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Fall brings bounty of pumpkins, apples, squash

We have finally come to the time of year when most restaurants throw pumpkins, apples and squash into just about everything that they can for the next three months, but rightfully so.

All three are full of nutrients that can help you in a number of ways. Aside from their numerous health benefits, pumpkins, apples, and squash can go into a variety of recipes and taste delicious while still remaining healthy. Also, they are easily prepared, making them ideal ingredients.

Taking advantage

Apples contain fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C, they may assist in weight loss, and they can help to prevent heart disease and diabetes. Pumpkins are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber and they are low in calories. The essential fatty acids in pumpkins can protect against high blood pressure, cancer, and arthritis while improving brain power and helping to keep skin healthy.

Squash have vitamin A and vitamin C as well, but they also have folate which has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects if taken by women before and during pregnancy. In addition, folate may prevent heart attacks and reduce the incidence of colon cancer, so it should be embraced by both men and women of all ages. However, there are many types of squash, and they contain different nutrients.

Preparing and using ingredients

If you have an apple slicer or corer, you know that it only takes 2 seconds to get rid of the seeds in an apple, but before you start, always wash the apples, even if you plan to discard the peel. Apples can be added to a variety of dinner recipes to add flavor and texture. To help make some of your baked items healthier, consider swapping applesauce for oil in things like breads and brownies.

Pumpkins can be used for much more than pumpkin pie and add a fantastic new flavor to some recipes, like cakes, breads, and cookies. If you don’t have a nice-sized pumpkin on hand, canned pumpkin works wonderfully in recipes. If you do have pumpkins, save the seeds. The seeds of pumpkins have their own health benefits, and when roasted, are a tasty snack food and can be used in recipes calling for nuts or in place of granola.

Squash, as I recently found out, can be cooked in a slow cooker and comes out perfectly. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard and this method eliminates a lot of time and effort that might otherwise be discouraging when eating healthy foods. Additionally, there are a variety of squash that can be added to a vegetable blend, contributing to a better balanced meal with a wider variety of flavors.

Stocking up

and saving

If you prefer to not use canned pumpkins, you can create your own purée. It will last much longer by freezing it for when you need it again. As well, there are a variety of soups, stews, and other foods that may call for a squash purée. They can be prepared in the same way as pumpkin and saved in the freezer. Apples can typically be purchased year round, but if you prefer locally grown, that would be harder to come by. If you are making a spread or something that would require applesauce or puree, that can be made and frozen as well.

Easy (and healthy) pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Makes 36 servings

1 box spiced cake mix

15 ounces canned pumpkin (or fresh purée)

1 cup special dark chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together and drop by teaspoons onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

Per serving: 83 calories, 2.9 grams total fat, 14.6 grams total carbohydrates, 42.4 percent vitamin A, 2.6 percent calcium, 2.1 percent folate, 2.2 percent iron

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