Why I Preserve My Own Vegetables

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Written by Jackie Stevenson BS, DTR

This is a follow up to a post written over the summer, Canning: Effectively Preserving Your Harvest.

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I canned a whole boatload of veggies from the garden this summer, including several quart-size jars of green beans. Well, my husband and I finally dared to try them with dinner last night. The result?

They tasted….drum roll please…..like canned beans!

That’s right, they tasted like all 89-cent commercial canned green beans taste. They were the same gray-looking green color and had lost their usual fresh crunch.

Why then, had I bothered to can them in the first place?

I know the source of the product.

green-beans

Fresh beans, pre-canning

  • I grew those beans myself.
  • I know that I didn’t use chemical fertilizers or bug killer.
  • I know when I picked them, and how long they sat around before canning.
  • I know that I pressure cooked them at the correct pressure for the appropriate amount of time to make them safe to eat.

My glass jars are BPA and BPS free. Why does that matter?

  • BPA is linked to health problems like cancer, infertility and brain disorders (see Mercola’s article on the subject here).
  • BPA is used in plastic products like water bottles, and to line metal cans.
  • BPA is able to seep into food stored in these bottles and cans.
  • BPS is a “safe” alternative to BPA because less leaches into the food product.
  • BPS has been shown to cause similar health issues to BPA.
  • Food that is fresh, frozen or stored in glass are safer options.
  • Are glass jar lids BPA free? Most are, but are they also BPS free? Find out how to tell here. Probably not, but since its reported to leach into food less, I feel better about it.

Yes, canning my own vegetables probably cost more in time and energy (don’t forget growing time) than it would take to buy a can at the store, but I do take pride in the fact that I did it! And, for the reasons listed above, I will do it all over again next year.

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Got a canning story to share? We’d love to hear your success stories and disastrous canning episodes. Feel free to comment below!

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Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

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Trying to keep your family on track during the holiday season? Have a family health nut? Buying for your favorite dietitian? We’ve rounded up a list of holiday gifts perfect for the health conscious, Paleoesque person on your list.91gvisfpcyl-_sl1500_

Kitchen Gadgets

Spiralizer: Who doesn’t love making zoodles or other fun veggie spirals? They make ’em in all shapes and sizes from this budget friendly version to a fancier one to an attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer (also a great item if you’re looking to splurge on someone who loves to bake).

71-ak79nv1l-_sl1500_Instant-Pot: This all-in-one kitchen gadget is great for both the busy home cook and the more adventurous kitchen creators. This particular model is a 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Cooker–Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browning, Yogurt Maker, Steamer & Warmer.

Cookbooks: A few recommendations include Practical Paleo, Nom Nom Paleo, Against All Grain, and other Top Paleo Cookbooks on Amazon

Food Saver:  Eating healthy often means buying in bulk to lower costs, so a vacuum sealer is a great gift.

Novelty kitchen items make cooking fun! Check out this owl kitchen timer and olive oil sprayer.  I know I would love to get one of these nifty avocado huggers.

Food Containerslife-factory

Glass Waterbottle: We love Life Factory bottles that come in all different sizes and colors. They also make food containers and wine glasses!

Reusable Snack Bags or glass storage containers are great for the eco-conscious.

FOOD

Gift Basket: Either make up one yourself or buy a premade Paleo Gift Basket.  Ideas for 12509677_1041914339163133_4329125001892968906_nhomemade baskets include Paleo baking staples (coconut flour, almond flour, coconut oil, local honey, spices/seasonings), or Paleo snacks (nuts, fruit, bars, dairy-free dark chocolate). Make a batch of Paleo Christmas cookies, or try making homemade spice mixes, too!

Artisan oils and vinegar: O’Live a Little is a great local, small business in South Windsor and Canton, CT

Essential oils are a great gift too. Check out this article that shows how to combine oils in your diffuser to create holiday scents!

Stocking Stuffers

Dark Chocolate: Because who doesn’t love chocolate in their stocking? Paleo brands include Pur 7, Eating Evolved and Hu.

Snacks: Krave Jerky or Epic snacks are tasty jerky options. Lara bars. Single serve nut butters packs, like Justin’s, that can be found at Target. Nuts and dried fruit packed in festive jars spice up a basic snack.

What is your favorite gift you’ve received or given?

You may also like: Mindful Eating Techniques, Prepare Now To Start Your New Year Right

Winter Squash 101

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The produce aisle has changed as of late. The shelves have switched from recognizable favorites like zucchini and green beans to rough, bumpy squashes like butternut and acorn. If you’ve ever tried these varieties on a whim, you already know they’re delicious if prepared well. If you haven’t tried them, I’m sure the question of what to do with them is your biggest obstacle.

Types of Winter Squash:

The problem with winter squash is in the preparation. Most varieties have thick skins that need to be peeled, seeded or otherwise dealt with before eating. There are two simple solutions to this problem that takes the guesswork out of a tough squash.

When boiling and mashing: The first time I made butternut squash, I peeled, seeded, cubed and boiled it to mush. It was delicious, but honestly, it took a good 1/2 hour just to prep. No more peeling for me! Years ago I found an easy solution online. Pop it in the microwave before peeling to loosen the skin. Poke holes in the skin to avoid pressure buildup inside, then nuke it for about 5 minutes, turning regularly. Once the skin is wilted and soft, it will be much easier to peel.

Helpful tip: To save time, you could simply microwave it until the entire inside is soft. No need to boil at all!

When roasting: Simply cut your squash in half the long way, remove the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven. It should take about 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, but will vary depending on its size. You’ll know its done if you can poke a knife easily all the way through. Simply scoop out the flesh for a great winter side dish.

Helpful tip: use a heavy duty knife, preferably one big enough to make one pass. The raw squash will be tough. Pack your muscles. 

Alright! Now that your preparation confidence has been lifted, it’s time to decide which one to buy.

Butternut squash: A favorite Thanksgiving side dish in my house, the butternut squash isButternut squash great for sweet or savory preparations. There are recipes everywhere for this autumn star, everything from soups to lasagnas to butternut squash gingerbread cake (oh my!).

Butternut Squash Gingerbread Cake (Greens of the Stone Age)

Sage Roasted Butternut Squash Puree (Hold the Grain)

Acorn squash: A smaller, cuter cousin of the butternut, this variety is easily cut in half, 5196852790_3700682351seeded and roasted, just like the butternut. A simple drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic gives a savory taste, but could also be mixed with cinnamon and honey for a sweeter dish.

Stuffed Acorn Squash (Stupid Easy Paleo)

Acorn Squash Custard (It’s A Love/Love Thing)

Sugar pumpkin: Yep, pumpkins are good for more than carving, although not all varieties are meanpumpkin-squash-halloween-soupt to eat. Sugar pumpkins are the most common variety to make sweet treats like pumpkin pie, but can also be used like a butternut squash for more savory flavors.

Pumpkin-Coconut Bisque (Popsugar)

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes (My Whole Food Life)

 

Don’t forget the seeds!

Pumpkin and spaghetti squash are my favorite roasted seeds! You can slow-roast them, or if you’re pressed for time, bake them alongside your roasting squash for a quick treat. These little gems burn easily though, so watch them carefully and turn a few times while your squash cooks. They’re done when golden brown.

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Like this article? Your friends may too! Don’t forget to share!

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Eating Late – How bad is it?

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Written by Jackie Stevenson, BS, DTR

We have heard this question time and time again…

“Is eating too late at night bad for my health?”

The long-standing theory, simply put, is that a person should not eat righ20151107_164024t before bed because it doesn’t give the body time to burn the calories off. Instead, it is stored as fat, causing weight increases over time. There are plans dedicated to this theory, even stopping meals mid-afternoon in some cases, for weight loss. Research on this type of plan is emerging showing that it may be beneficial to weight loss, but more studies need to be done to prove it. If you’re a person who prefers to eat dinner at a reasonable time, strict plans like this aren’t really maintainable over time.

“Am I eating late at night because I’m hungry, or have I eaten enough and am just eating because I’m bored?”

The scenario of having a ‘second meal’ after dinner is most likely the reason why eating late is correlated with weight gain. Mindless eating due to boredom instead of hunger means you’re eating more calories than your body needs. Consistently overeating by a few hundred calories per day (a few cookies here, a bag of popcorn there) quickly adds up. An extra 125 calories onto your normal meal plan daily adds up to about a pound of extra weight per mont56928516h! Keep in mind that it’s fine to eat something late if you are legitimately hungry, especially if you did more activity during the day than usual. Learn to read your body’s hunger cues to determine which scenario you find yourself in. Most people do require a small snack after dinner, which is usually built into their meal plans to avoid going over on calories. Feel free to contact us to determine how this fits in to your plan.

“I’m not going over my average calorie limit for the day, but I’m still gaining weight. What gives?”

There are lots of factors over the entire day to consider, but eating late at night despite calorie limits still has its problems. This article sums it up best: Your body expects to rest and fast while sleeping. Eating late raises your insulin levels, and cells become more resistant to it during this time. Long term insulin resistance leads to weight gain and the development of Type 2 diabetes over time, even if you maintain a normal calorie level. Additionally they have found high carbohydrate meals before bed actually leads to LOW blood sugar in the middle of the night. The body’s natural response is to wake you up to get food. Goodbye good night sleep!

“It’s 10pm, and I’m hungry! I lost track of time doing something, and now it’s too late to eat. What do I do?”

Here’s where the exceptions come in. Our recommendations:

  • Don’t be afraid to eat. If you haven’t eaten in several hours and are legitimately hungry, you most likely won’t be able to sleep until your stomach is satisfied.
  • Avoid nights like this by planning ahead, bringing aaa54777919adf8aacf6d77783547f93080d37f61606645cbf0e689e4536a6a9extra snacks or planning meals out.
  • On nights you find yourself hungry just before bedtime, have something small enough to make you moderately full, not overstuffed.
  • Pick high protein foods like nuts instead of high carb snacks that cause blood sugar spikes.  If you are craving a carbohydrate make sure to pair it with a protein or fat to avoid spiking your blood sugar.  Check out Jacqui’s blog post on foods that are actually beneficial for your sleep.
  • Make your best effort to eat small meals or snacks every few hours most day. Have your last meal or snack a couple of an hour or two before bed.

 

Find this article helpful? If you did, your friends may like it too! Don’t forget to share!

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What will you do with your extra hour of daylight?

Combat Cold and Flu Season with Good Nutrition

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This time of year, you can walk into any local pharmacy and be bombarded by “Get your flu shot!” signs and offers to “prick you quick” by your friendly neighborhood pharmacist. Getting the shot can surely help ward off some strains of the flu, but won’t protect you against the common cold. Also in making the flu shot, the CDC takes its best guess as to which strains will be active for the coming year, meaning it doesn’t protect against all strains. This begs the question “What can I do if my flu shot doesn’t work?”

The answer? Boost your entire immune system to help fight off anything that comes your way. As the immune system defends the body against bacteria and other foreign invaders, it depletes stores of essential vitamins and compounds it needs to function. Make sure to replenish your body to keep your immune system going at full steam.

Natural immune boosters

Vitamin C, as you’ve likely heard, is the king of immune boosters, and a well-marketed addition to most cold medicines. Scientific studies show that Vitamin C stores decline during times of stress and sickness, so boosting your numbers with supplements gives your immunvitamince system what it needs to fight the good fight. Most over-the counter (OTC) vitamin C supplements have only 1,000mg per dose, which is fine to maintain stores on a regular basis.  However, if you already have cold or flu symptoms, you may need to increase the dose to really knock it out. Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, red peppers, kale, broccoli and strawberries.  One serving of orange juice, kale or broccoli has about 100mg. It’s not enough to boost your immune system in one shot, but these foods are great in incorporate into your regular diet.

Glutathione(GSH), in the simplest terms, is an antioxidant. It has a numbc840d9bfab5a0a6078ae4e713168ef1eer of responsibilities in the body, including production of immune cells that attack foreign invaders in the blood stream. In order to keep levels up under stress, a person would need to eat about 10 times the daily amount normally consumed. Asparagus is at the top of the list for glutathione content, but would still take about 18 cups to get 1000mg per day. Cooking causes glutathione to break down, so it would need to be raw! During high times of stress and flu season it might be a good idea to take a supplement if you do not regularly consume foods rich in glutathione.

Quercetin is a natural antihistamine, aka natural alternative to Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, etc. You heard that right! It works as well, if not better than OTC products. It helps lower the side effects of a histamine response, like itchy, stuffy or runny nquercetin-contentose. Quercetin is found in most fruits and vegetables, but are in highest concentrations in cranberries or elderberry. Stock up on REAL cranberry juice (not cocktail), and skip the added sugar if you can tolerate the taste.

 

 

Anti-microbial foods: Nature’s antibiotics

Garlic’s pungent smell illicits a response that helps clear the respiratory tract. In the GI system, it destroys the bio-film that covers and protects colonies of bacteria, ultimately Garlic Clovesdestroying them. It can also be used as a topical antiseptic. Garlic is also high in Vitamin C, supporting the immune system.

Cinnamon is an antioxidant that also has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral potential. There isn’t much official undefined_wide-4e532178c3fbb65e93fc64e8a24d1b450d045834-s900-c85research on these claims, but anecdotal evidence says it all. A little bit goes a long way. A teaspoon added to your tea can help fight off those bugs, plus it tastes pretty good when you’re feeling low.

Ginger has a long-standing history of relieving belly aches, however, don’t beginger-root-benefits fooled by commercial brands of ginger ale that contain little to no actual ginger (Ahem…Schweppes). You’re better off boiling up a bit of raw ginger root to get its beneficial effects. Add a bit of honey, cinnamon and lemon juice for a powerhouse cocktail.

 

Your best defense against cold and flu season is starting with a well-rounded diet will lots of fruits and veggies.  However, there will always be that rogue bug that gets the best of you. In those cases, rest up, hydrate and try some of the natural remedies combining these powerhouse ingredients.

As always, supplements and proper dosage should be evaluated by a trusted health care professional, as supplementation is not appropriate for everyone.

Think your friends may like this article? Don’t forget to share!

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Combating SAD Season

Thrive During Cold and Flu Season

Combating SAD Season

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Written by Jackie Stevenson, BS, DTR

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, often referred to as the “winter blues”. If you are affected by this disorder you know that it doesn’t always wait until winter to set in, but usually coincides with the drastic decrease in sunlight that fall brings. The theory is that the body’s natural circadian rhythms (what prompts sleeping and waking) are thrown off by changes in light. Sunlight itself plays a role in the production and release of serotonin, a “feel good” neurotransmitter, in the brain.

Just like any disorder, people can react in diffenhanced-25544-1446831790-1erent ways. Some see minimal effects like wanting to sleeping later or curl up in a blanket after work, but others can be completely down for the count, falling into major depressive episodes.  It seems as the daylight fades, so does your motivation to eat well and exercise. For nutrition professionals, it’s a time to help patients rethink plans and help them avoid these seasonal pitfalls.

Knowing what is behind your lack of motivation is the first line of defense. Just being aware that SAD is a real thing can help you recognize how if affects you, and be proactive about treatment.  Yes, it will be harder to wake up for that early morning workout. Yes, you will crave more high-carb comfort foods as the temperature drops. Yes, you will need to work a little harder to find some motivation. But you don’t have to accept the SAD defeat.

Exercise

The recommendation for daily exercise does not just go away when it’s cold. In fact, maintaining or increasing your current activity level can be the key to beating depressive symptoms. Regular exercise has been shown to counteract symptoms of depression, so stopping that morning run just feeds into your problem. Countless people blame the cold or the dark for decreased activity. Be strong and creative to find a solution to what is stopping you. If you’re scared of the dark, try finding time later in the day to get some exercise. Being outside during peak sun hours can also produce more serotonin naturally.

If your schedule is full and an AM workout is the only option, proper clothing and gear can keep you going outside all winter if you are willing. Of course, safety would be the number one concern here. Think bright sweatshirts, flashlights and reflective-gearreflective clothing. You can also get reflective leashes and jackets for your canine partner if necessary. There are studies showing that exercising in colder weather helps burn more fat (woot! woot!). If that’s not up your alley, or you just don’t feel safe outside, there is plenty to be done inside. You could join a gym or try some new classes. Use exercise videos or online tutorials to exercise in the comfort of your own home. Get creative and use stairs for cardio, and old milk jugs filled with water or sand for weights.

Food choices

This time of year brings apple pie, apple fritters, creamy comfort foods and pumpkin spice everything. The majority of seasonal delights are baked goods that are deep fried and/or loaded with empty calories. Any reasonable person realizes that we must limit these things year round fochick-pot-pie_0r good health, but somehow that fact is lost when face to face with a pumpkin spice latte. While it’s ok to be festive and indulge here and there, it’s easy for your routine to get derailed. Try making a list of reasons why you want to eat healthy or stick to your program. Pull it out every time you feel the need to overindulge. You can enjoy pumpkins and apples in a number of healthy ways, and lots of comfort foods can give you the warm and fuzzies without blowing your normal diet. When I think comfort food, I think soups and casseroles, and there is nothing inherently wrong with either one. How you prepare and serve it another story. Keep it light by skipping the excessive butters, oils, heavy creams and rich crusts/toppings. Look for new recipes if you have to. If you find yourself cornered by a big pot of mac and cheese, take a 1/2 cup portion and make yourself a salad (don’t forget your protein). Google “light comfort food recipes” or something similar to find some new twists on your favorite comfort foods. This article has lots of Paleo recipes for old favorites.

Nutrition

Lack of motivation to cook healthy meals can have detrimental effects on nutrition status. There are several vitamins that can affect mood and mental health if deficient, so it is important to make sure you are getting adequate amounts. Deficiency, especially when you are already dealing with SAD symptoms, can exacerbate your problems.

  • Vitamin D, primarily received through sunlight, should be increased in the diet as light sources decline. Fatty fish and egg yolks provide a natural source.
  • B vitamins normally found in animal proteins are sometimes traded for heavy, carb-based dishes, causing a decrease in B vitamin intake. runners-nutrition-mistakes
  • Antioxidants, vitamin C and E, help boost the immune system and fend off cold and flu bugs. As fresh fruits and veggie intake decline, so do the variety of vitamins and minerals that come with them.

A well-rounded multi-vitamin can help supplement some of these missing elements if you are not getting them from your diet. Some vitamins, especially Vitamin D, may need to be supplemented in larger doses to maintain stores built up over the summer. Blood testing can determine whether or not the need for excess supplementation is necessary. We find that most people do not have a clinical deficiency, but are below optimal levels of vitamin D. This means that they will not develop rickets, but their mental health and energy levels may suffer, making SAD symptoms worse.

Light Therapy

One of the most common SAD therapies is use of light boxes to mimic sunlight and stabilize the body’s natural circadian rhythm. The idea is to trick your brain into producing neurotransmitters, a process usually triggered by sunlight. Sitting in front of a light box has proven to help decrease symptoms. However, not all light boxes are created equal, so research any product before buying. The most common advice we’ve found is to invest in a 10,000 lux light that filters out most UV light, which can be dsadamaging to the eyes in large doses. The Mayo Clinic website recommends using the light in morning hours for 20-30 minutes. Sit a foot or two away, but don’t stare directly at the light. For functional purposes, set it up in an area like your bedroom or bathroom, where you are getting ready for the day if you don’t have time to spare. An interesting article by Harvard shows some of the possible pitfalls of light therapy. First, this treatment doesn’t work for everyone, and can actually trigger mania and depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder. It can also cause damage to the retina in people with existing sensitivities to light. Talk to your doctor if there is any question whether this is right for you.

Final Thoughts

We have given lots of advice to try and prevent and treat low level SAD symptoms in this article. We are aware, however, that people who see more extreme effects of SAD have already tried all of these recommendations to find little relief. It’s important to speak with your doctor or therapist if symptoms persist or worsen, because medical intervention may be necessary in some cases. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you are suffering.

This article could help a friend. Don’t forget to share!

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‘Tis the Season for Pumpkin EVERYTHING

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Written by Jacqui Campbell MS, RD, CDN

I think every year the stores roll out more “pumpkin spice” flavored and scented

pumpkinramen_charityowlthings than the last. Some of the odd things spotted so far this year include pumpkin chicken sausage and pumpkin spice dish soap. I personally think that’s going too far and I am a sucker for all things pumpkin.  The thing is, I love PUMPKIN things, not PUMPKIN SPICE, so I’m always on the hunt for things made with REAL pumpkin and not just added cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and orange food coloring.  So while this guy spent two weeks eating ALL THINGS PUMPKIN, I decided to try to find decent pumpkin products that are gluten free, dairy free, and even paleo.

This year’s top finds so far:20161004_102751

Larabar Pumpkin Pie – paleo approved! Ingredients: Dates, cashews, almonds, dried pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger.  If you like Larabars and pumpkin you’ll love this fall treat.

KIND Caramel almond pumpkin spice – I got super excited about this because I love KIND bars. Downside is the caramel contains ‘milk powder’ so they are not dairy free.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Almond Beverage – tasty almond milk with real pumpkin and spices.  I really liked this and was happy to see it is sweetened with cane sugar instead of stevia like the So Delicious brand I tried last year. I think this would taste great in coffee, tea, smoothies or anything you might normally add almond milk to. Use it to make your own paleo pumpkin spice latte! Be aware it does have 15g sugar per cup though.

Trader Joe’s Cold Pressed Pumpkin Harvest Juice – if you’re a fan of green juices this is for you. Every bottle of Pumpkin Harvest Juice contains 10.5 ounces of pumpkin, 2 carrots, 3/4 stalk of celery, 1/8 sweet potato, 1 inch of ginger, and a hearty pinch of turmeric.  Paleo approved, but like all juices it’s important to be mindful of the naturally occurring sugar from the starchy vegetables – 23g per bottle. Make sure to have with some nuts or other source of protein to balance the carbohydrates.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios – gluten free, dairy free (not paleo as they are grain-based). These are actually made with pumpkin puree and are quite tasty.   I used them to make snack bars by mixing in chopped pecans and raisins and using peanut butter and honey to keep them together. Trader Joe’s also makes similar cereal called Joe’s Pumpkin O’s which I tried last year and found to be a little less strong on the spice (still gluten and dairy free).

Other healthy ways to enjoy pumpkin:

Healthy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie – A favorite of mine and so easy to make.

  • 1 cup dairy-free milk
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ frozen banana
  • 1 TBSP almond butter
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Optional sweetener: honey, maple syrup or dates

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer – avoid the chemicals and dairy found in the store bought creamers and make your own using canned coconut milk, pumpkin, and spices.  I’ve made this recipe before and it’s delicious.

Pumpkin Porridge – try this as an alternative to oatmeal in the morning

  • ½ cup pumpkin puree canned
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp honey.

Mix ingredients together. May eat at room temperature or microwave for 30-60 seconds.

4-Ingredient Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 2 eggs, beat
  • ½ banana, ripe and mashed
  • 2TBSP pumpkin puree
  • Dash of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon and nutmeg

Mix together banana, pumpkin and spices. Add eggs.  Heat pan on medium heat and grease pan with coconut oil or oil of your choice before pouring batter.

**Make sure when buying canned pumpkin you get “100% pure pumpkin” and pumpkin is the only ingredient. You do not want “pumpkin pie mix” which has added sugar and spices.

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Feeling ambitious? Follow these instructions to make your own pumpkin puree.

Want more? Check out 25 Paleo Pumpkin Recipes here.

What’s your favorite pumpkin product or recipe?

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 Know someone who could use a hefty dose of pumpkin? Don’t forget to share!