Pumpkins…a healthy treat, no tricks!

‘Tis the season for pumpkins! It’s hard not to notice the end caps at the grocery store that display pumpkin cookies, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin bread…the list goes on! Even coffee chains and fast food restaurants advertise pumpkin coffees and other items. Although these once-a-year items are a treat for those of us who look forward to them, many contain very little pumpkin and therefore contain very little nutrients that pumpkin provides.  So what is the health punch in pumpkin?

So what is the health punch in pumpkin?


The vibrant color orange in pumpkin comes from beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for vision as it helps the retina absorb and process light. Just 1 cup of pumpkin provides 200% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Beta-carotene has also been linked to healthy skin, as it helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

Healthy weight/digestive health

Pumpkin is a helpful aid in weight loss or weight maintenance. It is very concentrated in fiber, which keeps us fuller for longer which helps to prevent overconsumption at meals and excessive snacking. Fiber is also essential for a healthy digestive tract. I cup of canned pumpkin has about 7 grams of fiber, which is more fiber than 2 slices of some bread!


Consistent vitamin C intake has been linked to a stronger immune system and may help prevent colds or help us recover from colds more quickly. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin C and can be eaten as a natural immunity booster!

How can pumpkin be incorporated into recipes? Add canned pumpkin to smoothies! It will add to the smooth texture and will also provide an array of nutrients. Pumpkin bars can be made with minimal sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg for strong flavoring agents. Lastly, canned pumpkin can be used to make creamy soup topped with pumpkin seeds for a bowl filled with fiber that will keep you fuller for longer!

Alana Scopel

The key to post-workout fuel

Recently, I was asked about the importance of recovery snacks after a workout and if they help with weight loss. Refueling after a workout is important regardless of your exercise or fitness goals and in some cases, it may be the difference between making huge gains in the gym or not. Whether your focus for working out is on weight loss, muscle building or even improved body composition, a post-workout snack can complement all of these goals.

Refueling after a workout is important regardless of your exercise or fitness goals and in some cases, it may be the difference between making huge gains in the gym or not.



Why is it important to eat after a workout?

While we know how important exercise is for fitness, many of us are unaware of how significant the recovery process is for health and weight loss. It is important to re-nourish your muscles and metabolism following a workout as this will allow you to
A) refuel your engines and repair muscle tissue and
B) obtain the capability to exercise just as hard for your next workout.

Think of your body and muscles in terms of how you treat your car. Eating frequently throughout day is equivalent to making pit stops and refueling your gas tank. Just like your vehicle, constant refueling keeps your metabolism going. You wouldn’t run your car out of gas, so why would you run your body out of fuel?  When you exercise, you are revving up your metabolic engine and this can cause your body to burn up gas even faster. Missing that opportunity to refuel post-workout puts you at risk of draining your metabolic gas tank. Remember, it doesn’t matter how expensive, how brand new or how many options your car has. A car without gas is useless to you. Unfortunately, the same can be said about our metabolisms. Lack of fuel and drained metabolic gas tanks can lead to decreased functioning and performance.

If you’re a science nerd like me, you’ll want a more in-depth explanation. Having a greater understanding on what happens to our bodies on a physiological-biochemical level can help motivate positive dietary behaviors. When you work out, tiny microscopic tears occur in the muscle tissues as a result from repeated muscle contraction. Exercised muscle tissue is constantly adapting, meaning it is breaking down and rebuilding itself. Having a post-workout shake or snack can help initiate the repairing process. Ideally, this snack should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing your workout, when your “metabolic window” is at its peak. During this time, one experiences increased blood flow to muscles, creating a faster delivery of nutrients. Insulin sensitivity and enzyme activity required for rebuilding and refueling tissue are also heightened after exercise.  Consuming your post-workout snack during this increased hormone and enzyme-activity time frame will ensure you are properly refueling your body.

What makes a perfect post-workout snack if you’re trying to lose weight?

Regardless of your goal, the best type of snack to have post-workout is a lean protein source with quick digesting carbohydrates. The combination of the two preps your muscles to act like a sponge so they more properly absorb amino acids (proteins) and glucose (carbs). Amino acids will help rebuild and repair your muscles and glucose will refuel them with energy. Protein shakes make great post workout snacks for this reason. One could also focus on whole foods such as egg whites, lean meats or other desired lean protein source coupled with fruit, sweet potatoes or preferred starchy food. While fat is incredibly important in the diet, your post-workout snack is not the time to take a lot of it in merely because of the fact that it slows down digestion and can hinder the rapid absorption process needed to initiate protein synthesis after a workout.  

Should you modify your next meal because of the post-workout snack?

Yes and no. Your first actual meal after your workout should contain a higher amount of healthy carbohydrates as compared to your other meals throughout the day. This is when I would recommend eating items such as rice, sweet potatoes and squash or whatever your favorite starch is with your protein and veggie sources. Save the salads and lower carb menu items for meals that are farther away from your workouts. In terms of calories, there is no reason to cut nutrients away from your meals to save up calories for your post-workout snack. I know it sounds counter-productive to eat what you technically just burned off, but properly re-nourishing your muscles and body will help keep your metabolism lit up all day long. Remember, a healthy metabolism is one that burns more calories overall than one that is being underfed.

Amanda  Figge

Laughter is Still the Best Medicine

Have you ever noticed how getting an unexpected laugh in the middle of a stressful workday can help relax you and lift your mood? I’ve heard it said that humor is often created by a combination of tragedy and surprise.

Have you ever noticed how getting an unexpected laugh in the middle of a stressful workday can help relax you and lift your mood?

This makes sense when I remember an incident during a very stressful day at a previous job. After seeing several clients and trying to catch up on a ridiculous amount of paperwork, I was feeling stressed and worried about all that still needed accomplished for the day. I rushed to the front desk to pick up some papers off the printer when I saw the director of the company lean over to the speaker of our fax machine, and yell, “I’m trying to fax something to you!”. I had just witnessed his first fax attempt and it was hilarious.  

Stress? Gone! Worries? Gone! Nothing seemed to matter as it had five minutes earlier.

Finding a balanced amount of humor in the workplace and in our lives in general is beneficial to our health, productivity and work relationships.  On the job, humor can strengthen relationships, enhance teamwork, and when used appropriately, it can diffuse conflict.

The benefits of laughter to our physical health include a boost to immunity, decrease in pain, lower stress and relax muscles. Laughter benefits our mental health by decreasing anxiety, fear and stress, increases energy and helps you to stay focused. Humor helps you to put things into perspective and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Some ways to find humor when you are overwhelmed by problems and stress:

  • When you hear laughter and when time allows, move toward it.
  • Laugh at yourself and share embarrassing moments
  • Surround yourself with pictures, posters or other reminders to lighten up.
  • Ask yourself if the situation is really worth being upset or upsetting others about.
  • Spend time with children.                

Jeanne Armour, LCSW

Sipping Tea

I recently read an article about the declining sales of soda and the beverages that are taking their place. Bottled water sales have increased as people try to shy away from sugar-sweetened beverages, which is great news! Another beverage that is quickly taking the place of soda is tea. Although tea can be a healthier alternative, sweetened tea can be just as harmful as soda. Two cups of sugar (or more!) is commonly added to 1 gallon of iced tea! Hot teas and mixed tea drinks can be a source of added sugar as well. Two types of tea that have become popular are matcha and chai, but do these always have the health benefits we think?

Although tea can be a healthier alternative, sweetened tea can be just as harmful as soda.


A tea that has been “trending” is matcha, which is a type of green tea. It is stone-ground into tropicalsmoothie2powder from leaves and can be added to drinks or solid food. Many places have started adding it to drinks but it is also added to soups and even brownies!  It is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which are linked to a variety of health benefits including anti-aging, reduction in the growth of cancer cells and improved blood pressure. Matcha combined with fruit and cow’s milk or plant-based milk is becoming a popular alternative to many sugar-loaded drinks that provide little nutritional value.



Another popular tea is masala chai, also referred to as chai tea. It is commonly brewed with black tea, although it can be made from green tea as well. It is rich in antioxidants and certain ingredients are thought to help digestion and reduce inflammation. Common ingredients and flavorings include: cardamom, chili, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Some or all of these are combined with cow’s milk or plant-based milk. This can be a healthier alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, however, this type of tea drink can have excessive sugar added as many are made with a premixed solution that has sugar. Unsweetened and lightly sweetened versions are generally available and provide about 1/3 the amount of caffeine of coffee.

Tea can be a healthier alternative used for much-needed caffeine in place of a fancy coffee drink or soda, but it can still be a concentrated source of added sugar. Key words to look for that generally mean very little to no sugar added: “unsweetened”, “fresh-brewed/steeped”, or “lightly sweetened.” When in doubt, ask when ordering!


Alana Scopel

Fresh Veggie Noodles

I did it! I jumped on the zucchini noodle bandwagon and bought a spiralizer.  I thought, let’s see if I’ve really been missing out. Well, I have been missing out.  What a fun tool and my kids love to watch me make noodles too. So I’ve learned there is a lot you can do with a spiralizer and so much more nutritional benefit from using one too. 

Fresh veggie noodles


How did I get started?

I purchased a spiralizer that attaches to my Kitchen Aid Mixer, this spiralizer includes interchangeable blades to create skinny angel hair noodles, flat ribbon noodles or medium to thick spiral noodles. Now, I haven’t used all the blades yet, but I’m working on it.  But do you need all the different blades? Most certainly not, a hand-held spiralizer (looks like a pencil sharpener) works just as well with usually 1-2 different blades. Plus with a hand held, cleanup is quicker and is portable and less expensive.

I started with zucchini and used these ‘zoodles’ to make spaghetti and am slowly working my way through different vegetables AND fruits. Let me share some different vegetables and fruits you can use and what can you do with them.


Zucchini: spiralize zucchini to your choice and sauté in olive oil and seasonings for 3-4 minutes, then put in strainer to strain moisture. Serve with favorite pasta sauce

White or Sweet Potato: spiralize the potatoes to your choice and make chips or fries that are baked in the oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Carrot: spiralize the carrot to your choice and roast at 425 degrees for 5-10 minutes, sauté in a little olive oil for 5-10minutes or boil for 2-3 minutes. Then serve as chips/fries, pasta mixed with favorite sauce, or in a salad.


Apple: spiralize the apple to your choice and sauté for about 5 minutes, roast in oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or serve raw in a wrap.

Pear: spiralize the pear to your choice and roast at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or serve raw in a salad or as is for a snack.

These fantastic fruits and vegetables that you are spiralizing are naturally lower in calories, carbohydrates, fat and sodium and higher in fiber.  You don’t even realize you are eating vegetables when mixed with a delicious tomato basil sauce. Thus, you just got your servings of vegetables in while consuming ¼ of the calories with as much, if not more volume. Plus, if you’re gluten free this is a great way to still eat ‘pasta’ without the wheat.  

I didn’t even scratch the surface as to what you can noodle with. I urge you to go and have fun experimenting with both raw and cooked noodles.  Just remember, there is a learning curve anytime you try something new, but before you know it you will be noodling and zoodling away!!

9 Tips for Packing a School Lunch

I’m starting to shed tears thinking about school starting back up again. I’m sending my first born off to kindergarten this year. I cry anytime I think about it, and believe it or not, I’m shedding some tears while writing this post. 

We did everything to prepare for the first day of school: final registration, school physical and immunization, dental visit, eye exam, purchased backpack, school supplies, gym shoes, new school clothes…but then my son comes to me and asks me about his lunchbox. Light bulb! I am going to have to start packing a lunch.  Now don’t get me wrong, he can learn to eat a few school lunches, but I’m still going to be packing quite a few lunches to make sure he is nutritionally sound at lunch.  I have put my dietitian mommy hat on and put together 9 tips to help pack a nutritious school lunch.

I have put my dietitian mommy hat on and put together 9 tips to help pack a nutritious school lunch.

 1) Get your kids involved by asking them about their favorite foods they would like to see in their lunch. I know you may get some off the wall ideas and candy cannot be an entrée, but a treat every once in a while won’t hurt.

2) Have your kids  help you pack their lunch the night before. The more you get them involved, the more likely they will eat the food! Bonus, you have one less item on your morning to-do list.

3) Think of quick, healthy foods like fruit smoothies, whole grain crackers and string cheese. If Here’s a little trick to make smoothies last, make enough smoothies for a couple days –then just drop in ice cubes in the thermos the next morning.

4) Remember the #plategoals (Half the plate is non-starchy vegetables, ¼ is whole grains/fruits/starchy vegetables and ¼ is lean protein). Use this as an opportunity to teach your children about the food groups and fruits and vegetables.  There is no parent fail if you don’t get a veggie in their lunch, however, encourage them to snack on some after school and to include them at dinner.


5) Try to include at least 2 colors of plant-based foods at lunch. For example: orange carrots and frozen pineapple tidbits, plum tomatoes and green grapes, black bean dip and frozen mango chunks. Not only does this boost the nutritional quality, but it also makes the meal more colorful and fun!

6) Invest in a fun new lunch box, an ice pack, and some food containers your kids help pick out. I’ve learned that younger kids often times have to see the food through the container to be interested in opening it, so clear lunch food containers may increase the odds of it being opened and eaten. Big on the market are Bento boxes.

7) If you have an extra minute, which I know we don’t usually, try and label a container or two with little post it notes, like “magnificent mango” or “tasty hummus” –it may help the lunchbox come home empty.

8) Offer variety, but remember to keep portion sizes small. Try 5 pieces of sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon, a small turkey and cheese wrap and a small square of black bean brownie with an 8oz carton of milk. With small different options, you are increasing the chances your child will get a balanced meal at lunch.

9) Add fun shapes to the sandwich by using sandwich cutters or even a cookie cutter. Shaping foods make meals more appealing, and doesn’t take much time.

There is no fool proof way to make sure your kids will eat their lunch while at school, but you can at least know you are doing your part for their health. Happy Back to School!!

Megan Klemm