“I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze. The sweet chill of pumpkin and crisp sunburnt leaves.” (author unknown) Fall’s official beginning was September 21st. October is really where we begin to see changes in weather and it really kicks off the holiday season, starting with Halloween. The next few months are definitely busy, full of festivities, fun, and food.
A lot of people associate fall with the beginning of pumpkin season and that also comes with pumpkin spice everything. But allow me to let you in on a (not so) little secret – those coffee shop pumpkin spice lattes are full of processed ingredients and a horrible amount of sugar. Here are just some of the ingredients I found by looking through the most popular pumpkin spice lattes’ nutritional info:
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte:
Ingredients: Milk, Espresso, Pumpkin Spice Sauce [Sugar, Condensed Skim Milk, Pumpkin Puree, Contains 2% Or Less Of Fruit And Vegetable Juice For Color, Natural Flavors, Annatto, Salt, Potassium Sorbate], Whipped Cream [Cream (Cream, Mono And Diglycerides, Carageenan), Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid)], Pumpkin Spice Topping [Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, And Cloves].
Example drink: A tall (the smallest size) pumpkin spice latte with 2% milk and whipped cream has 310 calories, 12 grams fat (7 grams from saturated fat), 40 total grams carbs, 40 grams sugar, and 11 grams protein.
Peets Coffee Pumpkin Latte:
Ingredients: Milk, Espresso, Pumpkin Spice Flavoring: [pure cane sugar, water, natural and artificial flavors, salt], *Ground Nutmeg Topping (optional)
Example drink: A small pumpkin latte with 2% milk has 240 calories (50 calories from fat), 5 total grams of fat, (3.5 grams saturated fat), 37 total grams carbs, 33 grams sugar, and 11 grams protein.
Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Swirl Hot Latte:
Ingredients: Brewed 100% Arabica Coffee, Pumpkin Spice Syrup [Skim Milk, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Brown Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt].
Example drink: A small pumpkin swirl hot latte with whole milk (2% not listed) has 230 calories (60 calories from fat), 6 total grams of fat, (3.5 grams saturated fat), 36 total grams carbs, 36 grams sugar, and 7 grams protein.
McDonald’s McCafe’ Pumpkin Spice Latte
Ingredients: Milk, Espresso, Water, Pumpkin Spice Flavored Syrup: [Fructose, Water, Nonfat Dry Milk, Propylene Glycol, Contains 2% or Less: Caramel Color, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Xanthan Gum, Salt, Sucralose, Extractives of Annatto (Color).]
Example drink: A small McCafe’ pumpkin spice latte (no choice of milk) has 270 calories (80 calories from fat), 9 total grams of fat, (5 grams saturated fat), 41 total grams carbs, 39 grams sugar, and 10 grams protein.
“What should I take away from this,” you ask? Some places use more natural ingredients than others. For instance, Peets Coffee’s syrup has only a handful of ingredients; however, it lists “natural and artificial ingredients”. We really don’t know what those artificial ingredients are and the sugar and calorie content are still very high. Doing your research and making sure what you are putting in your body is truly the lesson.
Sometimes, we don’t realize the beverages we drink may have more calories or sugar than the desserts we indulge in because the nutrition facts aren’t on the cup we drink it from. I have a great alternative – making your own Pumpkin Spice Latte at home! Here is a healthier alternative to the list above, and if you do end up making one, let me know how it goes!
Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte:
- 0.5 cup almond milk (nutrition facts based on Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk)
- 0.5 cup hot strong brewed coffee or espresso
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree (my favorite is Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin; can be found at Whole Foods or online)
- 0.25 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- *Sweetener of your choice (try a low-glycemic sweetener like stevia or monk fruit
- Combine all of the ingredients in a blender on high speed and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Adjust sweetener and pumpkin pie spice to taste and serve warm.
(Note: A high-speed blender should keep the contents hot enough to serve immediately, but if you like your coffee piping hot or don’t have a blender handy, move to step 3.)
- Transfer the contents to a saucepan and warm over the stove top before serving. If you are skipping step two altogether, whisk the ingredients together in a pan over medium heat and make sure it is whisked briskly to combine well.
Nutrition Facts (1 serving): 36 calories, 1.5 grams total fat, 5.5 grams total carb (2 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar), and 1 gram protein *nutrition facts do not include sweetener
If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, try making your own: Blend together 3 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon, 2 teaspoons Ground Ginger, 2 teaspoons Nutmeg, 1.5 teaspoon Ground Allspice, 1.5 teaspoon Ground Cloves
Speaking of pumpkin…. did you know that they are loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene? The orange color may give it away as carrots have the same important ingredient. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which performs many important functions in overall health.
Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and may also privide protection against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases, as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.
Just one cup of cooked pumpkin contains 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 37 grams of calcium, 1.4 mg of iron, 22 mg of Magnesium, 564 mg of Potassium, 1 mg of zinc, 12 mg of Vitamin C, 1 mg of Niacin, 21 mcg of Folate, 2650 IU of Vitamin A, 3 mg of Vitamin E and 0.5 mg of Selenium. With all of those nutrients packed on one vegetable, it’s amazing that we decorate with them more often than we cook with them. That is one vitamin packed squash!
With Halloween just weeks away, the candy is already on the shelves. It’s the time of year where we start to celebrate everything with sweets and trick-or-treating can bring a lot of junk food into the house. If you are taking your little ones out this year, focus on trick-or-treating after your child has eaten a good meal to help prevent them from overeating on candy or treats. And who says your meals have to be boring? Make them festive and fun! Take a look at this healthy Halloween dinner recipe from liveeatlearn.com that takes vegetables and turns them into spooky treats:
Halloween Roasted Veggies
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- 2 large white potatoes
- 4 carrots peeled
- 3 red beets large, medium
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp rosemary
- ½ bulb garlic cloves separated with skin still on
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey, or maple syrup for vegan option
These easy French bread pizzas from SkinnyTaste.com are perfect for your next Halloween party, or for Halloween dinner before trick-or-treating. Just 4 ingredients and about 15 minutes to make!
French Bread Pizza Mummies
- 8 oz whole wheat French bread baguette
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 8 black olive slices (from 2 olives)
- 4 slices (0.75 oz each) mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Cut the bread in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise in 2 pieces to give you 4 pieces total. Slice the cheese into strips.
- Place the bread, cut side up on a baking sheet. Spread 1/4 cup of marinara sauce on each piece.
- Place 2 slices of olives on each pizza to make eyes. Randomly lay out the mummy cheese strips over the sauce. Bake in the center rack until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and the bread is crisp, about 8 minutes.
If you are looking for a healthier option that isn’t a trick but definitely a delicious treat for Halloween, I’ve got the perfect recipe! These dark-chocolate dipped apples are a great alternative to sugary sweets and easy enough for the kids to help with!
Dark Chocolate-Dipped Apples
- 8oz dark chocolate
- 8 Medium apples
- various toppings as desired
- 8 bamboo skewers or wooden pop sticks
- Wash and dry apples.
- Arrange toppings in medium sized bowls
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper coated with cooking spray.
- Insert wooden stick into apple cores.
- Fill a medium sauce pan half way with water.
- Bring water to a boil and place a medium glass mixing bowl over boiling water and immediately remove from heat.
- Melt chocolate in the glass bowl over the hot water.
- Coat the apple with a thin layer of chocolate by gently spooning melted chocolate on to each apple starting about one fourth inch away from apple top working downward.
- If you are using additional toppings dip apples into topping bowls or sprinkle toppings over apples.
- Place decorated apples onto parchment paper and refrigerate for fifteen minutes to harden.
Although the weather changing, everything pumpkin, and Halloween are all fun things to celebrate, a very important thing to remember is October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year and affecting countries at all levels of modernization.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation states that:
- One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
- Each year it is estimated that over 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die.
- Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 460 will die each year.
- On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
- Over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.
The good news? Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options.
Nutrition is also extremely important in the fight against cancer. Keeping a healthy weight is important, because obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking. Diet can also directly affect cancer risk. No single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself. But research shows that a diet filled with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other plant foods helps lower risk for many cancers.
Here are just some foods that studies have shown may lower your risk of cancer:
Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage contain sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to cause tumor cell death and reduce tumor size in test-tube and animal studies. A higher intake of cruciferous vegetables may also be associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Eat veggies raw or lightly steamed because they lose powerful phytochemicals when overcooked.
Incorporate cruciferous vegetables into your diet with this yummy recipe for Raw Cauliflower Couscous with Kale and Cabbage from eattobeat.org
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables:
These veggies contain folate and carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that aid cell-to-cell communication that controls cell growth, while folate is essential to protect our DNA, the starting point of any change that leads to cancer. These veggies may lower your risk of breast, skin, lung, stomach, mouth, pharynx and larynx cancer.
Incorporate dark green leafy vegetables into your diet by making homemade pizza and adding lots of fresh spinach! You can try this recipe from Food Network at home or your own (I would also add mushrooms or big slices of fresh tomatoes).
Beans are high in fiber, which may be protective against colorectal cancer. Human and animal studies have found that a higher intake of beans could reduce the risk of colorectal tumors and colon cancer.
Incorporate legumes in your diet by trying this recipe for Chili Lime Lentil Tacos With Spicy Grilled Pineapple Salsa from onegreenplanet.org
Berries contain antioxidants compounds, which may protect your cells from damage linked to cancer. They may also boost your immune system. They are also brimming with other potential cancer-fighters such as vitamin C and fiber. Some test-tube and animal studies have found that the compounds in berries may decrease the growth and spread of certain types of cancer.
Incorporate berries into your diet with my super easy recipe for Acai-Blueberry Anti-Aging Smoothie from my website, ChristineAvanti.com.
Fish consumption may decrease the risk of cancer. In particular, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and anchovies contain important nutrients such as vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to a lower risk of cancer. Aim for two servings of fatty fish per week to get a hearty dose of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, and to maximize the potential health benefits of these nutrients.
Incorporate fatty fish into your diet with this recipe for Simple Grilled Salmon & Vegetables from eatingwell.com.
Antioxidants, such as those found in oatmeal, might help fight cancer and neutralize toxins in your body that increase the risk of cancer, known as free radicals. These free radicals can damage your DNA cells, which may lead to cancer and antioxidants are believed to block them. There are just over 2 grams of dietary fiber in one 1/2-cup serving of dry oatmeal. Numerous studies suggest a connection between high-fiber diets and fighting rectal and colon cancer.
Incorporate oats in your diet by trying my recipe for Steel-Cut Oats with Fresh Cherries, Blueberries and Walnuts from my website, ChristineAvanti.com. Bonus: cherries, blueberries and walnuts are all on the list of cancer-fighting foods!
There are many other healthy options that have had research linking to a reduction in risk of cancer such as: Olive oil, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Citrus Fruits, Whole Grains, Flaxseed, Tomatoes, Garlic, Carrots, Tea, and Cherries.
You can find more facts, stories, resources, and how you can help spread awareness about Breast Cancer this month, and every month on the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website here.
“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.” – Stuart Scott