diet

5 Reasons to Get Fit THIS FALL!

Let’s be honest, there’s always a million and one reasons to get in shape, but this week we’ve got 5 major reasons to get fit THIS Fall!

1. Fighting the Winter Flu

Are you one to catch that winter cold? Is this then your excuse to not stay active when it gets cold? Exercising in cooler temperatures helps strengthen your immune system and decreases your chances of getting a cold during the wintertime. The cells in your immune system will love you for that and better fight off all bacteria!

2. Beauty of Autumn

Even though temperatures are dropping, it is also such a beautiful time of the year! Don’t waste these days sitting around and doing nothing. Enjoy that beautiful autumn weather by going for a walk or run. Maybe even take up snowshoeing or cross-country skiing!

3. Resist Fall Comfort Food

Turkey, pumpkin pie, hot chocolate…there are many unhealthy temptations during this time of year. However, if you stay active this season, your body will start to naturally crave healthier foods. Resist excuses. Resist temptations. Await results!

4. Make Use of an Empty Schedule

Did you have a busy summer and no time to work out? Then this is one less excuse you can use. Make the most of your time by eating healthy and exercising regularly. Invest time on your fitness now, and avoid Spring/Summer regret!

5. Get a Head Start on your New Year’s Resolutions

Studies show it takes about 4 weeks for the body to adapt to new lifestyle changes. If you start your workout routine now, you’ll not only be one step ahead of your New Year’s resolutions but also more likely to meet them.

Have a Fit Fall by building your immune system, health, and nutrition by being consistent in your workouts and sleep schedule, getting outdoors, using the extra “indoor” time to cook/prep, and ultimately setting yourself up for a strong start in the new year!

Let’s Get to Know Erythritol: A Low Calorie Sweetener

We’ve talked about sugar and artificial sweeteners. But you might wonder, where do sugar-alcohols like Erythritol (ur-i-thruh-taal) fit in? It does occur naturally in some foods, but most of what you see is manufactured by fermenting wheat or cornstarch. Erythritol often is found with other sugar substitutes like stevia. Other sugar alcohols include xylitol, glycerin, sorbitol, etc.

Zero Calorie?

Erythritol is pretty much zero calorie sweetener at .2 calories per gram (table sugar is 4 calories per gram). This is because your body can not break it down; it doesn’t get metabolized and is excreted through urine within 24 hours. This also makes it a good option for diabetics. Erythritol has been approved by the World Health Organization since 1999.

Even though it is called a “sugar alcohol” it generally comes in a powder or granular form, and as you can see above it can look very much like table sugar!

But Is It Any Good?

Erythritol has 60-80% the sweetness of table sugar. It comes as a powder or granular form. It does not have a bitter aftertaste like some sweeteners and people can generally tolerate erythritol better than other sugar alcohols. You’ll find erythritol in many sugar free foods and snacks like Crystal Light Pure, sugar free candy, protein bars, gum, sugar free fruit spreads, Smart Cakes and muffins, Vitamin Water Zero, etc. It is also found in the brand Truvia sweetener.

Even Dentists Like It!

Dentists like erythritol because not only does it not cause tooth decay like sugar, it helps prevent it and reduce the formation of plaque. Sugar, on the other hand, turns into acid in your mouth when combined with mouth bacteria.

Is It Natural?

As we said before Erythritol can be manufactured by fermenting wheat or cornstarch, but it can also be found naturally in carrots, cherries, mushrooms, and more. Japan has been using erythritol since the early 1990s as a natural sugar substitute. Still, in the end, erythritol might be a good sugar substitute for you, but whole foods should still be the bulk of your diet.

Possible Side Effects

Like most sugar alcohols when used in large amounts, erythritol can cause diarrhea, gas/bloating, and/or an upset stomach. If you choose to use erythritol, as with most things, do so in moderation. At the same time, most people can handle a gram for every kilo of body weight (or .45g per pound). That means at 150 pounds someone could presumably consume more than 13 teaspoons without ill effect. However, if you suffer from IBS, it’s probably better to stay away from sugar alcohols.

Hormones? Who Cares? They Only Control EVERYTHING About Your Body

The Endocrine System is made up of glands that produce and secrete hormones to regulate our cells, tissues, and organs. This system therefore regulates our metabolism, sleep, mood, and so much more.!

For example, if you eat your favorite sugary dessert, your blood glucose increases, so your pancreas starts pumping out insulin to try to bring your body back to its happy place. If your blood sugar gets too low, other hormones will kick in to bring it back to homeostasis…the perfect balance.

The Pancreas

The Pancreas is the largest gland of the endocrine system. It produces insulin that helps you use energy from the food you eat by transporting it to the muscles and tissue that use glucose for energy.

Too much insulin in our blood reduces its ability to regulate our system, which can cause obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the reliance on insulin injections!

Adrenal Glands

An adrenal gland is located on the top of each kidney. It is responsible for releasing cortisol (and adrenaline) into our bloodstream, and it turns stored carbohydrates into energy.

Cortisol can help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels, metabolism, and help reduce inflammation. However, there is such thing as “Too Much of a Good Thing”. If you find when you are losing weight that you are losing muscle, try adding a small amount of carbohydrate before and/or during exercise. This will inhibit cortisol from being released and thus reduce the breakdown of muscle!

Thyroid Gland

When you start exercising, the thyroid gland (at the base of the neck) sends out hormones that regulate the body’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. It also regulates the alertness and focus that are needed to work at a high intensity.

The thyroid regulates how fast your body uses the calories from the food you eat…which is why you have likely heard of hypothyroidism (where it doesn’t produce enough of the hormone).

Pituitary Gland

The Pituitary gland is the “master gland”, at the base of the brain which regulates all the other glands we have talked about so far. When we exercise, the Pituitary gland releases a hormone to signal the body to increase bone, muscle and tissue production. Feed your gland…let’s work out!

You can learn even more in this great article by ACE Fitness!

Important: Hormone Disruptors

The endocrine system is very structured in its process, unless endocrine disruptors (i.e BPA, fire retardants, etc) are in play. They may cause a response to be too high, too low, or all together different than was intended and not in a good way. Hormone disruptors have been known to cause obesity, bring on early puberty, alter the function of sex hormones and mess with our immune systems. Sadly, they can be found in our food, water, pesticides, cosmetics, and so much more. Help your body get rid of these toxins through SWEAT!

Here’s a great article from Precision Nutrition – all about hormone disruptors!

5 Incredible Fall Shake Recipes!

Whether it be for a meal/snack on the go, to get that protein in, or to satisfy a sweet tooth, shakes have become a HUGE part of the nutrition world. With Fall here, we’ve got some stellar shake recipes that are sure to leave you feeling satisfied! What is more “fall” than apples, squash, and cookies!

October is Pumpkin season! Try this nutritionally complete pumpkin shake loaded with vitamin A and other nutrients from your pumpkin puree.

PUMPKIN SHAKE
• 1 frozen banana
• 2/3 c pumpkin puree
• ½ c plain Greek yogurt
• 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
• ½ c milk (unsweetened almond, etc)
• 1 TBSP maple syrup
• ½ tsp vanilla
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice and ice to thickness desired.

Not only does pumpkin puree work well for shakes, but butternut squash does too!

VEGAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH SHAKE (for 2!)
• Roast a butternut squash in cubes
• Blend 1.25 C roasted squash
• 1.5 C unsweetened almond milk
• 3-4 pitted medjool dates
• 1 T chia seeds
• 1-2 t cinnamon to taste
• 1.5 t vanilla extract
• ½ t ginger
• a sprinkle of ground cloves and ice to desired thickness.

TIP: Not ready to roast a whole squash for a shake? You can buy frozen squash cubes in the frozen vegetables area of your supermarket or simply substitute canned squash puree!

Get the full recipe here!

Have your bushel of apples from apple picking? Craving the great taste of apple pie?

APPLE PIE SHAKE
• 1 apple
• ¼ plain Greek yogurt
• ½ tsp vanilla
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• 1 scoop vanilla whey protein
• ice to taste

Maybe fall conjures images of cookies baking in the oven more than apples and squash. Have no fear, we have your shake needs covered!

OATMEAL COOKIE SHAKE
• ¼ c old fashioned oats
• 1 frozen banana
• 1 c unsweetened almond milk
• 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
• 1/2 TBSP honey
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• ½ tsp vanilla
• 1/8 tsp ground ginger
• 1/8 tsp nutmeg
• 1/8 tsp salt

This shake from our friends at Precision Nutrition offers a complete meal replacement option since it includes your protein, vegetable, carb, and fat!

APPLE AND GREAT GRAINS SHAKE
• 6 oz water or unsweetened almond milk
• 1 scoop Vanilla Bio-Whey protein powder
• 1/2 apple or 1 small apple cored and sliced into wedges
• 6-8 raw almonds
• 1/2 cup uncooked oats
• 1 fist of spinach
• ice and cinnamon as desired

TIP: Blend all ingredients (except spinach, cinnamon, and ice) for 1 minute. Add spinach and blend until smooth. Add ice and cinnamon to desired consistency.

Want to make your own shake, but not sure where to start?

Check out this guide on how to build your own complete shake with 6 easy steps:
1. liquid
2. protein
3. veggie
4. fruit
5. fat
6. topper

PN Build Your Own Shake Guide

Get The Skinny on Healthy Fats!

Plain and simple, our bodies need dietary fat. Did you know your BRAIN is made up of nearly 60% fat? A diet too low in fat robs your brain of the materials it needs to function properly. It’s not just the essential fatty acids and omega 3’s either (fats found in food like salmon, avocados and nuts) but also some of the saturated fats which we have been told for years to avoid, including natural animal fats!

Why You Can’t Eat “Fat-Free”

Essential Vitamins

Vitamins such as A, D, E and K are not water soluble and require fat to get transported and absorbed by the body. These vitamins are crucial for brain health and many of our vital organs.

Healthy Fats keep your lungs working properly

Our lungs are coated with a substance composed almost entirely of saturated fat. Premature babies who are lacking this substance are given something called “surfactant” to keep their lungs functioning properly. Without enough saturated fat, our lungs can be compromised. Some studies are now looking at the link between the low consumption of saturated fat and Asthma as a result of the breakdown of this fatty layer.

• Healthy Fats for a Strong immune system

Saturated fats such as those found in butter and coconut oil play key roles in immune health. Loss of too much saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. A great source of saturated fat is from animal fats like grass fed dairy and butter or fatty fish like salmon (wild is generally a better choice).

• Healthier Body Composition

One benefit of eating healthy fats is better body composition! This refers to your % of fat-weight versus % of lean-weight. Eating healthy fats help you lose body fat by improving metabolism, balancing hormones (hormones that help you feel full longer) and eliminating constant cravings.

Tips for Putting it in Action

• Fats: What and how much?

You should include healthy fats at each meal, but there is no need to pull out a measuring spoon every time you eat…a portion size of healthy fats is the size of your thumb! Nuts and seeds are a great source of fats. Certain oils are also excellent sources, like extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil.
PRO TIP: Have you tried using avocado oil spray? A great option to get the healthy fat in without overdoing it!

• Balance and Variety

Balance your diet with a variety of fat types (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated) from high quality foods like: seeds, nuts, seafood, coconut, avocado, olives. Avoid the processed foods that contain the unhealthy fats like “Hydrogenated” fats or Trans Fats

Sugar? Starch? Carb? What’s The Difference!

Last week we talked about forms of sugar (words ending -ose) and how they are different or alike. In many cases the sugars broke down to, in at least part, glucose. Glucose is used by your muscles to perform work. Sugars are SIMPLE carbohydrates. COMPLEX carbohydrates are what we call “starches”.

Why Do I CARE??

GLYCOGEN! Glycogen is why you care.

Glycogen is one of TWO forms of energy storage in the body:

1. Glycogen stored in muscle and the liver.

2. Triglycerides (i.e. FAT) stored in adipose tissue.

So, let’s get to the point…Your body can store 1-day’s worth of glycogen. The trick is, your body will use your “one day” stores of glycogen BEFORE relying on the stored energy in your fat cells. Meaning, you MUST exercise off your daily stores before you can mobilize the energy stored in the fat cells. Keep your energy/food intake in check!

Why Complex Carbohydrates Matter

All forms of sugar, and starch, break down into glucose. Starch is a COMPLEX CARB (i.e. 3-10 sugars linked in a long COMPLEX chain) vs sugar being a SIMPLE CARB.

Starch/complex carbs break down slower than simple carbs/sugar. Since complex carbs break down slower, we stay “full” longer. Complex carb examples include peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Stick with complex carbs in your diet vs simple carbs for overall health!

Starch come in the forms of digestible and resistant starch. Digestible starch is quickly turned into fat if we don’t use it right away. Resistant starch doesn’t get digested in the small intestine like digestible starch, instead many types ferment in the large intestine and act like fiber! Resistant starches are not broken down into glucose in the stomach, so they have a lower calorie content, also improve insulin sensitivity/lower our blood sugar levels and keep us full longer (thanks to the slow digestion). Although there are various types of resistant starch, some examples are grains, seeds, legumes, potatoes and unrefined rice.

WAIT: White rice is “refined”, which means it’s been processed, and the fiber has been broken down making it a SIMPLE carb. Brown rice however is a whole grain – fiber intact – so it is a complex carb. Purchase whole grain rice!

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs??

Why are the terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs” floating out there? GOOD carbs can be considered those that not only contain energy/glucose (i.e. refined sugar) but also vitamins and minerals (i.e. vegetables – more bang for your your calorie-buck).

EXERCISE improves how our body moves sugar/glucose into our muscles, eventually causing you to require much less insulin than someone who is physically inactive.

Julia’s Story and Transformation!

Julia’s Story:

I have been asked several times what am I doing? I have been working out at Ellipse Fitness Allouez for two years. I had seen the promotions to join previously and always thought of checking it out but never acted on it.

They had a promotion for 21 days program and I made the call. The day I signed up was the same day that a dear Aunt … Aunt Delores, my mother’s sister, passed away – September 15, 2017. My fun- loving cousin Kathy, Delores daughter, recently joined Ellipse and now we find time to attend kickboxing sessions together.

Fortunately, being older your memory goes so I don’t really remember much about the first few weeks. Of course, I did feel sore and could not believe how unfit I was. But I surprised myself that when the three-week program ended, I decided to keep going.

There were three reasons why I was able to keep going.

First, the members at the 9:00 a.m. session! They were and are very welcoming and supportive of each other. As I attended other times that is true in the other classes, too.

Second reason, the workout sessions are planned out and each day is different bringing challenges and fun. Kickboxing on Thursday is one of my favorite days.

The third and final reason of course on why many members including myself stay are the trainers. Supportive and nonjudgmental are the best words to describe them. You don’t have to be the best at any exercise and that was true for me. You do need to show up and work the best that you can that day and they will help you on your journey to get stronger and more skilled at the exercises.

I had not exercised much other than walking. My weight went up and down over the years. Growing up on a dairy farm I knew I had some muscles in there someplace from carrying those full pails of milk and throwing around bales of hay. Those years were replaced with desk jobs and less and less activity.

Our family history includes heart disease and diabetes along with my own mother’s passing of Ovarian cancer. I have been blessed with only a few health issues which includes two surgeries on my elbow which has developed into arthritis. So, the time seemed right to be more proactive in my own health journey. And that is what it comes down to is time. What you value is where you will spend your time, which includes the time you have to spend with family, friends, faith, volunteer work, exercise or what you think is important.

Once I got past the three weeks of the program, I found myself going 4 days a week and soon it was 5 and sometimes 6 days. The strength workout days do bring challenges for my arm and Cujo and other trainers are great at finding alternatives that work the same muscles.

Along with planned workout days they also have recipes and nutrition advice for weight loss and health. Ellipse trainers keep updated on what is trending in the fitness industry and are constantly educating members through personal tips at each class as well as on their social media outlets.

Since I started, I have lost 57 pounds and 60.5 inches.

I will admit that when I started, I did say to myself many times – “not sure I can do that exercise.” As the time went on and did what I could I began to feel more skilled to try it and continue to add more repetitions as well as weight that I was lifting. I enjoy and feel strong when I do pushups, Trx rows and rope waves.

The 100-workout challenge is a challenge to encourage members to get in the gym the second half of the year. The challenge starts July 1 and ends December 31. Making time to get to class has been a priority in my journey so was pleased to tie with Angie to reach that goal by October 30, 2018.

Another milestone was the four-hour fitness marathon that I completed as part of the Victory over Violence event this past March. Who knew I could or would want to exercise for that long of a timeframe? But I did!

I recently had lunch with a friend that congratulated me on my health accomplishments. She shared this thought with me … “what if you had not done this at this point in your life? Wonder what health issue or illness you averted by making yourself and your health a priority?” Something for all of us to think about.

If you have been on the lookout for a gym or fitness place that can help you reach your health goals and also a place to challenge you and have fun – Ellipse Fitness Allouez is that place. I am not an at home workout person and needed to go to a location for classes, people and motivation.

I am grateful to have found Cujo, Heather, Christine, Bry, Erin, Anna and Corrin. The trainer that I work the most with is Cujo and I am not sure I would have gotten this far without his nonjudgmental approach to fitness and his constant planning alternatives for members who need that to get started or to rehab from a medical injury. That allowed me to say “I can do that” and before I knew it, I was doing more complex moves.

I don’t think I have done anything extra ordinary so am pleasantly surprised that I am an inspiration in my journey. As Cujo and others can attest to I think this is taking me longer to get “there” than I thought it would. What I have found is that even with the ups and downs this is the first time I am confident of keeping the weight off and will continue on getting healthier.

Sugar: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It’s not hard to find SUGAR. It’s in a slew of food and drink products and most often can be found in packaged foods with ingredients ending in the letters -ose like glucose, maltose, dextrose, lactose, fructose, sucrose; it’s all sugar.

Is one better than the other? In the end, all sugars have 4 calories per gram. The differences comes down to any notable nutrients/antioxidants and HOW they affect the body/glycemic load. This week we’re looking a little deeper at what makes each type of sugar different.

Sucrose

Common table sugar (as pictured above). Sucrose contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose. We’ll break each of these down further later on. Sucrose tastes sweeter than glucose but not as sweet as fructose.

Glucose

Glucose comes from the Greek word for “sweet” and contains 1 glucose molecule. Glucose syrup is typically made from breaking down the starch in corn or wheat. Glucose syrup isn’t overly sweet and thus is typically used along with other sweeteners and helps extend the shelf life of products like ice cream [from crystalizing]. Glucose can be metabolized throughout our body, unlike fructose that can only be metabolized by the liver.

Fructose

Although FRUIT is high in fructose, it’s difficult to get excessive amounts from fruit, plus fruit is also very high in FIBER which is nature’s way of balancing it out. Eat fruit, skip the fruit juice (which takes out the fiber)!

If you are a label-reader then you surely have seen “High Fructose Corn Syrup” as a common ingredient that seems to pervade nearly every product on the shelf from ketchup to cookies to cereal. This is concerning because not only is a high intake of fructose bad for your waistline, but it can increase your risk of all sorts of diseases from heart disease to diabetes and even some types of cancer. Check out this link below for a DIY tutorial and you can see first-hand the process involved!
http://www.diyhfcs.mayaweinstein.com/

Maltose

Maltose is made of 2 glucose molecules. Maltose can be found in starchy grains, vegetables, and some fruit. When grains are sprouted in water and then dried, the enzymes in the grains release maltose. You can find it in brewing stores since it is an important part of brewing beer and whiskey. Maltose can also be sold as crystals or syrup, for baking or sweetener.

“Malted” cereals use malted grains to create the natural sweetness. The calories in maltose is equivalent to other sugars, but the potential benefit of maltose over other sugars is that it does not contain any fructose, which can be more harmful in large quantities.

Check out this video to see how malt syrup can be made!

Brown Rice Syrup

Similar to maltose, this is made by soaking, fermenting, and boiling down rice. Brown rice syrup contains 45% maltose (2 glucose molecules), 3% glucose (1 glucose molecule), and 52% maltotriose (3 glucose molecules). This actually puts the glycemic index HIGHER than table sugar. ALSO, arsenic is a toxic chemical known to be found in rice. Boiling rice down into a syrup compounds the amount of potential arsenic. Even though scientific research is limited, choosing fewer items with brown rice syrup may be in your best interest.

Molasses

This syrup is boiled down from refined raw cane sugar or sugar beet juice. The crystals from the boiling process are removed, leaving molasses.

FYI: Blackstrap molasses is when the syrup has been boiled a THIRD time. Each boiling of a sugar produces a different type of molasses. Molasses may be seen as slightly better than “table sugar” since it does contains some nutrients and antioxidants, but essentially…sugar is sugar.

Well alright, there was a lot more “Bad” and “Ugly” than there was good, but at least now you are equipped with knowledge of these different types of sugars and can prepare yourself to read those labels and make more educated decisions!

Is it Self-Care? Self-Comfort? or Self-Indulgence?

Self-care

It’s a buzz word of sorts today, but what is it?

Self-care is about recognizing the needs of your mind, body, and spirit and feeding those needs through physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-care is individual, as it is whatever takes you closer to your goals. For some, self-care might mean getting in their 64-ounces of water a day to ensure they don’t get a migraine. For others it might be finding a quiet place to be by themselves each day to simply hear their own thoughts for 10-15 minutes. Maybeeee…it’s as simple as eating slowly and truly tasting your food!

There are different areas of self-care, and it goes beyond physical:

Physical

Hello! Fitness! But also, getting enough sleep and recovery.

Emotional

How do you deal with stress? How do you show love to yourself?

Social

How do you form meaningful connections with those around you? How do you set appropriate boundaries in your relationships?

Intellectual

When do you make time to try new things or to challenge your brain? Human beings thrive off of novelty! It is important to engage your intellect in new and different ways.

Spiritual

What gives you a sense of purpose? How do you tap into your deepest motivation and gain satisfaction in your life?

Self-Care vs Self-Indulgence

Self-care needs to be separated from self-comfort and self-indulgence. Self-comfort might be choices that do NOT move you forward, or toward your goal, but do make you feel better in the moment…such as skipping your workout or to have “just one more” drink with your coworkers.

Self-indulgence would be going “all in” on self-comfort which often turns into a downward spiral. Instead of that comforting glass of wine, it turns into most or all of a bottle. Wake up groggy, skip morning workout, give into cravings and eat crappy breakfast of simple carbohydrates and regret the rest of your day.

Make sure to distinguish between self-care (good!) vs self-comfort (be careful) vs self-indulgent (destructive).

Ask yourself a few questions to determine if your choices are self-care or self-comfort/indulgent.

1) Does this choice move me closer to my goal/desired outcome?
2) What choices provide self-comfort but just aren’t worth it? Or which ones are?
3) Which choices are probably more self-indulgent and how can I reframe that to be self-care?

Let’s Recap

We’ve heard self-care with regards to scheduling a massage, your workout, etc, but let’s think out of the box for a moment.

Are you always time crunched?

1) Maybe spend the few extra dollars to order your groceries online and let a service like Shipt deliver your groceries or use your free Target/Amazon shipping options to save yourself that time running errands.
2) Are you a part of the “bargain basement” flight deals through Frontier and other airlines? Maybe self-care is literally hopping on a plane for a cheap weekend getaway! It doesn’t always have to be exotic, sometimes “anywhere but here” is just about letting go of your daily responsibilities for a couple days.
3) Or, if you have kids, maybe it’s time to set some family house rules and everyone share in their part of cleaning, organizing, laundry, etc. Did I hear chore chart? Quit doing everything yourself!

Make the Most of The Late Summer Harvest!

Summer is almost over but there’s still plenty of vegetables that are still being harvested or still need to be harvested. Late Summer Harvests include vegetables like onions, potatoes, garlic, shallots, leeks, cabbages, celery, eggplant, peppers, pumpkins and winter squash! This week we will be talking about recipes to go with the late summer harvest!

Celery

Grab some celery from your local farmer’s market or CSA and appreciate it since celery can be a little tough to grow…it isn’t greatly tolerant to heat or cold or drought. This finicky plant is great for cooking, salads, and more though. Plus, it boasts wonderful health benefits like reducing inflammation, aiding in digestion, and helping to alkalize our often highly acid diets.

Bell Peppers

Harvested in late summer, they are a member of the nightshade family which is the same family as tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes (but not sweet potatoes!). Some people have sensitivities to nightshade produce that may experience gas, joint inflammation, headaches, and more. BUT, if you don’t have sensitivities they are also high in vitamins and antioxidants including a boatload of vitamin C. Red peppers pack the most nutrition since they have been on the vine the longest. TIP: All bell peppers start out green then change to yellow or orange before ripening to red.

Leeks

Leek’s are good at holding onto grit, so let’s talk prep! The tops will look darker than the rest. Cut the darkest part off and compost those or save for soup stock. Next cut off root (the fuzzy stuff at the bottom). The stem can be cut into rings or chiffonade (thin strips). Rinse the cuttings in a colander to get any grit out. TIP: Like onions and garlic let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking.
Leeks can be tossed into pot roast, added to a pan of roasted vegetables, tossed into soups, added to a green salad, or tossed with cooked green beans to add a new flavor. Check out this link for a Salmon and Leek Dish!

Eggplant

A relative of the tomato, can be healthy when prepped in less “heavy” ways than the traditional eggplant parmesan. Eggplant is a non-starchy vegetable that can be grilled, roasted, stewed, breaded, or sautéed and can be used in many different types of recipes. Often used as a meat substitute in dishes like lasagna, it packs a meaty texture with its higher fiber content. Not sure where to start? Try this grilled eggplant and yogurt dip recipe! Just serve with pita chips or vegetables and you’re all set for your next dish to pass!

Garlic

Garlic is a perennial that grows in spring and is ready for harvest in the late summer. It is ready for harvest when the bottom two leaves turn brown. Garlic needs to be cured/dried out for about 2 weeks (like on a covered porch) before using. Rumor has it, the number of leaves on the stem will tell you how many cloves of garlic you will have! Garlic has a laundry list of health benefits, so make sure to include it in your regular recipes. Not used to using raw garlic? Just buy a garlic press and it is easier than you can imagine to mince your own garlic. BONUS: Although you probably run into vampires, garlic repels mosquitoes too!

Squash

If you are not a squash fan, odds are you just haven’t tried the right one or had it prepared in your tastes! Squash come in many varieties, textures, and flavors. Load up on different winter squash at your local farmer’s market since they can store for months in a cool dry area. Spaghetti squash are super easy to grow and can be microwaved or baked to produce strings/”noodles” that are tasty just with a little butter and salt, combined with spaghetti sauce, or added into a variety of recipes. Other squash can be roasted, pureed for sauces, and even cubed and frozen for later use. Follow this link for a Squash Breakdown!