Choose good foods during season’s ‘eating frenzy’
BY DONYA CURRIE
Fall brings some wonderful fresh foods to the table, from apples to butternut squash to pumpkin. But it also can present some nutritional land mines, such as the Halloween candy already stacked on store shelves and school fundraisers hawking sugary and fatty pies and cookie dough.
“It’s really difficult for me as a dietitian to go out there and sell cookie dough and pies,” said local registered dietitian Nancy Farrell, who advocates for nonfood fundraisers and party treats. “It makes it hard for those of us parents who want to set a good example of starting a healthy lifestyle.”
Farrell said she urges her clients to take advantage of the best of what fall has to offer—a bounty of fruits and vegetables that cooks can use in dishes including nutritious stews and soups.
“This is that whole pumpkin, squash, sweet potato season,” said Farrell, owner of Farrell Dietitian Services. “All those orange-colored fruits and vegetables are just loaded with vitamin A and potassium. Those things are just really good for cancer prevention, for heart health and for vision.”
She suggests such delights as butternut squash soup, spaghetti squash, pumpkin bread and sweet potatoes, not to mention a slow-cooked meal of chili or vegetable-rich stew.
“There are a lot of really wonderful, comfort-type foods that can be convenient if you use a Crock-Pot. Just be sure to throw some veggies in there,” Farrell said.
Use a low-sodium broth as a base or perhaps whip up some chili loaded with fiber-rich beans.
“There are all those warm, yummy dishes that you can throw in a Crock-Pot before you head out the door and when you come home, it’s ready,” Farrell said.
There’s much to enjoy about fall, from a nutritional standpoint and otherwise. But with a plethora of fall football parties, buffet tables and holiday eating available to you, consider the need to follow a few food safety precautions.
For starters, follow the two-hour rule, advises Farrell. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours unless foods are on ice or being heated. Don’t rely on a back porch for cold food storage. And be sure to wash your hands if you’re involved in food prep or eating with others.
“This is cold and flu season, so when you have people with bacteria or a virus, if they sneeze into their hand and then they’re picking things out of a community food bowl or helping you chop onions without washing their hands,” that’s risky, Farrell said.
A few other potential fall food hazards: apple cider and eggs. Avoid unpasteurized apple cider sold at roadside stands or orchards. If not consumed within a day or two, the drink ferments with bacteria.
As eggnog appears on grocery store shelves, remember to keep the drink cool and refrigerated. For those making fresh eggnog, do not follow a recipe that calls for uncooked eggs.
“That is just, I think, unsafe,” Farrell said.
Instead, cook the yolk slightly with a little bit of sugar beforehand.
Worried about putting on pounds during the Halloween-to-New Year’s “eating frenzy,” as Farrell described it? Consider en-joyment in moderation.
Find healthy options when putting together a favorite dish, whether that means adding pumpkin purée to chocolate-chip cookies for extra fiber and vitamin A, or choosing low-fat ice cream to top a warm apple crisp. Add greens and other vegetables to soup, and aim to eat more fruits and vegetables at each meal and as snacks.
“We’re not looking for perfection,” Farrell said. “Make some small changes that get you on the right path.”
Donya Currie is a freelance writer in Stafford County who regularly contributes to Healthy Living and other health-related publications, including the AARP Bulletin. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.