over the Pot
Additionally, shaking your spice container directly over a boiling pot can introduce steam and heat back into the container, compromising it even more. You can shake spices into your hand or a separate bowl off to the side and then add it to your dish to avoid this.
When hunger hits you, protein will help you feel full and satisfied. Here are some ideas for high-protein snacks that you can take with you:
• Trail Mix - Store-bought trail mix can be high in sugar, but it’s easy to make your own and control what goes into it. Almonds and pistachios are slightly higher in protein than nuts like walnuts and cashews. Raisins are a good mix-in if you want some sweetness.
• Almonds - If you don’t feel like messing with the trail mix, carrying a bag of almonds is even easier. A couple handfuls should do the trick to get some protein and keep hunger at bay. Look for varieties with no added sugar and reduced salt if blood pressure is a concern.
• Roasted chickpeas - With the combo of fiber and protein, roasted chickpeas are a perfectly portable, crunchy snack. Roasting is as easy as adding some oil and seasoning to chickpeas and baking for 35 minutes at 450 degrees.
• Hard-boiled eggs - It doesn’t get much easier than hard-boiled eggs. Throw a couple of these and maybe a salt and pepper packet in your bag and you’ll have a high-protein snack for later on.
• Tuna - Tuna pouches are an easy way to keep it road-ready. Bring along some multi-seed crackers for even more protein and some fiber.
• Cheese - Whether it’s slices, sticks, cubes, chunks, or cottage, cheese is an easy way to bring some calcium and protein along for any adventure.
Of all the health concerns Americans face, heart disease is the deadliest and hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the leading factors in this. Reducing your sodium intake can help reduce the risks of heart trouble. Here are five quick tips for how to do it:
• Spices instead of salt: Go for black pepper, cilantro, garlic powder, dill, or oregano to add flavor without adding salt.
• Reduce portion sizes: Less food overall means less salt.
• Rinse canned items: Open, drain, and rinse canned items to greatly reduce the sodium content.
• Fresh meat instead of packaged: Sliced, packaged lunch meat contains about 60% of your daily sodium intake but fresh meat is typically around 4% DV.
• Check the labels: This may seem obvious, but don’t make assumptions about the sodium content of the foods you eat. Some things like cottage cheese may have more than you think (31% DV in 1 cup).
Kids are always eating and you want to make sure they’re eating healthy. To help with that, here are some ideas for healthy snacks that require very little prep or you can make ahead of time.
• Popcorn: Popcorn can be a nutritious snack since it’s a whole grain. Air-pop your own and add a little butter and grated Parmesan. It’s easy to switch up the topping/seasoning for a different taste.
• Yogurt: Along with calcium and protein, yogurt provides active cultures to help with digestive health. Most yogurt marketed for kids is high in sugar, so it’s best to start with plain and add your own mix-ins like fruit and honey.
• Trail Mix: Most commercial trail mix is high in sugar, but you can easily make your own by mixing nuts, raisins, dried fruit, and whole-grain cereal. It’s great to have trail mix on hand when snacks are needed quickly.
• Cottage Cheese: Full of protein and calcium, cottage cheese is good as-is or with sliced fruit and it’s easy for kids to eat.
• Cheese: If cottage cheese doesn’t go over well, cheese such as string cheese is also a good source of calcium and protein. Cheese slices also pair well with fruit.
• Peanut Butter & Bananas: These two are a winning combo. Slice a banana into chunks and spread peanut butter on top. If your kids are adventurous you can even sprinkle things like chia seeds on top for a little crunch.
Green beans seem to be a vegetable most people don’t have trouble eating. They can be found at potlucks, restaurants, weddings, and even our menu. But have you ever wondered how healthy green beans are and why they’re so popular? Here’s what one cup of cooked green beans will get you:
• Fiber: 4g of fiber
• Protein: 2.4g of plant protein
• Low in calories: 40 calories
• Folate: 10% of your daily recommended intake
• Vitamin C: 22% DV
• Vitamin A: 17% DV
• Other Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin K, Manganese, calcium, iron, copper, and potassium