Pumpkin possibilities and sensible meals

Q: Is pumpkin as loaded with vitamins as winter squash? If so, what can you do with it besides making pie?

A: Pumpkin is in the same plant family as squash, and its nutrient content is similar to the many types of winter squash. Their deep orange color signals that they are loaded with antioxidants called carotenoids – including the well-known beta-carotene, as well as alpha-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. In laboratory studies, alpha- and beta-carotene help control cell growth, which could mean help in reducing cancer risk. Human studies link higher consumption of foods that contain these carotenoid compounds with lower risk of certain cancers. If you use fresh pumpkin, choose a smaller “cooking” or “sweet” pumpkin (about four to eight pounds each). Peel it and cut in cubes for stir-fries (perhaps with greens like spinach or kale), drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast in the oven alone or with other vegetables, or add to stews. Convenient canned pumpkin – be sure it’s pure pumpkin and not sweetened pumpkin pie mix – is great for a purée of pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread or muffins, or even smoothies. One reliable source where you can find storage tips, recipes, and nutritional information is AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer.

Q: How can I lose weight while preparing meals for a family that is not overweight?

A: A basic healthy eating pattern can serve as the foundation for everyone, and you can adapt it to meet your needs without preparing separate meals for family members whose calorie needs differ. The mostly plant-based diet recommended by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is a healthful way to eat for everyone, regardless of weight status, and the New American Plate model helps you achieve that. At least two-thirds of the meal revolves around vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans; meat, fish and poultry are kept to no more than one-third of a meal. That framework supports weight-loss goals because you can fill up on vegetables, which are usually the lowest calorie parts of a meal. People whose calorie needs are higher can keep the same New American Plate proportions, but their portions will be larger, including larger portions of higher calorie grain foods (such as rice and bread) and starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and corn). You can limit fats you add at the table such as salad dressing, while others may use somewhat more generous portions.

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, is a nutritionist and writer for American Institute for Cancer Research

Courtesy Health Living News

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