Tag: pumpkins

Chef V’s Halloween Trick: Transforming Treats Into Healthier Alternatives

fruit halloween treats

It’s one thing to wish someone a happy, healthy New Year. But a happy, healthy Halloween? Not with all the added sugars that cause tooth decay and promote metabolic diseases. Not to mention the artificial food colorings that contribute to hyperactivity disorders. But if you’ve got kids—or if you’re a big kid trapped in an adult’s body—thankfully, Veronica the “V” in Chef V has got some tips for celebrating a Halloween, complete with SCARY fruit.

If you’ve been reading my blog over the years, you know I abide by this golden rule of nutrition: eat healthy (meaning whole, unprocessed food) at least 80% of the time. Personally, I’m not perfect when it comes to eating like a saint. Thanks to occasional overpowering cravings for french fries, I do confess to being a food sinner maybe 5-10% of the time.

funny halloween fruit

So I understand that on Halloween, it can be tempting to let your hair down and indulge. What’s the harm in a few mini-size candy bars? The problem is, where does it end? Can you really limit yourself to just one or two bite-size treats?

If so, then get your trick-or-treat on. But maybe you’re somebody who needs to have not only their Halloween cake so to speak but their cake pops, bat-shaped and witch-finger cookies and spiced apple cider. (Depending on the brand or how it’s made, spiced apple cider can have more sugar than soda!)

If that’s you, I have some healthy Halloween suggestions…

pumpkin seed nutritional facts

Balance It Out

So if you are planning on going to a Halloween party and indulging a little bit, do what I do. Anytime I know that I’ll be faced with a food kryptonite, powerless to just say no, I make sure that I feast on healthy things earlier in the day. For example, let’s say that I’m going to a holiday party at night, then for lunch I’ll have a huge salad and maybe an extra serving of Green Drink before I leave.

Eating more veggies (and drinking them) will help alkalize your system, which will help neutralize the effects of the highly-processed food.

pumpkin popsicles

Healthier Snacks

If you do a Google search for healthy Halloween snacks, you could get tricked. Excuse the pun. You see, what I mean by that is that something that always comes up is little boxes of raisins. Are raisins healthier than candy bars? For sure they are. But just one small box contains 25 grams of sugar.

So what are better alternatives?

Get creative and make your own healthy treats. Like these haunted bananas and pumpkin-lookalike tangerines.

Or how about carving spooky apple slices?

apple carving

You can also bake gluten-free, stevia-sweetened pumpkin muffins or offer cinnamon sticks, wild honey sticks and baked pumpkin seeds.

But if you don’t have the time or skills to make these healthy treats, then just fill your jack-o-lantern with whole foods that most kids love, including:

  • Cuties
  • 100% fruit roll ups
  • Low-sugar juice boxes (Honest brand)

Make Pumpkins Healthy Again

One of the healthiest treats you can give or eat is the symbolic image of Halloween: pumpkins. One of the healthiest fruits (yes, pumpkins are technically a fruit), pumpkins have an extremely low glycemic load (3), meaning that it will hardly raise your blood sugar levels.

Plus, pumpkins are packed with carotenoids, which is a type of antioxidant. Carotenoids are one of the most important anti-aging phytonutrients. You’ve probably heard of some specific carotenoids that pumpkin contains, including beta-carotene. There’s also the vision- and eye-health supporting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

Speaking of beta-carotene, it’s the precursor of Vitamin A and get this, one cup of canned pumpkin contains nearly 800% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A. In addition, pumpkin is rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and several other vitamins and minerals. And one more fun fact about pumpkins is that they are super high in fiber, which helps things move along if you have constipation.

So consider making a pureed (canned; with BPA-free lining) pumpkin treat for Halloween. To sweeten it without sugar, consider using monk fruit extract or stevia.

And finally, don’t forget to indulge in pumpkin seeds (pepitas), which are also super healthy.

Have a happy, healthy Halloween!

Chef V

Don’t Be Scared Of Pumpkin—Put ’em On Your Face & Eat ‘Em!

Chef V bat-mask-pumpkin

When you think of pumpkin and autumn the first thing that probably comes to mind is jack o’ lanterns. But Chef V suggests using this “gourdeous” fruit in other ways this time of year. 

Fall is finally here and for many people that means one thing: it’s pumpkin spice latte season! Oh yeah, Halloween will soon be upon us. But there’s far more to Cucurbita Pepo (pumpkins) than carved decorative gourds and coffee drinks that instantly turn you into a pre-diabetic with an insulin-spiking rush of 50 grams of sugar. 

Raw pumpkin fruit (canned), seeds and seed oils are superfoods in my book. This time around, I want to cover some more interesting uses about pumpkins and their health benefits….

pumpkin skin mask

Pumpkins: Face Masks: For Beauty, Not Trick Or Treat

Having a pumpkin on your head makes sense if you’re celebrating Halloween. But it also can help your skin look more beautiful. Of course I’m talking about face masks. Pumpkin face masks aren’t going to be the hottest beauty trend of 2021. They’ve already been a trend for a few years but not everybody has heard of applying it to the skin. 

Now before you rush out to your closest supermarket to buy canned pumpkin and apply it to your skin, that’s not the type used in beauty face masks. 

Many beauty brands claim that pumpkin extract helps rejuvenate the skin. And there’s some evidence to back up the claim. 

In a research study from last year, the scientists concluded that the extract could have potential in treating contact dermatitis (CD) because of its antioxidant activity. 

A more recent study from earlier this year noted that depression is often associated with CD because the skin disease is caused by chronic stress. The researchers found that pumpkin extract, when applied orally and topically can lessen the severity of both CD and depression. 

Pumpkins have a high amount of oleic acid, an Omega-9 fatty acid, that is believed to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant activities. 

Advertisements I’ve seen claim that pumpkin face masks clean pores, hydrates, cleanses, plumps the skin, stimulates collagen production, remove dead and dull skin cells and more. Who needs a dermatologist when you can just use a pumpkin face mask!

pumpkin seed nutritional facts

Pumpkins For Pooping!

One thing I forgot to mention in my article about nutrition facts is that it’s an excellent source of fiber. In fact, in just one serving of canned pumpkin (buy organic), there are seven grams of fiber. Fiber helps keep you regular, satisfies your appetite, removes excess cholesterol from the body, and controls blood sugar spikes. So when you’re craving a regular punkin' spice latte, just add some canned pumpkin to it. Just kidding, don’t do that. But do eat canned for the fiber content. 

Pumpkins – Seed Oil For Prostate Health

Another thing I didn’t mention in my original ode to pumpkins benefits is that for men, it could be a life saver. Roughly 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Although prostate cancer is thankfully a highly survivable disease these days, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 34,000 men in the U.S. will die from prostate cancer in 2021. 

The oil from pumpkin seeds have been shown in many research studies to prevent the growth of the prostate gland, which may be a contributing factor in developing prostate cancer. 

Many men as they age develop a non-cancerous growth in their prostate called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH. BPH can make it painful and difficult for older men to urinate. 

(Hubby, Brandon: Are you reading this? I’m buying you pumpkin seed oil for your birthday!) 

pumpkin seeds

Pass On The Pumpkin Pie

This time of year, besides pumpkin spice lattes and halloween decorations, most people associate the with pie. 

Yes, I’m a certified nutritional therapist and innovator behind nationwide delivery of organic Green Drink, but I’m not going to be the food police and tell you never to eat pumpkin pie again. But if you are going to eat it, do so sparingly because too many added sugars can weaken your immune system. And you don’t need me to remind you why that’s a problem these days. 

If you’re going to indulge in pie use a zero-calorie sweetener like stevia. It may not taste as good as the real thing but it will allow you to celebrate the season without the guilt. 

Have a happy, healthy autumn!

Chef V

Why I’m Out Of My Gourd About Pumpkins

Chef V hand and pumpkin

Pumpkins: can we all agree that the whole pumpkin spice and PSL (latte) thing has gotten out of hand? It’s gotten to the point that PSLs are released with a whole month left of summer to go. In fact, Dunkin Donuts beat Starbucks to the pumpkin punch this year, releasing its own PSL on August 19.

When it’s still 100 degrees outside and I’m trying to cool off in the pool the last thing I want to think about is a steaming hot PSL. And as a certified nutritional therapist, I suggest you just say no to PSLs.

According to Starbucks.com, a grande (16 oz) contains 50 grams of sugar! Fifty! 5-0! There are four grams of sugar in a teaspoon, which means a grande PSL has 12.5 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association suggests women should have no more than 6 teaspoons a day. You don’t have to be a brilliant mathematician to figure out that PSLs are no superfood.

(Want a healthier drink to get your day started? My Organic Green Drink contains only 6 grams of sugar per 16 oz and 7 leafy green veggies.)

pumpkin spice latte

Remove the Sugar, Pumpkins Are Healthy

But pumpkins are a superfood in their natural state. One study on these “gourdgeous” (sorry for the pun; pumpkins are gourds) fruits that are often mistaken for vegetables, says that pumpkins contain “Substantial medicinal properties due to the presence of unique natural edible substances.”

Pumpkins possess a plethora of the following phytonutrients:

  • Alkaloids
  • Flavonoids
  • Palmitic acid
  • Oleic acid
  • Linoleic acid
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Manganese

Nutrition researchers love pumpkins not because of how well it tastes in a caffeinated drink, but rather for its “medicinal properties including anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and others [that] have been well documented.”

Edible pumpkins contain a high amount of the antioxidants called carotenoids. Carotenoids are the colorful pigment that give carrots their orange hue, and their name (“carot”enoids). All types of pumpkins have the following three anti-aging all-star carotenoids: zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A.

All three are great for the eyes. So when you eat pumpkin seeds or organic canned pumpkin, you’re protecting your peepers from age-related macular degeneration. These antioxidants are actually found in human eyeballs! So pumpkins are sort of like a multivitamin for your eyes.

Pumpkin seeds ripen in August through September. So this is the time of year you should be eating whole pumpkin (take it easy on pumpkin pie) along with its fall cousin, squashes.

pumpkin seed nutritional facts

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts

Pumpkins are nutrient dense. They’re low in calories but mega rich in vitamins and minerals. There’s several benefits of eating pumpkin. It doesn’t matter whether you’re eating this cucumber-related fruit (yes, it’s technically a fruit, not veggie) raw, boiled, canned or the seeds.

First, pumpkins contain lots of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants kill free-radicals. We all need a certain amount of free radicals in our body. It gives something for our immune system to do, namely killing free radicals. But when free radicals outnumber white blood cells and other immune-system sentinels, that’s when disease takes root.

Beta-carotene is what gives carrots their orange color. And it’s this pigment in beta-carotene that helps fight cancer, prevents premature aging as well as heart disease. Some of the beta-carotene you eat converts into vitamin A, which is a nutrient vital for vision and one that many people simply don’t get enough of. (Do you eat enough beef livers? Probably not.)

Pumpkin is also relatively high in minerals such as potassium, copper, manganese and vitamins C and B2. Pumpkin even contains essential omega-3 fatty acids.

Usually, I don’t recommend eating anything from a can. There are a few exceptions: wild salmon and sardines. (I won’t let hubby Brandon near the house with sardines. They smell disgusting. But they are very healthy.) If you’re going to buy canned pumpkin, though, make sure it’s organic, in a BPA-free can.

Canned pumpkin is like a vitamin A pill. There’s a whopping almost 800% of your recommended vitamin A intake. The one downside is there’s 8 grams of sugar per serving. But the sugar is balanced by 7 grams of fiber (almost 30% daily value). Also, there’s 50% daily value of vitamin K (good for your bones and blood) and 20% daily value of iron.

Pumpkins: Pumpkin Seed Oil

I’m still waiting for pumpkin seed oil to become the next avocado oil. Just as avocado oil has become a viable healthy cooking oil alternative to olive oil (and most definitely, canola oil), pumpkin seed oil has the potential to become a staple in every healthy kitchen cabinet. That’s because like avocado and olive oils, pumpkin seed oil is technically a fruit oil.

Studies like this one show that pumpkin seed oil can help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Pumpkin oil is also beneficial for the skin, and it helps the body’s detoxification processes.

pumpkin seeds

Pumpkins:  Best Foods To Eat

So we’ve ruled out PSLs and, sorry to be a buzzkill—pumpkin pie. If you’re able to exert some willpower, limit yourself to three big bites of pumpkin pie and eat each bite very, very slowly. But if eating one bit is the equivalent of turning one cigarette into a pack-a-day habit, then do your best to just say no.

What, then, is the best pumpkin food to eat? Although as I’m writing this in mid-October, it’s still bikini weather in much of the West, any week now, the nights will be chilly. I look forward to breaking out the quilts and making hearty, warm, nutrient-dense pumpkin soup. I love adding some green onions and gluten-free croutons.

pumpkin spice latte

Make Your Own PSL

If you’re addicted to PSLs, seriously, you should stop. Did I not mention 50 grams of sugar. And to think that there are people who drink two of them a day. But a much healthier way to get your PSL fix is to make it at home yourself. Using a blender, buy some pumpkin spice and other spices. Pumpkin spice is itself healthy: pumpkin, clove, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. I’m not a coffee drinker, but if I were, I’d also experiment with cardamom and turmeric, both of which are potent anti-inflammatory ingredients.

In a blender, place the coffee, spices and my recipe for creamy almond milk. Now simply replace the 50 grams of sugar with stevia, monk fruit extract, or yacon syrup, all three of which are natural and contain less than one gram of sugar per serving.

A Pumpkin Spice Latte that tastes amazing, is basically sugar-free and helps cut down on inflammation? Now that’s worth getting excited about—anytime of year.

Chef V

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