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    September 6, 2018

    Orange Is The New 'Gourd-geous'

    September 1, 2018
    By: Vanessa Leikvoll, Certified Holistic Health Coach, Client Wellness Manager
    Co-author: Melissa O'Shea, RD

    Sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, kobacha squash, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and school buses – what do these all have in common? Besides that MOST of these belong to the Genus Curcurbita family of gourds (I bet you can guess which of these does not…), they are all varying shades of orange and are distinctly iconic for the fall back-to-school season.

    Also iconic of this ‘gourd-geous' fall-season (see what we did there?) is the familiar excitement…and perhaps stress..of getting ready for the new school year and cooler weather with back-to-school shopping, pantry refreshes, shopping lists, and weekly lunch and dinner calendars. But planning for the new season can be easy and healthy.

    Here is a list of wellness strategies to help you and your family get back into the swing of things:

    1. Shop sensibly for food – It all starts with the grocery trip. Limit the amount of unhealthy foods in the house or excessive waste incurred by planning your meals in advance and selecting healthful foods with purpose.
    2. Stock up on healthful foods – Choose whole foods that can be used in a variety of meals and explore foods you haven’t tried before to keep things fresh and interesting!
    3. Get kids (and other family members) involved – Let kids and family members help you plan out weekday meals and grocery lists and assign small tasks to kids to have them help you in the kitchen. Getting kids actively involved in preparing meals fosters an interest in healthy eating habits that they will take with them.
    4. Preserve family mealtime – Research shows that children and family members who regularly eat dinner at home with their families are more likely in general to eat more fruits and vegetables, get higher amounts of nutrients from a healthy diet, and are less likely to adopt unhealthy snacking habits.
    5. Avoid food battles – With different palates and preferences in play, weekday meal choices can become battles if expectations aren’t set and followed. Avoid playing the ‘moderator’ or ‘short order cook’ by planning meals in advance and allowing everyone to contribute to the weekly menu.
    6. Model good behaviors – Set the example for the house by modeling healthy eating behaviors. Limit needless snacking, keep the fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food options and ingredients, drink plenty of water throughout the day, and have fruits and vegetables available for each meal.

    Once you have adopted these strategies, you will be well on your way to a healthy and stress-free school year. Now you can take it up a notch and explore the season’s bounty of delicious vegetables! Gourds, squash, and root vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber, and are packed with vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy diet. Read on with how you can utilize the season’s (decidedly orange) harvest to give your weekday meals a ‘gourd-geous’ fall makeover.

    Cooking with Squash 

    Choose It! 
    •    Look for squash that feels heavy for its size and has hard, deep-colored skin free from blemishes.

    Prepare It!
    •    Thoroughly scrub squash under running water.
    •    For easier cutting, first soften the shell by cooking in the microwave for five to ten minutes, depending on size.
    •    Allow squash to cool, then cut into desired pieces for roasting and baking.

    Cook It! 
    •    All varieties are great for puréeing, roasting and baking.
    •    Cooked squash can be mashed, used in soups, main dishes, vegetable side dishes, muffins, and desserts like custards and pies.
    •    To Microwave Squash: Pieces - Place halves or quarters, cut side down, in a shallow dish; add 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly and microwave on HIGH 6 minutes per pound. Whole Squash - Poke squash all over with a fork or sharp knife tip. Microwave the squash at full power (High) approximately 5 to 10 minutes (depending on size of squash).

    Cooking with Root Vegetables

    Choose It!
    •    Beets: Select small or medium-sized beets. Whether golden, red or candy-stripe, beets contain impressive amounts of folate, potassium, fiber and antioxidants. Canned beets, however, contain less of these nutrients.
    •    Rutabaga: Large, tan and rather unattractive, this root vegetable was developed by a 17th century botanist who crossed a turnip with a cabbage. It has a surprisingly mild flavor and is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium.
    •    Sunchoke: Also known as a Jerusalem artichoke, this small gnarly tuber resembles ginger root. The flavor is described as slightly sweet and nut-like. It is a good source of the B vitamin, thiamin, and iron.

    Prepare It!
    •    Scrub and lightly peel all root vegetables except for beets which “bleed.”
    •    Thin raw slices make and excellent appetizer with a yogurt dip or hummus.
    •    Julienne or matchsticks make a great slaw, alone or mixed with cabbage.

    Cook It!
    •    For a real treat, try roasting a medley of root vegetables.  A high oven temperature brings out the earthy flavors. Directions: Place your favorite cut up root vegetables into an ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle with pepper, salt and olive oil.  Roast in a 400-degree F oven for about 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    •    Beet or turnip greens may be thoroughly washed and sautéed in olive oil and a little salt.

    Show us your ‘gourd-geous’ meal creations on Instagram by following us at @wellvolutionary and tagging us in your photo! We hope that this information will help you and your family start the Fall back-to-school season on the right foot. For more personalized guidance on how to start the new school year off right, ask us about our One-on-One Personalized Nutrition Counseling Program led by a Registered Dietitian.

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